Announcement of Ireland Professor of Poetry 2013-16
Saloon, Provost's House
13 September 2013
President, Ladies and Gentlemen,
You are all most welcome to the Provost’s House for this very special occasion: the announcement of the new Ireland Professor of Poetry. For us three universities – Trinity, UCD and Queen’s University Belfast – this is always a high point: the appointment of a new, exciting creative voice who will inspire staff and students alike.
This year is particularly memorable for two reasons: two weeks ago today Ireland lost its great Nobel poet. Seamus Heaney was also a trustee of the Chair of Poetry Trust, and indeed it was his being awarded the Nobel Prize which led to the establishment of this all-Ireland Chair of Poetry as a permanent way to mark the honour accorded him.
While the whole country has been joined in grief – in “devastation” as Paul Muldoon said at the funeral – it has also been a wonderful two weeks for poetry. Ireland and the whole world are taking the measure of what Seamus Heaney meant, and awakening to the great necessity of having poetry in our lives. It is in this atmosphere of mourning, celebration, and renewed faith that the new Ireland Professor of Poetry will take up the position.
This year is also special because, to announce the new appointment, we have a President of Ireland who is himself a poet. It is always a signal honour to welcome President Higgins to Trinity; today it’s not only an honour, but wonderfully fitting. It is, for this country, an added source of pride that our Head of State, so renowned in the field of politics and human rights, is also a distinguished poet.
Ladies and Gentlemen, to announce the new Ireland Professor of Poetry: an tUachtaráin, Michael D. Higgins.
* * *
* * *
[Paula Meehan, new Ireland Professor of Poetry speaks]
* * *
Thank you Paula. We are immensely excited by your appointment and by what your unique voice will bring to our universities, and to Ireland, and to poetry.
It is, I must say, a pleasure to have a Trinity graduate and a Dubliner as the new professor - and how beautifully you write of this city! Take this for an evocation of Dublin from north to south:
“…beyond the huddled terraces of brick,
past the prison, the hospital on call,
through the markets, the shopping malls,
over the river, the fashionable streets
and the back lanes, past the Dáil,
the Museum, the Library, the Gallery:
your house on the Square where laburnum flowers
That’s a Dubliner who knows her city. Each new holder of this professorship brings with them a new perspective, a new body of work. I thank the outgoing professor, Harry Clifton, for the inspiration he brought us, for the way he worked with students and graced the campus when he was resident here.
A previous most distinguished holder of this Chair, and another Trinity graduate, is Michael Longley, who wrote of his time on campus here, in the late 1950s, as ‘inhaling poetry with our Sweet Afton cigarettes’. A Belfast man, he is part of that great generation of Northern poets who have managed, seemingly effortlessly, to combine critical success with huge popular appeal. He has most generously come here this morning, and will read for us now from the work of Seamus Heaney.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Michael Longley.
* * *