Seamus Heaney: Afterlives

Thursday, November 16, 2023 - Saturday November 18, 2023 | Boston College | Please register to attend

Please note that this conference will only be available to attend in person and will not be streamed online.

Boston College strongly encourages conference participants to receive the COVID-19 vaccination before attending events on campus.
ACIS Conference: De-Hibernicizing Irish Studies

Ten years after the death of Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney, the Irish Studies Program at Boston College is proud to invite scholars and public to join us in celebrating a poet whose connections to our university remain fresh in our memory. Bringing together outstanding scholars in the field, Seamus Heaney: Afterlives will explore new understandings of the poet since his death, with particular reference to living poets who continue to be influenced by Heaney’s legacy. Our Friday panels and Saturday’s four keynote speakers will celebrate, interrogate, and develop the legacy of the poet as critic, public intellectual, and major moral and aesthetic force of twentieth and early twenty-first century Ireland. 

Outstanding features of the conference include “Political Heaney,” an inaugural Lowell lecture by Fintan O’Toole, Heaney’s official authorized biographer, and a Saturday afternoon performance by Belfast theater company “Kabosh.” The conference is honored by the presence of Seamus’s widow Marie, and his daughter and literary executor, Catherine Heaney. 

Uncovering fresh and surprising angles on the poet’s work, this conference will assert his enduring relevance to the aesthetic, political, and ethical questions we face in today’s troubled world.

This conference is sponsored by the Institute for Liberal Arts, The Consulate General of Ireland in Boston, the Burns Library, the Irish Studies Program at Boston College. 

Seamus Heaney, The Gravel Walks

Schedule and Registration

Thursday, November 16, 2023  | Gasson Hall | Please register to attend

7:00 PM 

Fintan O’Toole on “Political Heaney” | Gasson 100

Friday, November 17, 2023 | Connolly House |  Internal Event by Invitation Only

3:00-3:45 PM 

The Craft: an introduction for students (Internal Event)

  • Chair: Claire Connolly (UCC)
  • Nithy Kasa (poet, Ireland)
  • Stephen Sexton (poet, Ireland)
  • Allison Adair (BC)
  • Suzanne Matson (BC)
  • Andrew Sofer (BC)
  • Kelly Sullivan (NYU)
3:45-4:00 PM

High Tea

4:00 PM

The Critics: a roundtable on Heaney’s influence (Internal Event)

  • Chair: Margaret Kelleher (UCD, Dublin) 
  • Nithy Kasa 
  • Stephen Sexton 
  • Brian Loane (Lower Merion School)
  • Kelly Sullivan (NYU)
  • Moynagh Sullivan (MU)
  • Alex Alonso (Huddersfield)
  • Geraldine Higgins (Emory)
  • Heather Clark (Huddersfield)
7:00 PM 

Gala Opening Reception (by invitation)

Honored Guest: Marie Heaney

  • Welcome by Director of Irish Studies, Guy Beiner
  • Welcome by Consul General of Ireland, Síghle Fitzgerald
  • Remarks by Catherine Heaney 
  • The Life of a Poet: an Interview with Fintan O’Toole, official biographer
  • Poet and Piper: Selected poems accompanied by Peadar Giles on the uileann pipes
  • Irish flute with Seamus Noonan

Saturday, November 18, 2023 | ALL EVENTS TODAY OPEN TO THE PUBLIC | Connolly House | Please register to attend

9:30-10:00 AM


10:00-10:45 AM

Keynote 1: Geraldine Higgins (Emory University)

  • Seamus Heaney’s Desks 
  • Q&A
10:45-11:00 AM

Coffee Break

11:00-11:45 AM

Keynotes 2: Heather Clark (Emeritus, Huddersfield University).  

