Seamus Heaney to Read at Robert Frost Festival

Seamus Heaney.

By Irish America Staff
August / September 2002

Seamus Heaney, Ireland’s foremost poet, is the featured guest at this year’s Robert Frost Festival, which takes place on Saturday, October 26 in Lawrence, MA. Heaney will read at 7:00 p.m. at Lawrence High School, where Frost attended school and was the valedictorian of his class.

The Robert Frost Foundation, a non-profit group that engages school children and the general public to appreciate poetry, is sponsoring the event.

The winner of the 1995 Nobel Prize for Literature, Seamus Heaney is considered one of the best poets in the English language. Born in Derry, Northern Ireland, Heaney has cited Robert Frost as one of his early influences. Heaney’s most famous poem may be “Doubletake,” which he read when President Clinton visited Northern Ireland and which contains the passage, “But then, once in a lifetime, the longed for tidal wave of justice can rise up, and hope and history rhyme.”

Heaney’s most recent book, Finders Keepers: Selected Prose 1971-2001 is published by Farrar, Straus &Giroux and was released on June 26.

Robert Frost is considered a quintessential New England poet who traced his English-Scotch roots in the region back to 1632. Although born in California, Frost spent most of his life in New England. He spent his formative years in Lawrence, where he attended Lawrence High School, married his high school sweetheart, taught in the city, and raised his family. He later moved to Derry, New Hampshire to work as a farmer, lived in Boston and Cambridge and owned several farms in Vermont. He won four Pulitzer Prizes for his poetry, and received numerous awards. In 1960 he read a poem at President John F. Kennedy’s inauguration where he advised the president to “be more Irish than Harvard.”

Heaney is not the first Irish poet to come to Lawrence. John Boyle O’Reilly visited the city in the 1880s, along with Fanny Parnell, sister of Irish Home Rule leader Charles Stuart Parnell. David R. Burke, head of the Irish Foundation of Lawrence, noted the lineage of Irish scholars coming from the city’s Irish community.

“Fred Norris Robinson of Lawrence taught the first Gaelic language class at Harvard University in 1896, and John V. Kelleher, the poet-scholar who held the first Chair of Celtic Studies at Harvard, was from Lawrence,” Burke said. “In addition, James Ford, bibliographer for the Boston Public Library, facilitated the BPL’s significant Irish language collection and helped research Boston’s Irish landmarks.” ♦

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Admission to the reading is $15, and the Foundation is hosting a reception that evening with Mr. Heaney for $40, which includes admission to the reading. These funds support educational programs for the Robert Frost Foundation throughout the year. Tickets to the Seamus Heaney reading can be purchased by check to the Robert Frost Foundation, Heritage Place, 439 South Union Street, Lawrence, MA. 01843, or by calling 978 725-8828.

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