L to R: Mícheál Mc Cann, Marina Carr, Aingeala Flannery, Marie Heaney, Christopher Heaney, Prof. Pauric Travers, Barry Devlin,
Dr Ellen Howley
Seamus Heaney Event

DCU School of English hosts “A thank-offering”, an evening celebrating Seamus Heaney

Seamus Heaney Event

L to R: Dr Ellen Howley, and poetry-prize winners: Ciara Nitz, Cathy Power, Lisa Hentschke, Aoife Noonan

On Thursday, April 11, just two days in advance of what would have been Seamus Heaney’s 85th birthday, the DCU School of English hosted an evening of poetry and song to celebrate the Nobel Laureate’s life, legacy and links with the university. Alongside the large crowd of both former and current staff, students, and members of the local community, Marie and Christopher Heaney were welcomed to the Seamus Heaney Lecture Theatre for the evening’s events.

Dr Ellen Howley, Assistant Professor in the School of English, MCed the event and began proceedings by speaking to its title, taken from one of Heaney’s last poems, “Route 110”. The evening was, she said, a chance to “offer our thanks through word and song for the gift that Heaney’s work has given to all of us.” Professor Anne Sinnott, Deputy President of DCU, officially welcomed all in attendance to DCU and spoke of the Honorary Doctorate Heaney received from DCU in 2011.

The first speaker was former President of St Patrick’s College, Professor Pauric Travers, who emphasised the value Heaney placed on education. He also provided a recap of the series of Heaney Lectures that ran in St Parick’s College and DCU. Following this DCU School of English Writer in Residence, Aingeala Flannery, recalled her first experiences of reading Heaney’s work and recited from District and Circle.

In advance of the event, the School of English ran a student poetry competition, calling for entries that took inspiration from, spoke to, or reflected on Heaney oeuvre. Poems were judged by poet, Ellen Dillion, and winners were announced on the night. Joint-third prize went to Ciara Nitz, a first-year English and Human Development student, for “The Toddler Room” and to Cathy Power, a student on our Creative Writing MA, for “Countrywoman’s Exile”. Second prize was awarded to first-year BRelEd student, Aoife Noonan for her poem, “Fixing Steel” and our first-prize winner was another MA in Creative Writing student, Lisa Hentschke, for the poem “Grass”. All winners read their poems in one of the evening’s highlights. 

Poet Mícheál McCann continued proceedings by reading the poem he wrote in commemoration of Heaney’s 10th anniversary last August and, DCU School of English colleague, Marina Carr, reminded the audience of Heaney’s lively wit by reading from his recently published letters. 

The evening was rounded off beautifully by a contribution from Heaney’s brother-in-law, musician, Barry Devlin, who read from “A Lough Neag Sequence” and sang in praise of his own native Ardboe. At the close of this very special evening Dr Howley invited all to the reception, hosted by DCU Library, encouraging everyone to view their specially curated Heaney exhibition.

“A thank-offering” demonstrated the warmth with which Heaney is still held in people’s hearts and was a great reminder of Heaney’s connections to DCU. The School of English was delighted to host it and thanks the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, DCU Arts and Culture and the DCU Library for their support.