The Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry at Queen’s is a dynamic and vibrant focal point in Ireland for the writing, criticism and appreciation of modern literature. It is a recognised international centre of research excellence in the field, and is distinguished not merely by its critical activity, but also by its promotion of creative writing as a living art. Central to the Centre’s ethos is the lively exchange between poets, critics and students, between critical and creative traditions. It works to ensure the continuance of the rich tradition Seamus Heaney did so much to develop in his years as a student and lecturer at Queen’s, a tradition which emphasises poetry’s communal presence and international profile. The Centre welcomes writers and students to participate in its research programmes and literary events, and is the site of engagement between poets, academics, research students, creative writing students, and visitors from outside Ireland, many of whom are welcome as associates of the centre. Its director is the internationally renowned poet, Professor Ciaran Carson; its assistant director is the poetry critic Dr Fran Brearton.
The Centre is a meeting-place for young and established, local and international poets and novelists, and a leading venue for activity in creative writing. The experience of study and research in the Centre is enhanced by the unique opportunity to meet writers from all over the world who participate each year in its autumn and spring programmes of literary events and the annual Summer School. The Centre’s ‘Writer’s Group’, a workshop for new writers, continues the tradition of the original ‘Belfast Group’ of the 1960s which was attended by Seamus Heaney, Michael Longley, Paul Muldoon and other writers of international stature. It is run by the Centre’s BBC Writer-in-Residence, the novelist and critic Dr Ian Sansom. The poet Medbh McGuckian is based in the Centre, as are poets and critics Dr Sinead Morrissey and Dr Leontia Flynn. Each year, the Centre publishes a journal of contemporary writing, The Yellow Nib, in association with Blackstaff Press. The long tradition of creativity in Queen’s was marked in 2006 by the publication of The Blackbird’s Nest, an anthology of poets with connections to the university.
The Centre is based in the School of English at Queen’s, a School with wide-ranging credentials in poetry and poetry criticism. The interaction between poets and writers and the School’s academic staff has made the School of English noted for new thinking about critical approaches to modern poetry. Professor Edna Longley, one of the leading critics of Irish literature and poetry, is based in the Centre, as are a number of research fellows and international visiting scholars. Staff in the School with research interests in poetry and contemporary literature contribute to the Centre’s research culture and to the high quality of its publications in the field. The Centre runs (externally funded) research projects in modern literature, poetry, and song (among them an Arts and Humanities Research Council project exploring the links between modern Irish and Scottish poetry). It hosts literary events, symposia and conferences each year. In September 2007, for example, staff in the Centre ran the Louis MacNeice Centenary Conference and Celebration, to which writers and critics of worldwide reputation contributed.
The Centre is in the School of English at Queen’s, and students in the Seamus Heaney Centre are also part of a large and vibrant postgraduate community in the School. Staff in the Centre and the School offer PhD supervision in the areas of creative writing and modern poetry. Among the taught M.A. programmes are those offered in Creative Writing and in Irish Literature. The M.A. in Creative Writing, which has an excellent record in facilitating first publication for its graduates, is taught by the poets Medbh McGuckian, Ciaran Carson and Sinead Morrissey, novelist Glenn Patterson, and playwright Daragh Carville. The M.A. in Irish Writing is run by the Centre’s assistant director, Dr Fran Brearton, and is taught by leading critics of nineteenth and twentieth-century Irish literature, among them Professor Ed Larrissy and Dr Eamonn Hughes (assistant director of the Institute of Irish Studies at Queen’s). The Centre also offers practical resources for students: a poetry library, a reading room, and computing facilities. For further information on taught postgraduate programmes, and on research and funding opportunities at Queen’s, see: http://www.qub.ac.uk/schools/SchoolofEnglish/.