Nobel poet Heaney will give commencement address

Nobel Prize-winning poet Seamus Heaney will deliver the University's spring commencement address.

Heaney, who won the Nobel Prize in October for his poetry and prose, will receive an honorary doctor of letters during the ceremony.

Heaney is no stranger to the Carolina family. The University has a comprehensive collection of his works in its Rare Book Collection.

The Henry C. Pearson Collection of Seamus Heaney features about 450 items, ranging from the poet's earliest works through recent pieces, as well as journal articles and interviews about him. It includes first editions of Heaney's most important works and some proof copies. The library recently staged an exhibit based on the Heaney collection.

The son of an Irish farmer, Heaney writes in English and Irish. His works are rare in the poetry world: the popular volumes have been best sellers while capturing critical acclaim. His simple yet eloquent style has led to frequent comparisons to William Butler Yeats and Robert Frost.

In announcing the latest Nobel laureate in literature, the Swedish Academy praised Heaney "for works of lyrical beauty and ethical depth, which exalt everyday miracles and the living past."

His first collection, Death of a Naturalist, appeared in 1966, followed by Door Into the Dark in 1969. Other works include North, published in 1975, and Field Work, in 1979, both of which attest to the political strife of his homeland.

Heaney is perhaps best known for his 1984 collection, Station Island, although he has continued to garner strong praise for his most recent collections, including The Haw Lantern, Selected Poems: 1966-1987 and Seeing Things. His essays also have been published in two volumes. A new poetry collection, "The Spirit Level," is expected in May.

Heaney's life and works have breached the often explosive gap between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic. He was born in Northern Ireland's Londonderry district and lived for years in Belfast. In 1972 he moved to the Irish Republic, eventually calling Dublin home.

Heaney, who has taught poetry at Oxford University and is currently on leave as Harvard University's Boylston Professor of Rhetoric and Oratory, earned his bachelor's degree in English language and literature at Queen's University in Belfast. He also holds a teaching certificate from St. Joseph's College of Education.

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