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Meet our Past Heimbold Chairs

Maurice Tree 2 Photo

Maurice Fitzpatrick, 2020 Heimbold Chair   

Irish filmmaker and writer Maurice Fitzpatrick holds the Charles Heimbold Chair of Irish Studies for Spring 2020 at Villanova University. Born and raised in the countryside just outside Belturbet, a beautiful town south of the Irish border, Fitzpatrick’s works draw upon his affection for this landscape. “I remain very attached to that countryside and to the riverscape,” he says. “The River Erne flows through Belturbet, and indeed the river features considerably in the landscape footage I shot for my last film, John Hume in America. The Irish border at certain points lies exactly on that river. So, historically, it is a contested place, a site of sorrow as well as beauty.” This two-fold attention to landscape as a physical place and historical space is at the heart of his films. Setting is paramount for Fitzpatrick because from within it grows beauty and conflict, and the possibility of the exploration of complexities.

These strands run through Fitzpatrick’s latest work, In the Name of Peace: John Hume in America (2017). The documentary traces the political journey of one of Northern Ireland’s most influential politicians, John Hume, whose multiple talks with the American and Irish-American leaders from the mid-1970s onwards helped forged peace during the Irish Troubles. Hailed as “the Irish conflict’s Martin Luther King” by President Bill Clinton, and “a dedicated and visionary peacemaker” by President Michael D. Higgins, Hume was convinced that peaceful dialogue was key to resolving the Northern Irish conflict. Narrated by Liam Neeson, the documentary features a blend of never-before-seen archival footage, and interviews with an array of American, British and Irish politicians, including Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, Tony Blair, John Major, and Bertie Ahern.

Praise for John Hume in America has been lavish and well-deserving. Nancy Pelosi said that the film is “a wonderful reminder of the strength in diplomacy and the close relationship between the United States and Northern Ireland’. Fitzpatrick reinstates Hume’s role and tenacity in encouraging America to applying pressure on England and Ireland, ultimately leading to the Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1985, and the abating of the tension in Northern Ireland. In doing so, he has created, according to Micheál Martin, Leader of Fianna Fáil and Leader of the Opposition, a “documentary should be shown in every school in Ireland.” Indeed, the need for Ireland to recognize Hume’s contributions to her history was one of Fitzpatrick’s goals. He says in an interview that there is “the tendency to airbrush John Hume out of the narrative of recent historical analysis of the conflict…there is a faction within Northern Ireland that, in particular, wants to de-emphasise the role that John Hume played, and I think a lot of people, audiences and critics alike, homed in on the way in which the film tries to set the record straight.” Donald Clarke of The Irish Times wrote a glowing review of the film: “John Hume [has been] restored to his rightful place in Irish history: Maurice Fitzpatrick’s documentary lines up luminaries eager to set the record straight.” Fitzpatrick’s talent has partly been to engage the luminaries in this project and partly been to tell the story so compellingly.

His interest in Northern Ireland, a site of much political conflict, started during his years studying at Trinity College, Dublin. Fitzpatrick says, “I think the North is in a process of radical transformation. Both the Irish and the UK governments have undertaken to act as co-guarantors of Northern Ireland’s governing institutions. Yet one wonders how long that arrangement can last, particularly given the fallout from Brexit.” This fascination for the cultural and political landscape is skillfully evoked in his three films Translations RevisitedThe Boys of St. Columb’s, and In the Name of Peace: John Hume in America, and the books that accompany the last two. Set in Derry city in Northern Ireland, Fitzpatrick explores through all his works “the paradoxes and contradictions” of this space, a “confluence of many traditions” that has been contested for centuries.

Fitzpatrick’s films seem to emphasize mood and atmosphere as much as narrative and history. He relies “heavily on instinct as well as thought. A film may take years to make. Throughout the process one must keep faith with the work. I have written many scripts that have not been made into films, but the scripts that I did manage to make into films started with a surety: here is a story that should be, and even must be, told.” His determination and follow-through are notable. Not only has he produced and found funding for his films, they have garnered praise from academics, critics, and viewers for the production of values and for telling untold stories.

It is easy to see that the stories Fitzpatrick chose to tell needed to be told. The Boys of St. Columb’s (2009), his first film, chronicles the effects of the landmark Northern Ireland Education Act of 1947 which allowed free secondary education for all children who passed the auxiliary test known as Eleven Plus. The documentary focuses on the boys’ diocesan school, St. Columb’s College in Derry, weaving between interviews of eight of its alumni—including the two Nobel Laureates Seamus Heaney and John Hume. “It is beautifully produced,” writes Kelly Matthews in The Irish Literary Supplement, “lending visual weight to…the changes that occurred in Derry and in Northern Ireland between 1947 and the late 1960's.“ Not only did Fitzpatrick write and co-produce this film with BBC and RTE, he also released a companion book to accompany it. The Boys of St. Columb’s “is full of telling detail,” writes Edward Larrissy from The Irish Times. “Full of energetic and concise formulations, the interviews make this an indispensable document.” Markedly unique in tone and content, the interviews show that for some, the school experience was relatively positive; others found themselves caught in a fear-based system that imposed violence and conformity.

Fitzpatrick’s second work was the BBC documentary Translations Revisited (2013) based on Brian Friel’s play Translations on the beauty and enigma of languages. The play was first performed in Derry, Northern Ireland in 1980—a tumultuous time in its history—and then again in 2013, at a time of relative peace. Of Friel, Fitzpatrick says, “He managed to convey the enormous complexity of the divided identities in Ireland in Translations. He avoided taking sides, or simply showing one side railing against another one. Friel understood that Ireland’s political and cultural inheritance is more complex than that.” The film documents the process and performance of the 2013 play as a kind of comparative work to its original, examining how it has shifted in resonance given the change in times and political environment.

When Fitzpatrick is at Villanova, he will be teaching a course on Irish and British Films in Political Contexts which will concentrate on Anglo-British relationships through documentaries and drama films, and a course on Constructing the Irish Nation Through Film.

Heimbold Chair: 2019


Mike McCormack, 2019 Heimbold Chair

Award-winning County Mayo Novelist

Mike McCormack holds the Charles A. Heimbold Jr., Chair of Irish Studies at Villanova University for the spring 2019 semester.  Born in London in 1965, McCormack grew up in County Mayo. Though he achieved early success with Getting it in the Head, a collection of short stories that won him the Rooney Prize for Literature in 1996, McCormack was released from longtime publisher Jonathan Cape shortly following the publication of his critically-acclaimed novel Notes From a Coma (Jonathan Cape, 2005).  In a June 2017 interview with Justine Jordan for the Guardian, McCormack describes the decade or so that ensued between this disappointment and his triumphant return as one in which he “dropped completely off the radar.”  If the success of his novel Solar Bones (Tramp Press, 2016) is any indication, it seems McCormack is ascendant once again.

Solar Bones, which takes place on 2 November 2008, All Souls Day, in a house in Louisburgh, County Mayo, consists of a single sentence uttered by civil engineer, family man, and revenant, Marcus Conway.  Despite such specifics of time and place, the book constitutes an utterance from modernity itself, grappling with universal themes in a style native to Irish writers.  McCormack, who once described Irish writing as “a three-part harmony of experiment, comedy and metaphysics,” is an adept inheritor of such a storied tradition.

The book is described in Ian Sansom’s review for the Guardian as “an extraordinary novel [ . . .] destined to be acclaimed by anyone who believes that the novel is not dead and that novelists are not merely lit-fest fodder for the metropolitan middle classes.”  Alongside comparisons to Joyce, particularly Ulysses, such praise could seem excessive.  For McCormack’s Solar Bones, however, superlatives may be the only appropriate vehicle for response.  The novel has gone on to win both the International Dublin Literary Award and the Goldsmiths Prize, as well as to be longlisted for the Man Booker Prize.

