Heaney hands notes to National Library


Nobel laureate Seámus Heaney this morning officially handed over his literary papers to the National Library of Ireland.

The archive, hand-delivered to the National Library by the Derry-born poet himself recently, includes 16 bound notebooks, sheaves of manuscripts, early working drafts, corrections, re-writes and proofs of his poetry and other pieces of writing.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny, who spoke at a reception to mark the occasion, said it was an honour and a privilege for the nation to receive the archives of “one of the world’s foremost word sculptors”.

“Two weeks ago, Dr Heaney, you spoke of your friend Ted Hughes as being visionary and patriotic. You called him a poet of England. Today, this nation and its people’s library are honoured to receive the literary archive of another visionary and patriot. This time the poet is of Ireland," the Taoiseach said.

Dr Heaney, whose first major collection of poetry, Death of a Naturalist, was published in 1966, was joined by his wife Marie and children Christopher, Michael and Catherine Ann at the reception in the Reading Room of the National Library.

Dr Heaney (72) said he was overwhelmed by the “majesty” of the Taoiseach’s address and felt a sense of pride at handing his material over to the State.

“It is a privilege and an honour to have my own worksheets, drafts, manuscripts and typescripts in our National Library, joining the great writers of the past and present who have also contributed. It is all part of a written, human chain,” he said.

“And it is a happiness to feel no regret at the removal of the stuff from the house. Rather, it is a cause for gratitude and pride.”

Chairman of the National Library, David Harvey, said staff had begun cataloguing the archive and they hope to make it available in the near future. “We are going to work very hard to catalogue, preserve and make available this archive for the people of Ireland the world," he said.

National Library of Ireland director Fiona Ross described Dr Heaney’s collection as comprehensive in its range and multiplicity. “It is likely to attract many researchers, cultural tourists and other visitors to Dublin for many years to come,” she added. “The library is proud to become a centre for Heaney scholarship and we look forward to making this collection available to scholars and researchers from all over the world.”

Additional reporting: PA