Northern Ireland news

Seamus Heaney: Treasure trove of unseen work revealed

Seamus Heaney sitting at Michael McLaverty's typewriter at Belfast's Linenhall Library in 2005. File picture by Colm Lenaghan

A treasure trove of previously unseen drafts of poems by Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney has been acquired by a Cambridge college.

Co Sligo-based artist Barrie Cooke kept papers, photographs, drawings, notebooks and letters from the Co Derry writer as well as renowned English poet Ted Hughes for years.

The poets were friends with Mr Cooke for decades and had a shared love of poetry and fishing.

However, the papers only came to light when the artist showed them to an academic in 2013 - the year before he died.

The papers include 85 poems by Mr Heaney, including multiple drafts.

One note shows early drafts of lines about Mr Heaney's father, which would later be included in his 1991 poem An August Night.

The papers also reveal a new poem by Mr Hughes based on the Irish myths of the Morrigan, the goddess of death, and the Dagda, the god of wisdom.

The BBC reported that the existence of the papers only emerged after academic Mark Wormald, a lecturer from Cambridge University, came across Mr Cooke's name in Mr Hughes's fishing diaries.

Mr Wormald was first shown the papers when he went to visit Mr Cooke - then living in an assisted living facility in Co Kilkenny - in May 2013.

The documents include sketches by Mr Hughes, illustrations by Mr Cooke and photographs of both poets.

Ted Hughes died in 1998, while Seamus Heaney died in 2013.

The papers will now be catalogued and conserved after they were acquired by Pembroke College, Cambridge.

The college also aims to put the documents and other work on public display.

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