In his acceptance speech for the Goldsmiths Prize, McCormack credits both his agent and Tramp Press, a small, independent press based in Dublin, for not only sticking with him during a challenging period in his working life, but also for believing in the ability for experimental fiction to communicate with a wide readership.  “It’s about time the prize-giving community honored experimental works and time that mainstream publishers started honoring their readership by saying: ‘Here are experimental books,’” he says. “Readers are smart.  They’re up for it.  That was what the people at Tramp Press taught me – they’re up for it.  There are readers out there and they have been proved right.”

Experimentation has been a crucial aspect of McCormack’s career, one he acknowledges he has inherited from such writers as Joyce, O’Brien, and Beckett.  As such, he views his own literary experimentation as both continuance of this tradition and evidence for its unjustified absence in a period of relative creative complacence, as far as publishers are concerned.

“The generation behind me seem to be much more open to the idea of experiment,” he said in the 2017 interview with Jordan.  “I sometimes think we forget that Irish writers are experimental writers. Our Mount Rushmore is Joyce, Beckett and Flann O’Brien, and if you’re not talking about those writers then you’ve lowered your gaze.  For me they’re the father, son and holy ghost.  They’ve nothing in common except they all went to some trouble to expand the received form, and there’s something of that happening again–a rejuvenation of the experimental instinct.”

Solar Bones, then, stands between tradition and today, a beacon for what literature has been and can be once more.  The pressure now falls on publishers to take the gamble on similarly ambitious works.

In his acceptance speech for the 2018 International Dublin Literary Award, a prize for which invited public libraries in cities throughout the world nominate books, McCormack refers to his longstanding relationship with libraries across the world.  He explains that the Louisburgh public library of his youth was an invaluable source for his intellectual development and literary discovery, maintaining that each library since has been an “echo” of the first.  “To receive a prize which honors the work and reach of those libraries is...something that honors part of my upbringing [and] education, so a big thank you to all librarians the world over.”

McCormack, who lives and works in Galway, has also written the short story collection Forensic Songs (Dublin, Lilliput, 2012) and the novel Crowe’s Requiem (Jonathan Cape, 1998).  He is currently working on a series of science fiction stories set in the west of Ireland and inspired by his long-held desire to “see if it was possible to read the landscape and society of the west of Ireland as a possible sci-fi landscape.”

Unsurprisingly, perhaps, his ambition and ingenuity as a writer of fiction are reflected in what he hopes to achieve during his time as Heimbold Chair at Villanova University.

“I am really looking forward to the whole adventure of going to Villanova and teaching American students,” he says. “But I think what I am most looking forward to as a teacher is introducing some of the new Irish voices which have made an impact here in Ireland over the past few years.  I would love to bring to these students a sense of the excitement and rejuvenation that these new voices have brought to fiction writing in Ireland.”

Irish Times Review

New York Times Review


Colette Bryce, 2018 Heimbold Chair  

Award-winning Derry Poet

Colette Bryce holds the Charles A. Heimbold Jr., Chair of Irish Studies at Villanova University for the spring 2018 semester.  Born and raised in Derry in Northern Ireland, poet Colette Bryce did not explicitly identify as an Irish writer in 1988 when she moved to England as a student.  She then remained in London while beginning her career as a poet.  As she says in a 2013 interview with former Heimbold Chair, Conor O’Callaghan, “At that time, being Irish in London didn’t seem important, and I didn’t think of myself in relation to the Irish tradition at all. Poetry belonged to the now and the future.”  Bryce then adds, “of course, that would change in the years to come,” just as Bryce had already adapted to change in her career path. In a 2002 interview with John Brown in 2002, she notes, “Being a poet was never an option.  Being a teacher, or anything with a secure salary, was the ultimate goal.”  She has succeeded in both teaching and writing brilliant poetry.

In 1995, she received the Eric Gregory Award for emerging poets and in spent a year teaching in Madrid.  In 2000 her first volume of poems, The Heel of Bernadette(2000) won the Aldeburg prize and the first Strong Award for emerging poets.  From 2002-2005, she had a fellowship at Dundee University, and the title poem of her second volume of poems, The Full Indian Rope Trick (2004) won a first prize in the UK National Poetry Competition.  She served as Poetry Editor for the prestigious Poetry London and her third and fourth volumes, Self-Portrait in the Dark (2008) and The Whole & Rain-domed Universe (2014) have met critical praise, and in 2010 she won the Cholmondeley Award for poetry.  Her most recent publication, Selected Poems (2017), demonstrates the achievement and mastery of Bryce and recently received a special commendation from the Poetry Book Society.

She has served as the North East Literary Fellow at the universities of Newcastle and Durham, as well as holding fellowships at the University of Manchester and the University of Notre Dame.  Throughout all, poetry has been her guide, as she told O’Callaghan, “I see poetry as a faithful kind of art, and I think faith in love, the idea of love as a solution, can be the thing that guides us.”  Bryce spent her early years in Derry “liv[ing] and learn[ing] the strange mix of the religious, the historical, the political, and the day to day” (Brown).  In a recent interview with Susan Haigh, she described her childhood as a “collective experience,” and relatively normal, though existing in “a very abnormal kind of society to grow up in.”  Bryce does not consider her poetry to be especially political, but notes the “strange mix” that animates her poetry:  “[p]oems chart their own water . . . I wouldn’t say that I attempt to engage with Irish politics through my work, it’s not what I’m after [yet] it’s impossible to separate the political from the historical, the social and the moral.”  Events like the “Troubles” do feature in poems such as “Break” and “Hit Shite and it Flies High,” but as Bryce explains, the Troubles “are part of my landscape. I don’t have a conscious wish to avoid them or to comment on them through my work, but if they turn up in a poem I’ll let them in....I find it difficult to sit down and intentionally approach a ‘subject’ in poetry.”  Bryce’s voice observes the world around her and the world inside her. The poem “Break” begins with what seems to be a view of the wartime—“Soldier boy, dark and tall, sat for a rest / on Crumlish’s wall”—but as the poem advances, the speaker moves away from a documentary perspective and asks to punch a bulletproof vest, and look through both the eye of both the soldier and the scope of the gun.  When the poem ends, the scene has dissolved into the everyday.  Thus while the political can appear in her poetry, it feels just as Bryce describes it—as having just turned up to the poem.

Bryce consistently weaves political history in Northern Ireland, her identity as a gay female writer, and her childhood. From her first collection, The Heel of Bernadette, in 2000, Bryce’s speaker underscores a mother’s religious zeal in “Itch,” juxtaposing a sweetly whispering Jesus who “lives / deep in the ditch of my mother’s ear,” with the voice of the speaker wanting her ear, “I believe sometimes she cannot hear / for the whispering like wishes / of Jesus softly breathing there.”  A sense of quiet observance reigns throughout her poetry, and makes her love poems sensuous observations of body and landscape.  In “Gallery” (from The Full Indian Rope Trick), Bryce’s speaker is praises a lover who “showed me the red earth / breaking under lightning” and in “Tense,” they lie “streamed in each other, breath in breath.”  Her appreciation of her native land is mingled with sober takes.  In “When I Land in Northern Ireland” (Self-Portrait in the Dark) the speaker longs for cigarette smoke and a drink in a bar where “everyone smokes and talks about the land, / the talk about the land, our spoiled inheritance.”  Such reflections always feels personal and invested, as Bryce says in an interview with Alex Pryce, “I think a poem is no good if it doesn’t have an emotional truth [ . . . ] I’d like to fly the flag for content because as human beings we are interested in each other’s lives, and the world. That’s why we read.”  Indeed, it seems writing emotional truths is her mainstay.

