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Seamus Heaney memorial reading set for Sept. 30

The William & Mary department of English and the Patrick Hayes Writers’ Festival are presenting a poetry reading in memory of Seamus Heaney on Sept. 30, 5 p.m. at the Tucker Hall theatre.

The event is not only free and open to the public, but attendees are invited to bring a favorite Heaney poem to read during the event. A reception will follow.

Among those who are scheduled to read and offer reflections are W&M professors Henry Hart, a friend of Heaney’s, Nancy Schoenberger and Christy Burns. Virginia’s current poet laureate, Sofia Starnes, and former poet laureate Carolyn Foronda, will be in attendance.

Heaney, who died on Aug. 30, 2013 at age 74, won the 1995 Nobel prize for literature “for works of lyrical beauty and ethical depth, which exalt everyday miracles and the living past,” according to the citation on, the official website of the prize. His best-known books include “Field Work” and “North,” published in the 1970s.Seamus Heaney

The eldest of nine children from County Derry in Northern Ireland, Heaney rose to world fame despite an impoverished background. He grew up in a farmhouse, yet his family had no running water, no phone, no electricity, no car and no tractor.

“He showed the world that a poet can achieve great things after beginning with almost nothing,” Hart said.

Heaney spent three days on the William & Mary campus in April 2002 as a guest of Hart’s. In March 1985, Hart traveled to Harvard University to interview Heaney and gather information for a book he was writing on Heaney’s work.

“As a person and as a poet, he stood for intelligence and civility,” Hart said. “He was an expert craftsman, a charismatic communicator and a knowledgeable scholar who relished the classics -- the Iliad and Odyssey, the Aeneid, the Bible, the Divine Comedy, Shakespeare’s plays, etc. -- as well as contemporary writing.”

Hart said that Heaney “showed the world that a good writer can be a good person . . . He also proved that a poet doesn’t have to ‘dumb down’ his poetry to be popular. Heaney incorporated his vast learning in his poetry, but made it interesting and accessible. In his poems about the troubles of Northern Ireland, he wrote movingly about political conflicts in the past and present while laying out his vision for reconciliation and peace in the future.”

For more information, contact Suzanne Hagedorn at or 757-221-3923.