Heaney work a unanimous choice

Irish Times Poetry Now Award: District and Circle takes top

Irish Times Poetry Now Award: District and Circle takes top prize

Sat, Mar 31, 2007, 01:00

Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney has won this year's Irish TimesPoetry Now Award for his latest collection, District and Circle. The award, in recognition of the best collection by an Irish poet in the past year, will be announced this afternoon as part of the Poetry Now Festival in Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin.

District and Circle was the unanimous choice of the three judges for whom it was "a book marked by its embrace of the outside world and its conviviality.

"There is here too a fresh exertion in the language which animates its explorations of new territory in In Iowa, Anything Can Happen and Höfn, and its focus on transience and mortality in its revisiting of wonderful early poems in

The Tollund Man in Springtime and in The Blackbird of Glanmore.

"In the context of a very strong shortlist, and in the context of Seamus Heaney's own back catalogue, this is an outstanding collection", according the decision of the judges - Irish Timesliterary correspondent Eileen Battersby, critic and teacher Niall MacMonagle, and poet Maurice Riordan.

District and Circle was one of five collections on the shortlist for the prize which is now in its third year.

The other shortlisted titles were: The Currach Requires no Harboursby Medbh McGuckian (Gallery Press); Horse Latitudesby Paul Muldoon (Faber and Faber); The Sea Cabinetby Caitríona O'Reilly (Bloodaxe), and Mockerby David Wheatley (Gallery Press).

District and Circle is Heaney's 12th collection and has already won this year's TS Eliot Prize. Heaney, who was born in 1939 in Co Derry, published his first collection, Death of a Naturalist, in 1966.

As well as collections such as North, Field Work, The Spirit Level, and The Haw Lantern, he has also published essays, including Finders Keepers, and plays, the most recent of which, The Burial at Thebes, was produced as part of the Abbey Theatre's centenary celebrations.

He won the Whitbread Award for his version of Beowulf and was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1995.

Previous recipients of the €5,000 award were Derek Mahon, for Harbour Lights, in 2006 and Dorothy Molloy, for her posthumous collection Hare Soup, the previous year.

The Irish TimesPoetry Now Award is the only award of its kind, which recognises and rewards work by Irish poets.

The Poetry Now festival continues this weekend at the Pavilion Theatre in Dún Laoghaire (01 2312929) and features readings by Helen Dunmore, Jane Hirshfield,

Peter Fallon, Christopher Reid, Biddy Jenkinson and many others, as well as a celebration of the work of Louis MacNeice on Sunday afternoon.

The reading by Robert Hass and Derek Mahon, winner of last year's Irish TimesPoetry Now Award, has sold out.


The three-tongued glacier has begun to melt.

What will we do, they ask, when boulder-milt

Comes wallowing across the delta flats

And the miles-deep shag-ice makes its move?

I saw it, ridged and rock-set, from above,

Undead grey-gristed earth-pelt, aeon-scruff,

And feared its coldness that still seemed enough

To iceblock the plane window dimmed with breath,

Deepfreeze the seep of adamantine tilth

And every warm, mouthwatering word of mouth.

- Seamus Heaney