In reviewing Selected Poems for the New Statesman, Paul Batchelor writes that Bryce, “[n]ever showy, always watchful…return[s] to the parts of personal and political life that hurt.”  Of “A Spider,” Batchelor writes that “the poem’s allegorical charge lies not so much in its content as in the way it compels the reader to vocalise the mixture of hesitancy and inevitability by which it proceeds.”  Another former Heimbold Chair John McAuliffe, for The Irish Times, adds that Bryce’s Selected Poems “elaborates a richly detailed and contemporary picture of the worlds she has observed, and into which, or out of which, she has disappeared [ . . . ]  The emotional punch of the poems is when we see their speakers register again and again that tension between invisibility and exposure.”  Bryce’s keen attention to voice, observation, and description of the human experience is clearly visible in Selected Poems.

Recently, Bryce taught at Trinity College in spring 2017 at the Oscar Wilde Centre, as Irish Writer Fellow. She is currently working on new poems, and hopes to make some new work during her time with the Center for Irish Studies at Villanova University.


Owen McCafferty, 2017 Heimbold Chair  

Northern Irish and Abbey Theatre playwright, McCafferty is Belfast's critically acclaimed jewel of theatre.
Owen McCafferty was born in Belfast, but as he has observed of his own work, “…being in Belfast, being brought up and living there…hasn’t influenced my writing a great deal from the point of view of what the outside world sees Belfast as.…I concentrate on the notion of telling human stories as opposed to sticking to political themes.” Having refined his study of philosophy at the University of Ulster, McCafferty took on careers in accounting and tiling before turning to writing these “human stories” and joining the Belfast Writers’ Group shortly after his father’s passing in 1985. But when his wife noted that his dialogue seemed to govern his plays, McCafferty spun from fiction to playwriting. His first production, Winners, Losers and Non-Runners, took the stage at the Old Museum Arts Centre in Belfast in 1992, and earned McCafferty praise for precisely that ear for dialogue. McCafferty followed in 1993 with I Won’t Dance Don’t Ask Me, and The Waiting List and The Private Picture Show in 1994. In an interview with David Grant, McCafferty noted the important lessons he took from each of these three plays: “I Won't Dance, Don't Ask Me placed the emphasis on narrative; The Private Picture Show emphasized form; and The Waiting List represented a synthesis of the two. As he told Grant: ‘Once The Waiting List had gone on, that completely freed me up. I realized then you can use the stage in a much freer way.’”
McCafferty went on to do precisely that in 2001, uniting video and installation art with drama and movement in No Place Like Home. The play prompted Fintan O’Toole to write in The Irish Times that McCafferty was “superbly effective” in re-framing “broad metaphors” with a “wry Belfast inflection.” McCafferty then debuted in London in 2002 with Closing Time, a play that The Times reviewed as one where “everyday hopelessness remains fully operative…[in the] terrific, realistic dialogue” and that, rather than being a politically-charged play, “most of [the] characters are hoping, trying or managing to make an actual, physical escape from their circumstances.” Indeed, in his essay on McCafferty’s work and influences, Grant writes that McCafferty focuses on the connections between the ordinary and the extraordinary, of “good drama with the ‘human condition.’”
This continued through McCafferty’s 2003 success, Scenes from the Big Picture. As Grant writes, the play “represents a synthesis of the strengths of his most successful earlier works, fusing the fluidity of Mojo-Mickybo (1998) with the depth of characterization of Closing Time and Shoot the Crow (1997).” For Scenes from the Big Picture, McCafferty won the John Whiting Award, the Evening Standard's Charles Wintour Award for New Playwriting, and the Meyer-Whitworth Award—the first time any playwright had won all of the awards in one year. McCafferty followed up with Cold Comfort and Days of Wine & Roses in 2005; the latter of which, The Guardian noted, demonstrated “with clinical accuracy, the lies, self-deceptions, desperation and violence of the confirmed alcoholic.” Antigone (2008), The Absence of Women (2010), and Titanic (2010) all received positive reviews, with Irish Theatre Magazine noting McCafferty’s flexibility: “It is a sign of Owen McCafferty’s stature as a playwright that he can step away so effectively from his usual muscular, Belfast vernacular-driven narrative style to assume here a quasi-curatorial role, sifting through almost 100 witness statements.”
Of his recent work, McCafferty’s play Quietly (2012) won Best New Play at the Irish Times Theatre Awards, and the Fringe First Award at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2013; Unfaithful (2014) and Death of a Comedian (2015) have reviewed well in The Sunday Times and The Belfast Telegraph, where Grania McFadden noted that the Death of a Comedian “pulls no punches—[the protagonist] takes aim at politicians, warmongers and injustices.” In 2016, Quietly enjoyed a three-month run Off-Broadway, at the Irish Repertory Theatre in New York from July to September; in its New York Times review, Laura Collins-Hughes described Quietly as “a play about what happens when a society loses control. It’s a reminder that terrorism and demonization of the other have always been with us, and that where blood-soaked enmity is fostered for political gain, angry youths have always been ripe for recruitment.”
Currently, McCafferty is writing the book and lyrics for Mojo Mickybo The Musical as well as an adaptation of Julius Caesar for the children's Ark Theatre in Dublin, and has been commissioned for a play called Beneath for The Abbey Theatre in Dublin.
Owen McCafferty holds the Charles A. Heimbold Jr., Chair of Irish Studies at Villanova University for the spring 2017 semester.
New York Times review of Quietly.

glenn patterson

Glenn Patterson: 2016

Glenn Patterson was born in Belfast in 1961. He was educated there and at the University of East Anglia, where he earned his Master’s in Creative Writing. He is the author of ten novels—Gull (forthcoming, 2016), The Rest Just Follows (2014), Mill for Grinding Old People Young (2012), The Third Party (2007), That Which Was (2004), Number 5 (2003), The International (1999), Black Night at Big Thunder Mountain (1995), Fat Lad (1992), and Burning Your Own (1988)—and three works of nonfiction—Here’s Me Here (2015), Once Upon a Hill (2008), and Lapsed Protestant (2006). His plays and stories have been broadcast on the radio and performed on the stage, and his essays have appeared in the Guardian, Observer, Sunday Times, Independent, Irish Times, and Dublin Review.

Patterson has also received several awards, including the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature, Betty Trask Award, the Arts Council NI Award in 1988, the Arts Council NI major individual artist award in 2006, and a Lannan Fellowship in 2009. Patterson is currently senior lecturer in the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry at Queen’s University Belfast, prior to which he was writer-in-residence at Queen’s University Belfast, Writing Fellow at the University of East Anglia, and writer-in-residence at University College Cork. He lives in Belfast with his wife and two children.

Patterson’s first novel, Burning Your Own (Chatto & Windus, 1988), concerns a young boy named Mal who lives in the outskirts of Belfast in the late 1960s. Mal befriends a boy named Francy, who revels in his own status as an outsider and exposes Mal to this world. Ultimately, Burning Your Own is a story of social unrest and innocence lost. It won praise from the Observer, which called the book “a passionately engaged portrayal of a troubled boy and city.”

In The International (Anchor, 1999), his fourth novel, Patterson revisits the subject of Irish social unrest. The novel—the events of which occur on January 28, 1967, the day before the inaugural meeting of the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Movement—follows eighteen-year-old Danny, who tends bar at the International Hotel in Belfast. Having won his job after the shooting death of his predecessor, Danny is acutely aware of and must navigate the violently shifting society around him. After reading The International, Colm Toibin, author of such acclaimed works as The Master, declared Patterson to be “One of the best contemporary Irish novelists.” Writer A. L. Kennedy has called The International “A funny, moving, politically astute novel,” and The Sunday Tribune has said it “has all the makings of classic. Reading it is a humbling experience.”

