Duke to Honor Late Poet Seamus Heaney With Public Reading, Oct. 1

Duke faculty, students and alumni to join President Brodhead for reading in Goodson Chapel

Several Duke faculty members, students and alumni will join President Richard H. Brodhead for a poetry reading to honor the late Irish poet and 1995 Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney, who died in August.

The reading, free and open to the public, is at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 1, in Goodson Chapel at the Duke Divinity School. A reception will follow. Parking is available in the Bryan Center parking garage. 

In addition to Brodhead, readers will include Sarah Beckwith, theater studies; Gregson Davis, classical studies; Joseph Donahue, English; Robin Kirk, Human Rights Center; and Michael Valdez Moses, English. They will be joined by a recent Duke alumnus Tong Xiang, '13, and current student Shannon Potter, T'15.

"Seamus Heaney is widely regarded as the most important Irish poet since Yeats and one of the greatest poets of the modern era," said Moses, who specializes in Irish literature. "In his poems, plays, translations and essays, Heaney wrote about the highest and most significant subjects: war, religion, love, nature, family, politics, faith, death and memory. And he did so with the utmost attention to the formal beauty of his words. 

"Reading his poems aloud makes us aware that the language we use to describe our existence changes the way we live it."

Moses taught a course on Heaney's poetry in spring 2013, examining its transcendental and religious dimensions as well as the wider political and cultural context of modern Irish history in Heaney's poetry.

Heaney authored more than 20 volumes of poetry and criticism and edited several anthologies. His work focused on the rural and urban culture of modern Northern Ireland and political and civil strife. He is known for "presenting a coherent vision of Ireland, past and present," according to the New York Review of Books. 

One of his most famous works is the translation of the epic poem "Beowulf" in 2000, revitalizing the piece. Heaney taught at Harvard University from 1985 to 2006 and served as the Oxford University professor of poetry from 1989 to 1994.