"Four Sides of Seamus Heaney," debuted Sunday, August 20, 2023, and comprises of four programs, each focusing on a different aspect of Heaney's work, each with a different presenter with personal knowledge of the poet.

In the first program, John Kelly, poet and broadcaster with RTE, visits the village of Bellaghy in County Derry, where Heaney was born, lived on a farm until he went to secondary school, and where he is buried.

Honoured to be presenting the first of four programmes on Seamus Heaney on BBC Radio 4 starting on August 20th. Four Sides of Seamus Heaney @BBCRadio4 @seamusheaneyest @FaberBooks @SHHomePlace https://t.co/5eXPu9Cxxj

— John Kelly tweets (@johnkellytweets) August 16, 2023

Though he spent most of his life in the Republic of Ireland, taught in America, and traveled all over the world, much of Heaney's poetry is rooted in his homeplace, the landscape, its people and their work, and their language.

One of his earliest poems describes plowing, one of his last a baler.

"He never really left the parish," says Dan Heaney, one of Seamus's brothers.

In the first episode, Dan takes John to the sculpture of a turf digger and shares something few know about the genesis of the famous poem, "Digging.'"

They also go to the Strand at Lough Beg where in the poem of that name Seamus imagines meeting his cousin, murdered in the Troubles. And they visit the family's farmyard.

The old police station in Bellaghy is now the Seamus Heaney HomePlace, a library and performance space where the 'Word Hoard' displays the local vocabulary Heaney employs.

Maura Johnston explains how its riches lie in Shakespeare's English, in Irish and Ulster Scots. She and Bernard O'Donoghue, specialist in Medieval Literature and Modern Irish Poetry, read closely, to reveal how Heaney asserts his Irish identity through English, subtly, inclusively decolonising the language.

Heaney's daughter, Catherine, presents the second episode of the new series, exploring the theme of love in her father's poems. 

Catherine visits her father's rural cottage in County Wicklow and speaks to her brothers about their father's poems and how he wrote them. 

In the third episode, Gail McConnell examines how Heaney responded to The Troubles in his poetry.

The first two episodes are available on BBC Sounds here with all following episodes released on a weekly basis. 

One of the most celebrated Irish poets of all time, Heaney won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1995 "for works of lyrical beauty and ethical depth, which exalt everyday miracles and the living past."

American poet Robert Lowell described Heaney as "the most important Irish poet since Yeats" 

Following Heaney's death in August 2013, former US President Bill Clinton said Heaney's "stunning work and his life were a gift to the world."

Listen to the podcast "Four Sides of Seamus Heaney" here on BBC Sounds.

* Updated on Aug 30, 2023.