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Posted 18 February 2009

Nobel Laureate, Seamus Heaney receives life membership of UCD Law Society

One of Ireland's greatest literary figures, the poet and Nobel Laureate, Seamus Heaney has been presented with honorary life membership of the UCD Law Society.

Previous recipients of the award include: former US President, Bill Clinton, and former Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone.

"Seamus Heaney's generosity of spirit has seen him mentor fellow Ulster poets such as Paul Muldoon and Medbh McGuckian. And his presence here, to address the students of this society, is further evidence of his generosity and a tribute to his humility," said Niall Ó hUiginn, Auditor of the UCD Law Society.

"As a poet rooted in rural Ireland, Seamus Heaney’s work was influenced by the poetry of his fellow Ulsterman Patrick Kavanagh. In the mundane and the prosaic elements of rural life both found events that could inspire their imaginations and reveal wider truths about the human condition. The true genius of Heaney lies in his ability to encapsulate the deeper significance of simple moments with his masterly command of language."

Welcome and Introduction
Speaker: Niall Ó hUiginn, Auditor of the UCD Law Society / Nobel Laureate, Seamus Heaney

Duration 5:21

Seamus Heaney was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1995 for his outstanding contribution to literature.

His first full volume of poetry, Death of a Naturalist was published by Faber and Faber in 1966. The collection won him critical acclaim and a series of awards including the Eric Gregory Award. Most of the collection deals with the young Heaney’s responses to beautiful and threatening aspects of nature, the loss of childhood innocence and his initiation into adulthood.

In the first poem of the volume, Digging, Heaney evokes the rural landscape where he was raised and captures the skill and care with which his father and grandfather farmed the land.


Seamus Heaney reads his poem Digging at the presentation ceremony at University College Dublin

Duration 1:41

Since then, Heaney has published many more collections of poetry including Sweeney Astray (1984), Selected Poems 1966-1987 (1990); The Spirit Level (1996); Opened Ground (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1999), named a New York Times Notable Book of the Year; and District and Circle (Faber and Faber, 2006).

He has also written several volumes of criticism. His most recent translation is Beowulf (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2000), which won the Whitbread Book of the Year Award.

Seamus Heaney reads his poem A Constable Calls at the presentation ceremony at University College Dublin

Duration 1:37

Heaney was born in Castledawson, County Derry, Northern Ireland in 1939. His father owned and worked a small, fifty acre farm. At the age of twelve, he won a scholarship to St. Columb's College, a Catholic boarding school forty miles away from his family home, where he studied Latin and Irish. He went on to study at Queen's University, Belfast, where lectured from 1966 and 1972.

He held the chair of Professor of Poetry at Oxford from 1989 to 1994. And from 1981, he has spent part of every year teaching at Harvard University, where he was elected the Boylston Professor of Rhetoric and Oratory in 1984. He is a Foreign Member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

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UCD Law Society Honour for Heaney