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‘Le Grá, Seamus’ pop-up exhibition opens at NLI’s ‘Seamus Heaney: Listen Now Again’ showcase

Exhibition features postcards sent by the poet to his lifelong friends

Monday, 10 July 2023
Guests at the opening night for Le Grá, Seamus

A selection of postcards sent by poet Seamus Heaney and his wife, Marie, to their friends Des and Mary Kavanagh has been added to the National Library of Ireland’s ‘Seamus Heaney: Listen Now Again’ exhibition at the Bank of Ireland Cultural and Heritage Centre in Westmoreland Street, Dublin.

The pop-up exhibition was launched at an event to mark the fifth anniversary of the opening of ‘Seamus Heaney: Listen Now Again’. 

The ‘Le Grá, Seamus’ exhibition features 10 of the postcards sent to the Kavanaghs during the 1980s and the 1990s from places such as St Lucia, Austria, Japan, Italy and Paris. They mark summer holidays, wedding anniversaries and lecture trips. Included in the collection is the line from the poem ‘Oysters’ – “Our shells clacked on the plates…” – which relates to meetings between the couples at Moran’s Oyster Cottage in Galway.  Another postcard, sent from Italy, says: “Thinking of you as we go shamefully free day by day in sunlight and leisure”, while another says: “Nothing to bate the free play of chance and good food. And drink. And crack”.

Commenting, Director of the National Library of Ireland, Dr Audrey Whitty said: “We are delighted to showcase the ‘Le Grá, Seamus’ postcard collection at our ‘Seamus Heaney: Listen Now Again’ exhibition. I thank Des and Mary Kavanagh – and indeed Marie Heaney - for sharing this small selection of postcards that reveal a funny, brilliant, and kind man, who took a deep pleasure in life and in language.”

Des Kavanagh added: “Seamus Heaney was a tremendous poet and a terrific and thoughtful friend. He was my friend for more than 60 years, since we first met as schoolboys in St Columb’s College in Derry.  He was a great correspondent, and my wife, Mary, and I received more than 60 thoughtful and lyrical postcards from Seamus over the years. We are proud to share those with the National Library and the wider public as part of the ‘Seamus Heaney: Listen Now Again’ exhibition.”

More than a quarter of a million visitors (both in person and online) have been welcomed to the NLI’s Seamus Heaney: Listen Now Again exhibition since it opened at the Bank of Ireland Cultural and Heritage Centre in July 2018. A partnership project between the National Library, the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media and Bank of Ireland, the exhibition is curated by Professor Geraldine Higgins, Director of Irish Studies at Emory University in the US. It draws on the NLI’s extensive archive of Heaney documents, and features Heaney’s original manuscripts, his writing desk, letters, unpublished works, diary entries, photographs, notebooks, and multi-media recordings.

The National Library runs a programme of events on an ongoing basis to support the exhibition. This includes online tours, which are ISL interpreted and captioned; special in-person and online themed tours, talks and workshops, and a monthly book club, which explores a different collection of Heaney’s poetry each month. In addition to the regular programming, the NLI also hosts Heaney focused open mic sessions, readings, lectures, and mindfulness sessions. Details can be found on the NLI website.

The ‘Le Gra, Seamus’ exhibition runs as part of ‘Seamus Heaney: Listen Now Again’ at the Bank of Ireland Cultural and Heritage Centre, Westmoreland Street, Dublin 2 until the end of the year.