It is a sad time for the Irish people in the savage land of Houston, Texas. Bangers and crubeens are not served in area restaurants. Celtic bands and step-dancing groups have been relegated to St. Patrick's Day festivals, and few Irish dare venture beyond the confines of the Mucky Duck or Garden in the Heights. So when their homeland was selected to carry the banner in this year's International Festival (April 21-29), they called upon Heaney to rally them in their time of woe.
The pen-wielder did not balk. His feats with the book of poems Station Island are well known, and the tales of his accomplishments have been written about in the pages of The Observer and The New York Times. He will travel across a great ocean to help carry his people to new prominence by reading verse of their mother country (April 17).
On his return home, victorious, poets, artists, students and civic leaders from around Houston will gather to honor him with a marathon reading of Beowulf (April 23). And they will say, of all the poets upon the earth, he was the man most gracious and fair-minded, kindest to his people and keenest to win fame.