  • Diving for Crucibles: Seamus Heaney, Barrie Cooke, and Bog Poems
  • Q&A 
11:45 AM-12:00 PM

Coffee Break

12:00-12:45 PM

Keynote 3: Guy Beiner (Boston College)

  • Silence-breaking rather than rabble-rousing’? Remembering to Forget the Croppies
  • Q&A
12:45-1:00 PM

Éire-Ireland special Heaney edition presentation

  • Vera Kreilkamp (BC) 
  •  Kelly Sullivan (NYU) 
  •  Tess Koetting (BC)
1:00-2:30 PM

Lunch Served in Connolly House

(Walk to Burns Library after lunch)

2:30-3:15 PM

Keynote 4: Alex Alonso (Huddersfield University) | Burns Library 

  • Seamus Heaney’s Audio Archive
  • Q&A 
3:15-3:45 PM

Coffee Break

3:45-5:00 PM


  • Heaney and the Troubles Selected readings from the poems 
  • The Green and the Blue, Kabosh Theatre Company, Belfast
5:00 PM

Closing Reception | Burns Library 

Heaney Archives Presentation by Burns Library Director, Christian Dupont



Nithy Kasa

Nithy Kasa

Nithy Kasa was born in Kimpese, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and was raised in its capital, Kinshasa, and in Galway. Nithy received the Poetry Ireland Commission 2020, with the support of an Arts Council of Ireland Commissions Award, and was shortlisted for The Eavan Boland Emerging Poet Award 2021. Nithy has received an I bhFad i gCéin international residency for Cave Canem by Poetry Ireland, The Arts Council, and the Department of Foreign Affairs. Nisi’s debut collection Palm Wine Tapper and The Boy at Jericho (Doire Press 2022) was included on the Irish Times’s list of the best poetry books of 2022. It is also shortlisted for the Pigott Poetry Prize 2023. Her work is featured on the University of Galway’s archive and the Special Collections of University College Dublin. Nithy is among ten poets commissioned to write a poem for the Poetry as Commemoration project, an initiative of the Irish Poetry Reading Archive at University College Dublin. Nithy divides her time between Ireland and The Congo.

Stephen Sexton

Stephen Sexton

Stephen Sexton lives in Belfast where he teaches at the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry. His debut pamphlet, Oils (Emma Press, 2014) was a Poetry Book Society Winter Pamphlet Choice. When all the World and Love Were Young (Penguin, 2019) was one of the most talked-about debut collections in recent years. With it, Stephen won The Forward Prize for Best First Collection, The Shine/Strong Prize for Best First Collection, and the E M Forster Award – and it was chosen as a Sunday Times, New Statesman and Telegraph Book of the Year. It was also shortlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize and the John Pollard Poetry Prize.

Alex Alonso

Alex Alonso 

Alex Alonso joined the University of Huddersfield as a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Global Fellow in 2022. Prior to this, he was an Irish Research Council Postdoctoral Fellow (2019-2022) at Trinity College Dublin. Alex's first book, Paul Muldoon in America: Transatlantic Formations, was published by Oxford University Press in 2021. He is currently working on his second monograph, Writing on Air: Irish Poetry and the Radio. He recently worked with Prof. Nicholas Grene and Prof. Geraldine Higgins to curate Derek Mahon: Piecing Together the Poet, an online exhibition celebrating the life and work of Irish poet Derek Mahon.  His current research focuses on a group of Irish poets – Seamus Heaney, Paul Muldoon, Eavan Boland, Michael Longley, and Derek Mahon among them – who once shared close ties with the BBC and RTÉ. The project explores radio’s complex relationship with modern Irish writing, and the radio studio itself as space for creative experiment, rivalry, and collaboration between artists on and off the air.

Geraldine Higgins

Geraldine Higgins 

Geraldine Higgins’s research focuses on the Irish Revival and on literature connected to the thirty-year Irish conflict known as the Troubles. Anchored by Ireland’s two Nobel poet laureates, W.B. Yeats and Seamus Heaney, Higgins’s publications examine the connections between art and violence, literature and history, and poetry and popular culture. She specializes in twentieth-century Irish literature and culture, modern British literature, archival studies and public exhibitions. She joined the faculty of Emory University in 1996 after completing a B.A. in English and History at Trinity College Dublin and a D.Phil. in English at Trinity College, Oxford. In 2014, she was awarded the Massee-Martin/NEH Distinguished Teaching Chair for the term of 2014-2018. Professor Higgins is the Director of Emory's Irish Studies Program and of the Richard Ellmann Lectures in Modern Literature.

