The second annual Seamus Heaney lecture was delivered by Chris Morash, Seamus Heaney Professor of Irish Writing at Trinity College Dublin, on Friday September 4th in the the University of Notre Dame.
Hosted by the Keough-Naughton Institute for Irish Studies, at the University of Notre Dame, the lecture was entitled Heaney, Place and Property and focused on the complex relationship Heaney’s poetry had with places of writing, places of memory, places of being.
Taking as its starting point the recognition that the poem chosen as Ireland’s favourite in RTÉ’s “Poem for Ireland” earlier this year, “Clearances III”, is rooted in a sense of home, the 2015 Seamus Heaney Memorial Lecture looked at the idea that the current homelessness crisis in Ireland need not be understood purely in economic terms.
Instead, he argued that resituating Heaney’s poetry of the 1980s and 1990s in longer-term understanding of property in Irish culture opens up new ways of thinking about some of Heaney’s most popular and enduring poems as responses to a more profound transformation in Irish culture over recent decades.
“It has long been recognised – since at least Heaney’s own early lecture, “The Sense of Place” – that Seamus Heaney’s poetry has carried out a series of complex negotiations with place: places of writing, places of memory, places of being. It may be simply stated that Heaney’s poetry and thought are grounded in place – but not in any simple way. “The places I go back to have not failed”, he writes in “Squarings xli” from Seeing Things (1991); “But will not last…”.
“In the end, what emerges is a new way of thinking about homelessness in contemporary Ireland, not purely in economic or social terms, but as a condition to which poetry provides a response,” explained Professor Morash.
Professor Morash was appointed as the Seamus Heaney Professor of Irish Writing at Trinity in 2014. The Professorship was named in honour of one of Ireland's greatest poets and Nobel Laureate who had a long standing relationship with Trinity.