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Last Updated: Friday, 27 October 2006, 11:33 GMT 12:33 UK
Poetry charts university's history
By Niall Blaney
BBC News Website

Seamus Heaney wrote about Queen's in the early 1960s
Seamus Heaney wrote about Queen's in the early 1960s

The work of some of the most renowned writers down to the lesser known verse of a security guard are contained in a new anthology of poetry at Queen's University.

Towering literary figures like Philip Larkin and Seamus Heaney are featured alongside Joseph Campbell, who worked in security at the Belfast college.

The poems in The Blackbird's Nest are penned by writers who were either Queen's students or teachers.

Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney wrote about Queen's during his time there in the early 1960s.

In his foreword, Heaney says: "For a long time the poetic light that shone over University Road and environs was fitful, but from the 1940s it gradually strengthened and steadied: the omens were good and the outcome gratifying.

"Nowadays it would be impossible to make the charge made by John Hewitt in 1945, when he claimed that writers around Queen's 'had produced little work of significance'.

"On the contrary, when Queen's is mentioned in literary company these days, people tend to think of whole constellations of talent, new stars in the poetic firmament, 'new weather' in the province of culture."

Philip Larkin was a librarian at QUB in the 1950s
Philip Larkin was a librarian at QUB in the 1950s

Other writers featured include Michael Longley, Ciaran Carson, Paul Muldoon, John Hewitt and Carol Rumens, who was writer-in-residence at the university from 1991-1994.

Some of the work inevitably charts the social and political history of Ireland.

Longley, who has an honorary degree from Queen's, has his poem 'Ceasefire' included in the anthology. It was written following the IRA's 1994 ceasefire.

'Richness and diversity'

The theme of language and riots is analysed in Carson's 'Belfast Confetti'.

In his work, the poet also took a 'literary pub tour' of the favoured haunts of Queen's students, including the renown Gin Palace (Lavery's).

Philip Larkin worked in the library at Queen's from 1950-1955, before leaving for Hull University.

Two of Larkin's poems, 'Church Going' and 'Reasons for Attendance', are included.

The book's editor, Frank Ormsby, has edited several poetry anthologies and written several collections himself.

He says the purpose of The Blackbird's Nest was to reflect the richness and diversity of poetry at Queen's since the early 20th century.

Queen's University Belfast
Former Queen's students and academics are featured in the book

"It is generally accepted that the earliest reference to the Belfast area in poetry is a doodle by a ninth century scribe, possibly a monk, in the margin of the text he was transcribing.

"His spirits are lifted by the singing of a blackbird across the nearby lough and he records the moment in a short, joyful flourish.

"The blackbird of Belfast lough, as it is sometimes referred to, has become an iconic presence in poetry from the north of Ireland."

The Blackbird's Nest is published by Blackstaff Press in the Whitla Hall at Queen's on 4 November.

Poetry from The Blackbird's Nest
27 Oct 06 |  Northern Ireland

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