Number 5 (Hamish Hamilton/Penguin, 2003), which The Times called “An exceptional novel” and “a magnificent achievement,” spans a wider range of time than Burning Your Own and The International. Number 5 takes as its anchor a location rather than a character. Number 5 is a three-bedroom terrace house in suburban Belfast. The novel follows the occupants of this house from the 1950s to the present day, in the process foregrounding the shifting dynamics of Belfast itself. The Times Literary Supplement found Number 5 “Truly satisfying, gently astounding,” and the Observer thought it “Engrossing, extremely good . . . A superior read.”

The Mill for Grinding Old People Young (Faber & Faber, 2012) and The Rest Just Follows (Faber & Faber, 2014) are two of Patterson’s more recent novels. The former concerns Belfast in the 1830s as a city in flux while the latter follows the experiences of the Nimmo family in Belfast beginning in the 1970s. The Mill for Grinding Old People Young has been labeled “mesmerizing,” “A superb historical novel,” and “A sheer pleasure to read” by the Irish Examiner, Sunday Herald, and Sunday Business Post, respectively. The Rest Just Follows won praise from the Sunday Times as “Delicately drawn and acutely observed,” while Irish novelist and playwright Lucy Caldwell has dubbed it “Tender, human, and quietly devastating.”

In Patterson’s forthcoming book Gull (Head of Zeus, 2016), he explores the strange circumstances that brought maverick auto manufacturer John DeLorean to Belfast in the late 1970s to build one of the world’s most iconic cars.

Glenn Patterson holds the Charles A. Heimbold Jr., Chair of Irish Studies at Villanova University for the spring 2016 semester, teaching a course in Creative Writing, with a special interest in writing for screen, and in ‘Belfast’ Narratives.


Claire Kilroy: 2015
Claire Kilroy was born in Dublin, Ireland. She attended Trinity College, Dublin, where she studied English as an undergraduate and where, after a brief time working in television, she also earned her M.Phil in Creative Writing in 2001. Kilroy is the author of four novels—All Summer, Tenderwire, All Names Have Been Changed, and The Devil I Know—and has been described by Barbara Kingsolver, author of Flight Behaviour, as a writer who “packs a stunning worldly wisdom into her beautiful prose”; and has also been called “a quirky and excitingly original writer” by Anne Fogarty of the Irish Times. Kilroy cites her literary influences as John Banville and Vladimir Nabokov, and Lolita as her favorite book. She currently resides in Dublin with her husband and infant son, to whom she devotes most of her time.

Kilroy’s debut novel, All Summer (Faber & Faber, 2003), won her the 2004 Rooney Prize for Irish Literature. It is the story of Anna Hunt, a woman with amnesia who is on the run after being linked to the theft of a painting from the National Gallery. Margaret Reynolds of The Times (London) has described it as a “wonderfully unsettling first novel” and a “compelling read.” She adds that the “surprises are real and yet so subtly tracked… It’s a thriller, a confession and a love story framed by a meditation on the arts.” Dermot Bolger of Dublin’s The Sunday Tribune adds that All Summer is “a strangely haunting and compelling novel that heralds an exciting new talent in Irish writing.”

Kilroy’s second novel, Tenderwire (Faber & Faber, 2006), was shortlisted for the 2007 Hughes and Hughes Irish Novel Award, as well as the Kerry Group Irish Fiction Award. Publisher’s Weekly has summarized the novel as the “slapstick fallout from a violinist’s purchase of a rare instrument of dubious origin” and has praised Kilroy for adroitly capturing the main character, Eva Tyne’s, “complicated tenderness for her art and her lost father, and her tenuous grasp on love.” John Boyne of the Evening Herald describes it as “‘a beautifully written story… filled with memorable characters and sentences as elegantly composed as the music that Eva plays,” and hales Kilroy as one of Ireland’s best young writers.

Kilroy’s third novel is All Names Have Been Changed (Faber & Faber, 2009). The novel is set in Dublin in the mid-1980s—“a city in the grip of recession and a heroin epidemic” (as the novel’s publisher describes it). The lone male in a creative writing group at Trinity College, the author’s alma mater, narrates the novel, exploring the group’s fascination with a legendary Irish novelist who still occasionally teaches. In The Independent’s review of the novel, Emma Hagestadt appreciates the “impending sense of doom” that “permeates” the novel, “even if the reader is generally unsure of where they are being led.” She concludes: “This impressive novel shows Kilroy perfectly at home in the literary firmament that she describes.” Others have praised the evocative depiction of Dublin’s tight-knit literary community.

The Devil I Know (Faber & Faber, 2012) is Kilroy’s most recent novel. Stevie Davies of The Guardian sums the novel as a “carnivalesque allegory of Ireland's property boom” that “presents a satiric danse macabre of brio and linguistic virtuosity… [that taps] into the darkness of the finest Irish satire.” The New York Times’ Carmela Ciuraru described it as “savagely comic” and Nick Brodie of Time Out (UK) calls the novel a “perversely entertaining show of how easily men are corrupted by wealth.” It has been lauded by reviewers from The Boston Globe, The Financial Times (UK), The Independent (UK), and Publishers Weekly, among others.

Claire Kilroy holds the Charles A. Heimbold Jr., Chair of Irish Studies at Villanova University for the spring 2015 semester, teaching a course in creative writing and in “Confessional Irish Writing.


Eamonn Wall: 2014

Wall was born in Enniscorthy, County Wexford, Ireland. He attended University College, Dublin, earning a B.A. in English and history and the next year a diploma in education. After moving to the United States in the early 1980s, Wall took a M.A. from the University of Wisconsin—Milwaukee and a Ph.D. from the City University of New York—Graduate Center.

Shortly after earning his doctorate, Wall published his first volume of poetry, called Dyckman-200th Street (1993). Writing in the Irish Literary Supplement, Jack Morgan claims that these “extraordinary poems” reinvigorate and give “a sharp, current edge” to “the exile tradition. This book marks a significant crosscurrent in contemporary Irish/American literature.” A review in the Irish Echo adds that though Wall’s residence in New York informs the work, “it is important that Ireland is ever present, in memory and in brilliant images.”  Such crosscurrents have remained throughout his work.

The Boston Review compares Wall's second collection, Iron Mountain Road (1997) to that of William Carlos Williams, and says the poems “reveal [Wall] as a daring and original poet with an interest in exploring how the surfaces of the present open windows into history.”

His next book, a collection of essays blending fiction, nonfiction, and memoir, titled From the Sin-é Café to the Black Hills: Notes on the New Irish (2000), made his reputation as a cultural commentator.  For this work, Wall was awarded the American Conference for Irish Studies’ Michael Durkan Prize for Literary and Cultural Criticism. The Irish Literary Supplement praises “the extent to which the author is willing to explore with (and without) personal ease the complexities of what it means to be Irish in a contemporary climate of international translocation.” The same year he published his third collection of poetry, The Crosses and took a job at the University of Missouri—St. Louis, where he is the Smurfit-Stone Professor of Irish Studies and English. Just after this, he was elected vice-president of the American conference for Irish Studies.

Wall’s next two books were volumes of poetry, also published by Salmon Poetry: in 2004 he released Refuge at De Soto Bend and in 2008 A Tour of Your Country. A review of the latter in The Irish Times says, “Wall’s unique achievement is to understand that landscape is culture. […] Not only the US but Ireland is full of wonders and pleasures for this generous writer.” RTE, Irish national radio, calls the book “a hugely impressive collection.”

In 2011, Wall published another book of poetry with Salmon and a work of literary and cultural criticism with University of Notre Dame Press. The first is Sailing Lake Mareotis, the poems in which Kathleen McCracken, writing in Poetry Ireland Review, describes as “charged with a thoroughly contemporary and a profoundly literary awareness of what it means to be Irish, and a writer in America.” This other book, Writing the Irish West: Ecologies and Traditions, takes an ecocritical approach to transatlantic Irish literature (John McGahern, Martin McDonagh, Richard Murphy, Mary O’Malley, Moya Cannon, and Sean Lysaght). The book was lauded by fellow scholars, and a review in Irish Studies Review notes that it fosters “a growing body of work in Irish studies devoted to understanding the complex relationship among nature, landscape, environment, and geography that exists within Ireland’s literary history.

