After the Belfast Group stopped meeting in 1972, many participants downplayed its importance to the development of their writing. Regardless of its ultimate impact, the writing workshop nevertheless connected many authors in Northern Ireland. The pages linked above visualize these networks of relationships, as well as the writers’ connections to specific places.
The data used to create these visualizations come from the digitized drafts of Group sheets as well as the poets’ collected materials in Emory University’s Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library (MARBL). The Namedropper software developed for Belfast Group Poetry|Networks helped the team tag people and places mentioned in the archival descriptions or poetry with unique identifiers. The computer can now “understand” that Seamus Heaney wrote to Michael Longley and Derek Mahon, as well as writing frequently about County Tyrone. As a result, this “understanding” can be quantified and represented graphically. (A more technical description of the RDF-generation process is available.) The visualizations were created to represent different views on the relationships among Belfast Group participants, including how connected they were to the writing workshop itself. You can also see the network of connections among individual writers and their peers on individual biography pages.
This approach allows the investigation of the Belfast literary circle in a way that would be very difficult through regular archival research, especially since the project draws on catalogue information about letters that are currently sealed to researchers. Nevertheless, the visualizations cannot provide a complete picture. Not all of the poetry Group sheets have been digitized nor do MARBL’s collections hold every letter sent by or to a poet, let alone materials from every author in the Belfast Group. That said, even incomplete visualizations provide a new way to investigate the formation of a literary community.
The network visualizations are best viewed on a computer with a wifi or wired connection rather than a mobile device, as they may take some time to load and some controls are not available on mobile interfaces.