Seamus Heaney – The Life of a Poet

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Location: Sheldonian Theatre, Christ Church, St Aldate’s, Oxford OX1 1DP
Speaker: Seamus Heaney

At the invitation of the Chancellor of The University of Oxford, Lord Patten of Barnes, Nobel prize-winning poet Seamus Heaney talks to children’s author and poet Kevin Crossley-Holland about his life and career. Heaney is regarded by many as the greatest poet of his age and was described by Robert Lowell as ‘the most important Irish poet since Yeats’. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1995 and has received many other awards, including the 2006 T S Eliot Prize for District and Circle. The Nobel committee said the prize was for ‘works of lyrical beauty and ethical depth, which exalt everyday miracles and the living past’. His twelfth and most recent collection of poems is Human Chain, published in 2010.

Discussions will turn to Beowulf, one of the finest works of Anglo-Saxon literature, which has been translated from Old English by both Heaney and Crossley-Holland. Heaney’s translation, a Whitbread book of the year, is widely regarded as the finest ever made of the poem, while Crossley-Holland published his own verse translation of the poem at the age of 27. The two will discuss the nature and heart of the poem, the pitfalls of translating from Old English, and the impact Beowulf has had on Heaney’s own poetry in particular.

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