Wall regularly publishes poetry, short fiction, and reviews in The Review of Contemporary Fiction, Washington Post Book World, The Chicago Tribune, The Irish Times, Criticism, Eire-Ireland, Shenandoah, Irish Herald, New Hibernia Review, and the Irish Literary Supplement. He holds the Charles A. Heimbold Jr., Chair of Irish Studies at Villanova University for the spring 2014 semester

mary o'malley 2013

Mary O'Malley: 2013

Mary O’Malley, award-winning poet and radio broadcaster, has published seven volumes of poetry over the last twenty years.  She has also read at dozens of colleges and cultural institutions across North America and Europe. Carcanet Press published her most recent volume, Valparaiso, in 2012. The work deals with themes of Ireland’s economic boom and bust following the collapse of the Celtic Tiger.  Themes of voyage, transformation, and homecoming weave throughout the volume.  Her other books include A Perfect V (Carcanet 2006) and The Boning Hall (Carcanet 2002), and Asylum Road (Salmon Poetry, 2001). 

 In discussing her work, scholar Shelley Meagher notes:  “To be on the sea is to be liberated from the constraints that underline life on land, and to enter the realm of folklore and mythology.”  Recurring themes throughout her career have been the landscape of her native Galway in the West of Ireland and “the erased lives and bodies of women” there.  

Meagher indicates that O’Malley’s verse displays a sensitivity to the bilingualism of the West, and in her poetry “the Irish word often takes precedence over the English one.”  Another scholar, Patricia Boyle Haberstroh says her work is “actively engaged in undercutting false images [of Ireland]” and piercing “the commercialization of the West that has flooded the world media.”  Meagher also singles her out as being one a contemporary Irish poet who explores the West of Ireland as a place of future possibility rather than a place that dwells on its muted past, haunted and overshadowed by the memory of famine and colonization.

After earning her degree in Galway, O’Malley spent a year in London working as a clerk for the Coal Board before moving to Lisbon, where she lived for eight years. She worked and taught English there while meeting African and South American refugees, and this experience greatly influenced her first collection, A Consideration of Silk, published by Salmon Poetry.  In 1986, she moved back to Galway, becoming more committed to writing poetry. Throughout her career, O'Malley has had residencies and held positions at University College Galway, Manhattanville College, the Irish College in Paris, and several universities and cultural centers in Ireland, Northern Ireland, England, Portugal, and France. All the while, she has been actively engaged in organizational efforts including the demilitarization of the oceans, environmental education, advocacy on behalf of Irish language, Latin American, African, and Asian writers, and support for Irish traditional music.  She has been awarded the Hennessey Prize, the 2009 Lawrence O’Shaughnessey Prize, and numerous Irish Arts Council awards.

Apart from her time at Villanova University, O’Malley resides in Moycullen, Galway with her husband. She is a member of Aosdána, the Irish academy of poets and writers and serves on the Toscaireacht of Aosdána, ten-member council that manages the affairs of the national academy.  At Villanova during the spring 2013 semester, she is teaching a poetry workshop in the Honors Program and an Irish Studies course (also in Honors and English) on “Place in Irish Literature.”

hugo hamilton

Hugo Hamilton: 2012

The son of a German woman and an Irishman, Hugo Hamilton was born in Dublin and raised speaking only German and Irish; English was prohibited. His parents sent him to Irish speaking schools as a child as well, so he had to learn the language in an unconventional way: “I spoke to the walls in English and secretly rehearsed dialogue I heard outside.” Hamilton worked as a journalist before beginning to write fiction.

He published his first novel, Surrogate City, in 1990 and followed it up with The Last Shot in 1991. On the heels of these two releases, Hamilton won the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature in 1992, an award given to Irish writers under the age of forty. Past winners include the likes of Frank McGuinness, Colum McCann, and former Heilbold Chairs Claire Keegan and Kevin Barry. Both of these novels and his third book, The Love Test (1995), are set in central Europe, but Hamilton’s focus would soon return to his own country.

His 1996 novel Headbanger and its 1998 sequel Sad Bastard are both set in Hamilton’s home town of Dublin. Part-dark comedy and part-detective story, they both feature fictional detective Pat Coyne, whom a reviewer in The Times (London) called “a majestic creation.” These two books garnered comparisons to novels by Raymond Chandler and Patrick McCabe. The same year as Headbanger, Hamilton also made his first foray into short fiction with the collection Dublin Where the Palm Trees Grow. He published his fourth novel, Sucking Diesel, in 2002.

Hamilton released arguably his breakout work in 2003, a memoir called The Speckled People about his childhood in an ethnically mixed home. Acclaimed novelist Colum McCann calls it “[a] masterful piece of work—timely, inventive, provocative and perfectly weighted. Don’t be surprised if it becomes a classic.” Hermione Lee, writing in The Guardian, writes, “More like the early pages of Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist, it’s shaped like fiction, told, as if naïvely, in the language of a child.” She goes on to praise its “complex web of allusions to literature, politics, and history” and describes it as “a victory for eloquent writing, crafty and cunning in its apparent simplicity.” Since its release a decade ago, the book has been translated into German, French, Spanish, Italian, Dutch, Catalan, and Bulgarian. The author published another memoir in 2006 called The Sailor in the Wardrobe (released in the United States as The Harbor Boys) before returning to fiction.

In 2008, Hamilton released his seventh novel, Disguise, which begins in Germany during the Battle of Berlin before snaking through Poland, Canada, France, Ireland, and back in the present day. The Guardian review says it is “an eloquent and haunting book about identity and the construction of a self under duress and lauds Hamilton’s tenderness and his ability to create “moments of lyric stillness.” Ann Enright claims his most recent book, Hand in the Fire (2010), simultaneously as a “conventional character-driven novel with a strong story” and “a social novel, the first in the Irish tradition that is written from an eastern European point of view.”

Hugo Hamilton held the Heimbold Chair of Irish Studies at Villanova University in 2012.

moya cannon

Moya Cannon: 2011

Moya Cannon was born in Donegal and has lived for many years in Galway.  She studied history and politics at University College, Dublin, and took her Master’s degree in International Relations at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge.  Many of her poems reflect preoccupations with archaeology,  with music,  with language itself and with the history of migration – the migration of birds, of humans, of human culture. Her work is informed by the landscapes and seascapes of Galway, Clare and Donegal, of the ways in which humanity marks and is marked by landscape.

Her first collection, Oar, (Salmon Press, Galway 1990) won the inaugural Brendan Behan Award, presented annually for the best first collection to have been published in Ireland in the previous year..   Since then she has published two further collections, The Parchment Boat (Gallery Press, 1997) and Carrying the Songs, (Carcanet Press, Manchester, 2.007).   A limited edition art book, Winter Birds, was published by Traffic Street Press, (2,005), in association with the University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, Minnesota.  A selection of her work was included in  The Wake Forest Series of Irish Poetry, Vol 2.,(2010). Her work-in-progress, Hands, although mainly grounded in native territory, relates also to time spent in Spain, France and Latin America. It will be published by Carcanet Press in November 2011.

