Heaney to Be Boylston Professor

'Best' Irish Poet Appointed to Chair

Seamus Heaney, described by colleagues as the premier living English-language poet, was appointed to the Boylston Professorship of Rhetoric and Oratory in July, the University announced this week.

Heaney, a visiting senior lecturer on English since 1981, follows the likes of John Quincy Adams, Archibald MacLeish, and Robert Fitzgerald in the Boylston chair, which was founded early in the 19th century.

"He's a remarkable poet of deep feeling and deep intelligence," said Professor of English Helen Vendler. "He has an extraordinary social vision, ranging from the large problem of nationhood down to the happiness and tragedy of individual life. His melody is like no one else's."

The 45-year-old Heaney grew up on a farm in Northern Ireland, but moved to the Irish Republic to avoid the political violence, according to Lowell Professor of the Humanities William Alfred Heaney will reportedly spend spring terms at Harvard but continue to live in Ireland.

The Human Mystery

His poetry rarely deals with Ireland's political strife. Instead, he writes about nature, life on the farm and the "mystery of being human," Alfred said.

Heaney is the best-selling poet at the Grober Bookstore on Plympton St., said Louise Salano, the shop's owner. "What's amazing is that he's so damn good" as well as being popular, she added.

The poet will teach classes similar to the poetry workshop he taught last spring, which got rare reviews from students.

"When he reads poetry, he makes it come alive," said a sophomore who asked not to be identified. "I am totally infatuated with Seamus."

Heaney will also advise seniors who choose to fulfill the honors thesis requirement by composing poetry.

While teaching at Harvard last spring, Heaney lived in Adams House as a resident scholar.

A clause in the charter of the Boylston Professorship gives Heaney "the right to pasture a cow in the Cambridge Common," said Alfred. "But I think Seamus would be arrested if he tried it."