Irish poets speaking for themselves

Irish poets speaking for themselves Paula Meehan
The Poet’s Chair: Writings from the Ireland Chair of Poetry

(UCD Press, €20.00 each volume)

The Ireland Chair of Poetry Trust was established in 1998 jointly by Queen’s University Belfast, TCD, UCD, the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, and An Chomhairle Ealaíon.

Every three years a distinguished poet is selected to hold the Chair as Ireland’s Professor of Poetry. During their tenure each poet passes a year attached to each of the universities in turn for a residency. Aside from informal contact with students and readers, while in residence the poet makes one formal presentation a year.

These are now printed in individual titles for each poet: John Montague, Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill, Paul Durcan, Michael Longley, Harry Clifton and Paula Meehan [pictured] so far in the series. The current holder of the chair is Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, appointed in 2016, and a volume by her will follow in due course.

For those familiar with some of the poets their lectures will prove of great interest. But I suspect that for those less familiar with this field, all of these will prove very illuminating. And how the voices vary.


The wonderfully down to earth Paul Meehan – her title Imaginary Bonnets with Real Bees in Them, sums up her work very well, couples with the extraordinary imaginative flights of Paul Durcan, the sturdier Northern thoughts of John Montague and Michael Longley: overall a wonderful conspectus of the current range of Irish verse.

The reflections of the well travelled Harry Clifton on the position of an Irish poet in the rustbelts of Ireland and Britain, in Europe as whole, and in America, go to the very heart of the way modern Irish poets now work out their lives.