She has been editor of Poetry Ireland Review (1995) and was the recipient of the 2001 Laurence O Shaughnessy Award, presented by the University of St. Paul, Minnesota.   Residencies include Trent University, Ontario, The Centre Culturel Irlandais, Paris, The Virginia Centre for the Creative Arts and the Centre d’Arte I Natura de Farrera (Spain).  She has  frequently represented Ireland at international poetry festivals and has a deep interest in music.  In addition to having poems set to music by contemporary composers Jane O Leary and Philip Martin, she has collaborated with traditional Irish musicians – singers Tríona and Mairéad Ní Dhomhnaill and harper Kathleen Loughnane, both in the context of performance and of translating seventeenth and eighteenth century songs for album notes.  She has performed on a number of occasions with the Romanian Con Tempo String Quartet, who are musicians-in-residence at the National University of Ireland, Galway. In 2004 she was elected to Aosdana, the Irish affiliation of creative artists.

john mcauliffe

John McAuliffe: 2010

John McAuliffe was born and raised in Listowel, County Kerry and attended universities in Galway, Illinois (Southern Illinois University), and Dublin. Before even publishing his first collection, McAuliffe won RTE’s Poet of the Future Award in 2000.

Two years later, upon the release of his debut A Better Life, McAuliffe was honored with the Sean Dunne National Poetry Award and granted a bursary from the Irish Arts Council. The book was also shortlisted for a Forward Prize for Poetry and garnered praise from the Times Literary Supplement, which called the book “powerfully sensual.” The reviewer claims that the poems “create memorable, unfamiliar images and a compelling sense of mystery.” The Irish Times called the book “moving and deceptively astute.”

McAuliffe’s second collection, Next Door, published in 2007, “moves between the ‘silvery dark’ outskirts of Irish towns and English cities ‘where the beautiful / suburbs climb and crawl.” Writing for a blog on the Poetry Foundation’s web site, poet and former instructor at Villanova University Daisy Fried writes that McAuliffe’s poems “have a lyricism not often found in American poetry; also an edge not always found in the work of contemporary Anglo-Irish writers, and pleasing to the Americna ear. I admire his tones and syntactical surprises, his images and skill, his shapeliness which doesn’t exclude the human and unpredictable […] McAuliffe sees a social role of sorts for poetry—but not, perhaps, the usual dreary High Moral one.”

The poet’s third collection, first printed in 2011 and reissued in 2013, is called Of All Places. This collection was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation and an Irish Times Book of the Year. The citation for the latter (written by reviewer Philip Coleman) describes the book as “undoubtedly McAuliffe’s strongest collection to date,” and revealing “the poet’s concern with communicating something useful out of his everyday encounters with the world.”

The same Irish Times review admires the ability of the book to acknowledge that “the poet or poetry cannot provide all the answers.” In addition to the poet’s ongoing fascination with domesticity and family life, this book branches out into “broader social and historical themes” like the downfall of Irish revolutionary Roger Casement and the Bank of Ireland’s sale of precious artwork in 2010.

In addition to his printed collections, John McAuliffe has published verse in the Times Literary Supplement, Poetry Ireland Review, Metre, PN Review, Poetry London, and Poetry Review. He is a prolific essayist and reviewer of literature for both academic journals and newspapers, taking as some of his subjects W.B. Yeats, Paul Muldoon, Derek Mahon, Conor O’Callaghan, Peter Sirr, Thomas McCarthy, and Patrick Kavanagh. His other academic interests are post-colonial criticism, Victorian travel writing, and twentieth-century Irish poetry and fiction.

McAuliffe held the Heimbold Chair of Irish Studies at Villanova University in 2010 and has also taught at University College, Dublin and Birkbeck College (part of the University of London system). He is currently the co-director of the Centre for New Writing at the University of Manchester and edits the Manchester Review. In addition to these posts, he has led courses at the Aran Islands Festival, the Cuirt Festival, and the Arvon Foundation in addition to serving as program director the largest poetry festival in Ireland, Poetry Now at Dun Laoghaire. He is a member of the Irish and Scottish Studies Research Group and the coordinator and chairperson of the Irish Times Poetry Now Award.

gerald dawe

Gerald Dawe: 2009

Gerald Dawe was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, where he was educated at the progressive Orangefield boys School in East Belfast. While still in primary school, Dawe became involved with the Lyric Youth Theater, which led to an interest in drama, and began writing his own poetry. He lived in London for a brief spell before moving back to Northern Ireland, where he enrolled at the upstart New University of Ulster (now known as the University of Ulster at Coleraine), from which he earned a BA with Honors.

After graduating from university, Dawe worked as a librarian in the fine arts department of Belfast’s Central Library, but was then selected for a postgraduate research grant by the Northern Ireland Department of Education. He then moved to the Republic of Ireland and used this award to pursue studies at the National University of Ireland, Galway (then known as University College, Galway). He wrote a graduate thesis on the relatively obscure eighteenth-century fiction writer William Carleton while he began teaching undergraduate classes. Very shortly after, in 1978, Dawe published his first collection of poetry, Sheltering Places. In 1980, the book won him a poetry bursary from the Arts Council of Ireland.

Dawe continued to live and teach in Galway, his second book of poetry is informed by his move away from the north. This volume, called The Lundys Letter (1985), explores the ways in which his family’s story, despite emigration, remains tied to Northern Ireland and its socio-cultural history. This second collection was critically lauded, winning the Macaulay Fellowship in Literature (awarded only every three years to a writer under the age of thirty). After Dawe accepted a job at Trinity College, Dublin, in 1988, his next two books, Sunday School and Heart of Hearts (published in 1991 and 1995, respectively), persisted in investigating similar familial, geographical, and cultural issues and themes. Now married with children of his own, this frequent travel between urban Dublin and rural Galway deepened Dawe’s interest in the idea of home and familial roots.

As Dawe’s style matured, his scope widened from his home island to Europe more widely. In 1999, the poet published his fifth collection, The Morning Train, which was singled out by Kirkus Review for its “extraordinarily plain yet supple verse,” “unusual attention to the ordinary,” and “rather hyperactive scrutiny of reality.” A reviewer writing in The Guardian explains that Lake Geneva, published in 2003, marries one of Henry James’ favorite European settings with the ghostly remnants of a violent 1970s Belfast, “both politely oblivious to murderous back alleyways.”

In 2008, Dawe published his seventh and most recent original collection, called Points West, which Fiona Sampson of the Irish Times describes as “beautifully-written” and “fine yet never finicking”: “Dawe’s subtlety and lyric control are the mark of a true poet; but it is this graceful and apparently effortless incorporation of the human struggle for that transcendence which is the real measure of his importance.”

Since the 1980s, Dawe has also been a prolific non-fiction writer, taking as his subjects religion, pop culture, the lives of fellow poets from both Ireland and abroad, and himself. In 2007 he published two books of essays, a memoir called My Mother-City and a book of essays called The Proper Word: Ireland, Poetry, Politics. He published his Selected Poems in 2012, gathering works from his thirty-five year career. Over the past three decades, Dawe has won the Hawthornden International Writers’ Fellowship, the Ledig-Rowholt International Writers’ Award, and the Moore Institute Fellowship. He held a teaching position at Boston College and also held the Heimbold Chair of Irish Studies at Villanova University in 2009. He is currently the director of the graduate writing program at Trinity College Dublin where he is also a professor and a fellow.

claire keegan

Claire Keegan: 2008

Born in County Wicklow and raised on a farm there, Claire Keegan left Ireland for America when she was seventeen. She then enrolled at Loyola University in New Orleans, Louisiana, and studied political science and English there. After graduating, she went back to Ireland before moving to Wales to earn a master’s degree in creative writing at the University of Wales while also teaching undergraduate classes. She then went on to earn an M.Phil from Trinity College, Dublin.

Keegan published her first collection of short stories, Antarctica, in 1999. Praised for its “beautifully crafted stories” that resemble “chilling, adult versions of fairy tales,” Keegan’s debut drew comparisons to works by Raymond Carver and Annie Proulx. Antarctica also won the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature (which is awarded to Irish writers under the age of forty) and was selected as a Los Angeles Times Book of the Year. The London Observer called the book “among the finest contemporary stories written recently in English.”

