Seamus Heaney

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One definition of ‘culture’, related to the word’s Latin root in the verb colere (meaning ‘to till the earth’) is ‘the experimental growth of microorganisms in a nutrient substance’.

These words could also function as an apt statement of the aims and creative potential of the Ireland-Poland Cultural Foundation. In this case, the ‘nutrient substance’ is a mutual recognition which derives from the two countries’ troubled histories and emergent identities, their gradual and hard won struggle to take their place among the nations of the world, politically, economically and – in the widest, commonest sense of the word – culturally. ‘The experimental growth of microorganisms’, on the other hand, is evident in the activities and exchanges already initiated by the Foundation’s Chairman, Cathal McCabe, himself a Polish speaker and former Assistant Director of Literature with the British Council in Warsaw.

I am honoured to be Patron of this timely and promising venture. First and foremost, it allows me to be associated in a formal way with the country that has produced one of the greatest bodies of literature in modern times and to signify my gratitude, personal and artistic, to the poets and poetry of twentieth century Poland. But the Foundation also signifies the importance of maintaining bonds between us that are deeper than the obvious economic ones: in the new Ireland, in the new Poland, in the new Europe, it is vital to keep in mind what culture, in its first definition, continues to mean: ‘the total of the inherited ideas, beliefs, values and knowledge, which constitute the shared bases of social action.’

Báil ó Dhia ar an obair.

Seamus Heaney