Seamus Heaney Donates Papers to Library of Ireland

Seamus Heaney at the National Library of Ireland. Photo by Lar Boland.

By Molly Ferns, Editorial Assistant
February / March 2012

The National Library of Ireland has become the new home to Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney’s collection of literary papers.

“I’m overwhelmed at the number of people that the library has brought in to celebrate this moment and I’m deeply indebted and deeply honoured,” said Heaney at a reception held in the reading room of the National Library on December 21.

Among  those who attended the event was Taoiseach Enda Kenny who said it was a privilege for the Irish nation to receive the archives of  “one of the world’s foremost word sculptors.”

The collection includes at least 12 boxes of manuscripts and notebooks containing drafts of Heaney’s poems, essays and dramas spanning his entire literary career. Scholars regard the collection as a treasure trove worth a fortune, yet Heaney gave his collection to the National Library free of charge.

“I had no qualms about it,” he said, joking that it freed his house of clutter.

“It’s a happiness to feel no regrets at the removal of the stuff from the house, but to feel a cause for gratitude and pride,” said Heaney, now 72.

Fiona Ross, the director of the library, said,  “we look forward to making this collection available to scholars and researchers from all over the world.”

Heaney has always had a close relationship with the library. Some of his poems were actually written in the library reading room.

Heaney also said that he was proud to be “joining the great writers of the past and present who have also contributed,” and referenced his most recent collection of poetry, Human Chain (2010). “It is all part of a chain.  A written, human chain.”

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