Her follow-up to Antartica came out in 2007, titled Walk the Blue Fields. It was selected as American author Richard Ford’s Book of the Year (in the Irish Times) and won the Edge Hill Award for short stories. Some of the book’s individual stories (published in various periodicals in the years before the release of the collection) won the Hugh Leonard Bursary, the Macaulay Fellowship, the Martin Healy Prize, the Olive Cook Award, the Kilkenny Prize, the Tom Gallon Award, and the William Trevor Prize, and the Francis MacManus Award. Colm Tóibín, esteemed Irish author, called the stories in Walk the Blue Fields, “pure magic. They add, using grace, intelligence, and an extraordinary ear for rhythm, to the distinguished tradition of the Irish short story. They deal with Ireland now, but have a sort of timeless edge to them, making [Keegan] both an original and a canonical presence in Irish fiction.”

Keegan’s most recently published work is called “Foster” (2010), which the author describes as a “long short story. It is definitely not a novella. It doesn’t have the pace of a novella.” With an interviewer from The Guardian, she discusses her medium in terms of the challenges it forces her to face: “It’s essentially about trusting in the reader’s intelligence rather than laboring a point. To work on the level of suggestion is what I aim for in all my writing. There are so many limitations that I am cornered into writing what I can.” “Foster,” which is set in 1981 and tells the story of a young girl going to stay with her relatives, the Kinsella family, in rural County Wicklow. The book won the Davy Byrnes Irish Writing Award in 2009, and the citation for the prize praised Keegan’s “thrilling” language and “patient attention to life’s vast consequence and finality.”

A member of Aosdána, a state-sponsored association for Irish artists, Keegan is also a Wingate Scholar and held the Heimbold Chair of Irish Studies at Villanova University in 2008.

justin quinn

Justin Quinn: 2007

Justin Quinn was born and raised in Dublin, where he also earned two degrees (B.A. and Ph.D.) from Trinity College. Quinn’s first book of poetry, The ‘O’o’a’a’ Bird (1995), immediately garnered critical attention and was nominated for the Forward Poetry Prize for Best First Collection. Based in Prague for most of his career, a London Review of Books reviewer claims, “Quinn’s book shows […] a growing awareness of the European dimension of Irish history.” It goes on to say that the poet’s work takes aspects of Ireland’s mythic past (like the Kathleen Ni Houlihan/Shan Van Vocht legend) and passes them through the filter of “the rapidly modernising Ireland of satellite TV and legalised divorce.”

Just after his first book, Quinn co-founded Metre, “A Magazine of International Poetry,” with fellow Irish poet David Wheatley. Their goal was to “provide a platform for the best of Irish work alongside the best from the UK, US, Australia as well as work in translation.” Three years after the first issue of this publication, in 1999, Quinn published his second collection, titled Privacy.

The next few years were highly productive for Quinn. He published two books in 2002, one a collection of poetry (Fuselage) and the other a critical study (Gathered Beneath the Storm: Wallace Stevens, Nature and Community). Then from 2005 - 2009, he came out with the study American Errancy: Empire, Sublimity and Modern Poetry, a book of poems called Waves and Trees, contributed to a book of Czech poet Ivan Blatny’s English translations The Drug of Art: Selected Poems of Ivan Blatny, translated Czech poet Petr Borkovec’s poetry into English in a collection called From the Interior: Poems 1995 - 2005, and edited the Cambridge Introduction to Modern Irish Poetry 1800 - 2000 and Irish Poetry After Feminism.

His most recent collection, published in 2011, is Close Quarters, which was selected as a Times Literary Supplement Book of the Year and called the “unmistakable work of a master.” Another review of the book calls Quinn “one of the few contemporary poets whose command of cadence and rhyme issues in forms that go beyond mechanical formalism; the result is memorable poetry of sustained lyrical power.” Another reviewer claims Quinn is “a realist, with a strong social conscience and sense of history […] The close quarters in Close Quarters, then, are undoubtedly the poet’s. But we might see something of ourselves in even his most personal poems.”

In addition to these works, Quinn has also published poems in the Yale Review, the Times Literary Supplement, Poetry Review, the Irish Times, The New Yorker, Poetry Ireland Review The Literateur, and the Irish Review. He released his first novel, Mount Merrion, in September 2013 and is currently at work on a book of transnational poetry in English and a book of the Czech poet Bohuslav Reynek’s poetry in English. Quinn currently teaches at Charles University in Prague, where he lives with his family. He also lectures at the University of West Bohemia and, in 2007, held the Heimbold Chair of Irish Studies at Villanova University.

sebastian barry

Sebastian Barry: 2006

Sebastian Barry was born, raised, and educated in Dublin. He earned a degree in English and Latin from Trinity College, Dublin, where he also edited the school’s literary magazine, Icarus. Despite publishing two collections of poetry in 1983 and 1985, novels and plays have dominated his prodigious literary output. Since 1982, Barry has produced six novels and fourteen plays.

Barry’s plays have garnered him substantial critical praise. Ben Brantley, writing in the New York Times, notes that his 1995 The Steward of Christendom weds the “cosmic anger” of King Lear to the “bleak absurdity” of Samuel Beckett to the “cool, elegiac eye of James Joyce’s short story ‘The Dead.’” This was a breakout work for Barry, whose family history informed the action: the playwright’s great-grandfather was the last Catholic leader of the Dublin Metropolitan Police in 1922, when Great Britain handed Ireland to the provisional republican government under Chairman Michael Collins. The character Thomas Dunne is this very figure, wasting away in a psychiatric facility in 1932. After the tragic events of the Irish Civil War in the early 1920s, his allegiance to the monarchy despite his Catholicism is an embarrassment to his family.

Vincent Canby calls the play “an avalanche of often gorgeous but largely descriptive passages evoking weddings, births, deaths, funerals, feelings, landscapes, weather, triumphs and humiliations.” He goes on to note that the play has the “broad leisurely scope of a novel,” which is telling; Barry’s fiction was first widely recognized with Annie Dunne (2002), whose protagonist, called by a reviewer in the San Francisco Chronicle “one of the most memorable women in Irish fiction,” is the daughter of Thomas from The Steward of Christendom. The Guardian drew comparisons with Beckett, while the New York Times described the author’s prose as “close to poetry.”

Barry’s next novel, A Long Long Way, carries on telling the story of the Dunne family, this time covering his son Willie’s experiences in World War I. This book was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2005, and The Guardian’s review notes its poetic language and “disarming lyricism” despite its “hellish no-man’s-land” setting. It was also selected for Dublin’s One City One Book event in 2007.

Barry continued his streak of critically-acclaimed books in 2008, when he published The Secret Scripture, a book that ties together family lore with a device similar to Steward, an elderly patient in a regional mental hospital coming to terms with her past. This novel, Barry’s fifth, won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, the oldest award for English-language literature in the UK. It also won Book of the Year at the Costa Awards, the Independent Booksellers Prize, Novel of the Year and Choice prizes at the Irish Book Awards, and was shortlisted for the Man Booker.

The author returned to the Dunne family with his 2011 book On Canaan’s Side, which was placed on the longlist for the Man Booker and won the Walter Scott Prize. The book features another character from Steward, Thomas’ daughter Lilly, who leaves Ireland for America. A review in The Guardian praises its “dreadful strangeness” and its “overwhelmingly poetic” prose, “its lyricism yielding a seemingly endless series of potent and moving images.”

Despite his prominence as a novelist, Barry has kept turning out plays as well, most recently the 2010 production Andersen’s English, based upon Danish writer Hans Christian Andersen’s stay at Charles Dickens’ house in the mid-1850s.