Heather Clark

Heather Clark 

Heather Clark earned her bachelor’s degree in English Literature from Harvard University and her doctorate in English from Oxford University. Her awards include the Truman Capote Award for Literary Criticism; the Slightly Foxed Prize for Best First Biography; a National Endowment for the Humanities Public Scholar Fellowship; a Leon Levy Biography Fellowship at the City University of New York; and a Visiting U.S. Fellowship at the Eccles Centre for American Studies, British Library. A former Visiting Scholar at the Oxford Centre for Life-Writing, she is the author of Red Comet: The Short Life and Blazing Art of Sylvia Plath, The Grief of Influence: Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes and The Ulster Renaissance: Poetry in Belfast 1962-1972. Red Comet was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the LA Times Book Prize in Biography, and was a New York Times Top Ten Book of 2021. Her work has appeared in publications including The New York Times, Harvard Review, Time, Air Mail, Lit Hub, and The Times Literary Supplement. She divides her time between New York and Yorkshire, England, where she is Professor of Contemporary Poetry at the University of Huddersfield.

Fintan O’Toole

Fintan O’Toole

Currently working on the official biography of Seamus Heaney, Fintan O’Toole has been with The Irish Times since 1988, and also contributes to The New York Review of Books, The New Yorker, Granta, The Guardian, The Observer, and other international publications. He is the winner of both the Orwell Prize and the European Press Prize for his work on Brexit. Operating in the intersections between politics, history and literature, Fintan O’Toole continues to elude definition despite being one of Ireland’s leading intellectuals. Yet, across his myriad activities and 25 books, a common theme is clear: the power of decisions, both brave and bad, to change lives. History is proof of this, politics and culture an expression of it, and literature and theater the tools we use to make sense of it. His work embraces all of these and more. ”Political Heaney” is the title of O’Toole’s presentation for the Lowell Lecture series on Thursday, November 16, at 7.00 pm

Guy Beiner

Guy Beiner 

Guy Beiner is the Sullivan Chair in Irish Studies at Boston College. He teaches courses on eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth century Irish history as well as more general topics in late-modern history. He specializes in the historical study of remembering and forgetting. Other interests include oral history, folklore, public history and heritage, historiography, terrorism, the fin de siècle, and the ‘Spanish’ Influenza pandemic. His books on history, memory and forgetting in Ireland have won multiple international awards. Beiner was a professor of modern history at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel and has held research fellowships at Trinity College Dublin, University of Notre Dame, Central European University, University of Oxford, as well being a former Burns Scholar at Boston College. He is co-editor, with Oona Frawley and Ray Cashman, of the Indiana University Press series Irish Culture, Memory, Place.

Kabosh Theatre Company

Kabosh Theatre Company

A Belfast based theatre company founded in 1994, Kabosh produces provocative theater that transforms our understanding of who and where we are, through giving voice to site, space and people. Green & Blue, written by Laurence McKeown and directed by Paula McFetridge, explores the painful and humorous realities faced by the individuals who patrolled the border during the height of the conflict. The play is based on an oral archive of serving Royal Ulster Constabulary and An Garda Síochána officers; the title reflects the color of both uniforms. This production fuses theater and film to look at the person behind the uniform and the different experiences of two individuals on either side of a man-made line on the ground. Green & Blue won the Lustrum Award, Edinburgh 2019 for “Best Theatrical Moment.”

Special Guests

Kelly Sullivan

Kelly Sullivan

Moynagh Sullivan

Moynagh Sullivan

Catherine Heaney

Catherine Heaney

Margaret Kelleher

Margaret Kelleher

Campus Map and Parking

Parking is available at the nearby Beacon Street and Commonwealth Avenue Garages.

Boston College is also accessible via public transportation (MBTA B Line - Boston College).

Directions, Maps, and Parking

Visitor Parking Information

Boston College strongly encourages conference participants to receive the COVID-19 vaccination before attending events on campus.