What has been described as a ‘treasure trove’ of previously unseen drafts of poems by Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney has been acquired by a Cambridge college. Co Sligo-based artist Barrie Cooke kept papers, photographs, drawings, notebooks and letters from Heaney as well English poet Ted Hughes for years. Both poets were friends with Mr Cooke for decades and had a shared love of poetry and fishing. The papers only came to light when Barrie Cooke showed them to academic Mark Wormald, a lecturer from Cambridge University, who came across Mr Cooke’s name in Ted Hughes’s fishing diaries. He was shown the cache of documents in 2013, the year before Cooke died. The papers include 85 poems by Heaney, as well as a number of drafts. One note shows early drafts of what would later be Heaney’s 1991 poem An August Night. The papers also reveal a previously unknown poem by Hughes based on the Irish myths of the Morrigan, the goddess of death, and the Dagda, the god of wisdom.
The documents include sketches by Mr Hughes, illustrations by Mr Cooke, and photographs of both poets. Ted Hughes died in 1998, while Seamus Heaney died in 2013. The papers, now owned by Pembroke College, Cambridge, will be catalogued and conserved before going on public display.