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Spirit of Heaney fills room as poets gather

Seamus Heaney may be gone but his spirit filled the room as Paula Meehan was named the Ireland Professor of Poetry 2013.

The post was established in 1998 as a direct response to Mr Heaney being awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1995.

And yesterday the gathering of poets and literary figures in Trinity College Dublin paused to remember the great man, who had himself helped choose Ms Meehan for the role.

Bob Collins, chairman of the Ireland Chair of Poetry, said: "This celebrates the relevance of poetry, the prophetic voice of the poet. It has an added dimension because of what happened two weeks ago today.

"Seamus is part of this today, Seamus chose Paula."

President Michael D Higgins said it was a day "for feeling the great loss and celebrating the great legacy".

Ms Meehan's "partner of all things for more than 20 years", fellow poet Theo Dorgan, was joined by Micheal O Siadhail, Brendan Kennelly, Pat Boran and Ciaran Carson, along with previous holders of the position, Nuala Ni Domhnaill, Michael Longley and the most recent, Harry Clifton.

Ms Meehan said: "The Greeks say it takes a village to raise a child, the same could be said of a poet – it takes a community.

"One of the great draws of this for me is that I get to work with the different students in the different universities. I'll be continuing the work I've always done, teaching the craft of poetry – I don't think you can teach the art of poetry – and standing up for poetry."

Ms Meehan rounded off her speech by reciting a poem she composed for Heaney's 70th birthday.

Trinity Provost Dr Patrick Prendergast said: "Ireland and the whole world are taking the measure of what Seamus Heaney meant and there is an awakening to the great necessity of having poetry in our lives."

This cross-border initiative was established by the Arts Councils on both sides of the Border and involves Queen's University Belfast, Trinity and University College Dublin.

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Every three years a poet of distinction is chosen as Professor of Poetry. They spend a year attached to each of the three universities.

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