Lonely Planet Writer

A new exhibition in Dublin celebrates the life and work of poet Seamus Heaney

Literature fans may be interested in a major Irish exhibition celebrating the life and work of the late Seamus Heaney, one of the country’s greatest poets and playwrights. ‘Seamus Heaney: Listen Now Again,’ is the first exhibition to be housed in the Bank of Ireland Cultural and Heritage Centre in Dublin, and it draws on the National Library of Ireland’s Heaney archive, donated by the writer and his family in 2011.

A major exhibition celebrates the life and work of Seamus Heaney, one of Ireland’s greatest writers. Image: Marc O’Sullivan

The exhibition focuses on Heaney’s original manuscripts, letters, unpublished works, diary entries and photographs. A number of personal objects are included, such as the desk he wrote at in the family’s attic home in Dublin’s Sandymount, a lamp that once belonged to WB Yeats, and a portrait by artist, Louis le Brocquy.

The exhibition focuses on the poet’s original manuscripts, letters, unpublished works, diary entries and photographs. Image: National Library of Ireland

This immersive visitor experience follows Heaney’s life from his childhood in Derry, through to his global renown as a remarkably popular writer up to his death in 2013. Visitors will be able to explore four main areas, beginning with Excavations, which looks at his early life and works, and Creativity, which examines how he created his poetry and what influenced him. Conscience focuses on his struggles to write about violence in Northern Ireland and his engagement with global issues of politics and justice. The exhibition concludes with Marvels, which shows how his later poetry moved towards a sense of uplift and airiness, and also looks at his legacy.

This immersive visitor experience follows Heaney’s life from his childhood up to his death in 2013. Image: Marc O’Sullivan

Visitors will experience Heaney’s creative process through animations and touchscreens, and will be introduced to some of the sounds and tactile experiences of his childhood and later life. Inspired by the last words Seamus Heaney texted to his wife Marie– ‘Noli Timere’, Latin for ‘Don’t Be Afraid’ – well known visual artist Maser has created a special feature wall on which visitors can write messages. He has also created a sculpture of paper transforming into flying birds, which greets visitors as they enter the exhibition.

Visual artist Maser has created a sculpture of paper transforming into flying birds. Image: Marc O’Sullivan

“When he started to think about a long-term home for his manuscripts, Seamus knew that he wanted them to stay in Ireland, and to be available for consultation by scholars and general readers alike,” says Marie Heaney, the late poet’s wife. “And so, he donated his manuscripts and notebooks to the National Library of Ireland. I know he would be both amazed and delighted by what has been achieved with them.”

‘Seamus Heaney: Listen Now Again,’ is the first exhibition to be housed in the Bank of Ireland Cultural and Heritage Centre. Image: Marc O’Sullivan

‘Listen Now Again’ is a partnership project between the NLI, the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, and Bank of Ireland. It is curated by Professor Geraldine Higgins, Director of Irish Studies at Emory University, and designed by Ralph Appelbaum and Associates. Entrance to the exhibition is free, and it is open every Monday to Saturday, from 10am to 4pm. Bookings can be made here.