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Unpublished Heaney poems feature in new anthology

The book features poetry and song lyrics about Dublin, but it’s not just for poetry buffs.

IF YOU’VE EVER thought that poetry was an impenetrable art form, a new anthology of poems about Dublin might just change your mind.

The Dublin: One City One Book initiative has previously chosen novels connected to the capital (like Strumpet City), but this year has selected a collection of poetry.

For many, the draw will be that ‘If Ever You Go: a map of Dublin in poetry and song’ contains two previously unpublished Seamus Heaney poems.

Unseen Heaney

The book – edited by Pat Boran and Gerard Smyth and published by Dedalus Press – collects poems, ballads and songs from a range of past and contemporary writers connected with Dublin.

Boran said that the first of Heaney’s poems is a four-liner about being out in the evening and encountering the train to Dublin 4, and this “connecting him back to the trains in his childhood”.

The second is a poem he originally read at an event marking EU enlargement.

“I knew Seamus a little and when I told him about this project a number of years ago he was kind of joking that he hadn’t written much about Dublin,” said Boran.

He had sent Heaney the proofs of the poems 18 months ago. “I didn’t know they would appear posthumously,” said Boran of Heane’s death last year.

Heaney’s friend and poet Denis O’Driscoll has also passed in recent years, and this collection is a celebration of them as champions of poetry, as well as a celebration of contemporary poetry.

Boran said that though Heaney didn’t write a huge amount of poems about Dublin, “he was immersed in Dublin lore and Dublin learning, and very supportive of other Dublin writers”.


This anthology isn’t just for people who already ready poetry. “Some people think poetry is more difficult or going to be more difficult to approach,” said Boran.

“Really this project is saying the opposite; it’s about saying if you have any affection or connection to the place at all, that will get you into the poems and the songs.”

Anyone who is not a confirmed poetry reader doesn’t need to be afraid of this. It’s full of surprises.

It’s “more inclusive than your average poetry anthology,” containing song lyrics from people like Damien Dempsey and Phil Lynott.

“It’s a book of many voices and that’s what’s attractive about it,” he said. “As well as all the great Irish poets going back hundreds of years, you have hundreds of living people in it.”

Dublin: One city, one book is “an opportunity to celebrate a unique city”, said Boran. It has three geographical sections – Liffeyside, Northside and Southside – so takes the reader through the changing city.

In Phil Lynott’s poem, for example, he mentions Derby Square, an area near Christchurch that no longer exists in post-Celtic Tiger Ireland.

“It’s a kind of mind trip,” said Boran of this collection.


To celebrate the launch of the Dublin City Public Libraries anthology there will be a programme of events throughout April.

It will include dozens of free events at venues over Dublin. Celebrating Seamus Heaney, Dublin and Poetry Ireland’s official tribute to Seamus Heaney at the National Concert Hall on 23 April, which will also mark UNESCO World Book Day.

If Ever You Go is available now to borrow from Dublin City Public Libraries and public libraries in Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown, Fingal and South Dublin. It can also be bought in most bookshops.

Read: Dublin: One City One Book choice for 2014 is revealed…>

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