Barry has held posts as Fellow in Writing at the University of Iowa (1984), Writer Fellow at Trinity College, Dublin (1995 - 1996), and the Heimbold Chair of Irish Studies at Villanova University (2006). In addition to the prizes mentioned earlier, he has won the Irish-America Fund Literary Award, the Christopher Ewart-Biggs Prize, the London Critics’ Circle Award, and the Kerry Group Irish Fiction Prize.

michael coady

Michael Coady: 2005

Poet Michael Coady was born in Carrick-on-Suir, County Tipperary, where he has lived (with a few brief exceptions) all his life. Coady earned degrees from University College Galway and University College Cork, but did not turn to writing poetry seriously until his late twenties. He published his first collection, Two for a Woman, Three for a Man, in 1980. This book was lauded in his home country, eventually winning the prestigious Patrick Kavanagh Award that year. Despite such early praise, Coady is humble, saying in a 2004 interview, “You know, I hesitate to call myself a poet. But it’s nice when other people do.”

This humility find its way into Coady’s work. He writes largely about place, specifically his hometown, and the changes it has undergone throughout his lifetime: “I know a lot of the people living in Carrick-on-Suir today—that’s the horizontal aspect—but I know the vertical aspect, too, the things that happened and the people who were here over the years.”

The changes he alludes to include the massive emigration of Irish people to America in the nineteenth century, an event that affected his own line intimately: his great-grandfather moved to Philadelphia, leaving behind his only son and effectively splitting his family in two. But Coady’s work is characterized by continuity and change, not fragmentation. A citation for a 2004 award reads, “Michael Coady writes out of a fundamental sense of life’s abundance. Someone else’s country can be his country as well; absence becomes just another form of presence; and in many of the ways that matter most, the dead are not really dead.”

Coady is something of a polymath. He not only a poet, but a short story writer, a memoirist, journalist, local historian, musician, and photographer, and his three most recent collections of poetry (All Souls in 1998, One Another in 2003, and Going by Water in 2009) have incorporated prose passages and photographs, all of which contribute to a sense of emotional closeness and intimacy. Fittingly, critic Patrick Cotter claims, “Intimacy is the key word in considering Coady; the intimacy and insularity of the voices he produces to mimic the many characters who inhabit his poems. The main structure of tensions in his work is formed by the juxtaposition of these intimate voices with concern for the public life of the community they share.”

Over the course of his career, Coady has won the Listowel Writers’ Week Short Story Award (1987 and 1993), the RTE Francis McManus Short Story Award, and the Lawrence O’Shaughnessy Award for Poetry from the University of St. Thomas Centre for Irish Studies in St. Paul, Minnesota. He has held a teaching position with the Irish Cultural Centre in Paris and also as the Heimbold Professor of Irish Studies at Villanova University. Since 1998, he has been a member of Aosdána, a state-sponsored organization for Irish artists.



conor ocallaghan

Conor O'Callaghan: 2004

Born in Newry in Northern Ireland, a city on the border between County Armagh and County Down, Conor O’Callaghan grew up just south of the border in the Republic of Ireland in Dundalk, County Louth.

He published his first collection of poetry, The History of Rain, in 1993 to great critical acclaim. The book won the Patrick Kavanagh Award and was shortlisted for the Forward Best First Collection Prize. The poems in this volume examines “ordinary symbols such as room, house, garden, and road” and makes them “less reliable by shifts of time and tenses.” The book displays “an awareness of elemental forces […and] how those forces can influence experience. His second collection, Seatown, was published in 1999, and tells stories from the oldest section of his hometown of Dundalk. At the same time, it is a chronicle of his ancestors, a “meditat[ion] on his family’s seafaring history.”

Between these two book of poetry, O’Callaghan spent time pursuing an interest in sports, creating a radio documentary on cricket called The Season for Irish national radio. In 2000, he wrote an essay called “Jolly Good Shot Old Boy,” which was collected in Playing the Field: Eleven Irish Writers on Sport. He also published a book about football, called Red Mist: Roy Keane and the Football Civil War.

This non-fiction work chronicles Roy Keane’s departure from the Republic of Ireland national team just before the 2002 World Cup and the controversy that arose in its aftermath. Keane was the captain of the squad, but left during training for the tournament after a falling out with the team’s manager over what he considered unprofessional conditions for him and his fellow players. The incident was covered extensively in the press and was called by the Irish Times a “civil war” for Ireland. The book landed on bestseller lists in both Ireland and the UK, and in 2007 was adapted into a television movie using both documentary footage and animation.

In 2005, O’Callaghan published his third poetry collection, Fiction, which was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation and was nominated for the Irish Times Poetry Now Prize. While Fiction retains the poet’s unique wit, “the operative note is […] homesickness: a surprising emotion in O’Callaghan’s sardonic and unimpressed world. It is all the more effective for catching the reader off guard.”

In addition to writing his own poetry, O’Callaghan is a prolific reviewer, particularly in the Times Literary Supplement and the Irish Times. He also edited The Wake Forest Book of Irish Poetry, Volume Three. His newest collection, titled The Sun King, was just published in August 2013 by the Wake Forest University Press.

Over the years, O’Callaghan has been involved in the Arts Council Writers-in-Schools program teaching creative writing to children in primary schools. He was Writer-in-Residence at University College, Dublin from 1999 - 2000 and also directed the Poetry Now Festival in Dun Laoghaire from 2000 - 2003. He held the Heimbold Chair of Irish Studies at Villanova University in 2004 and served as Poet-in-Residence from 2005 - 2010. He currently works as a lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University while also tutoring in the MA program at Lancaster University (both in the UK). In 2007, he was also awarded by Poetry magazine with the 2007 Bess Hokin Prize.

vona groarke

Vona Groarke: 2004

Vona Groarke was born in Edgeworthstown, County Longford, in the Irish Midlands, and raised on a farm in nearby Athlone. She earned degrees from Trinity College, Dublin and University College, Cork before publishing her first collection, Shale, in 1994.

Poet John McAuliffe argues that her early work describes subjects that “defy pigeonholing” “and whose formal elegance is as evident in its dreamy, songlike lyrics as in her long stanzaic meditations on history.” This book won the Brendan Behan Memorial Award in 1995, while its 1999 follow-up Other People’s Houses won the Strokestown Poetry Award and was featured in the Times Literary Supplement. This review, which called the collection “a remarkable achievement,” praised Groarke’s confident and well-regulated voice while discussing the narrative and emotional possibilities present in the themes of houses and domesticity.

The poet’s third work, titled Flight, is comprised of a sequence called “The Bower,” which is accompanied by shorter lyrics and love poems, most of which deal with overarching subjects like history and time. After its pressing in 2002, Groarke was awarded the Michael Hartnett Poetry Award, whose citation reads, “This is an assured collection building on the promise of earlier work and bodes well for the future. The work is formally accomplished, energised by uncertainties. The sharp eye, powerful music and restless intelligence distinguish her as a necessary voice. It is a privilege to encounter work of such freshness and wit.” Flight was also shortlisted for the Forward Prize and was runner-up in the Times Literary Supplement poetry Competition.

Groarke’s next book was 2006’s Juniper Street, which John McAuliffe describes as “maintin[ing] the wit and rhythm of the early books.” He goes on to describe the poems in it as “increasingly complex and discursive, self-consciously considering their own forms and stratagems, even as they dwell brilliantly on historical subjects.” She followed this with Spindrift in 2009, which was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation and was nominated for the Irish Times Poetry Now Award.

She has published her work in the Times Literary Supplement, the Irish Times, Poetry Review, Poetry magazine, Poetry London and The Yale Review. In addition to the aforementioned awards, she has also won a Hennessy Prize. Groarke’s work has not been limited to her own verse. She also also edited and wrote an introduction for a new edition of eighteenth-century poet Oliver Goldsmith’s poetry. Coincidentally, the two were born in the same town. She also translated Eibhlin Dhubh Ni Chonaill’s eighteenth-century Irish-language poem in 2008, titling it Lament for Art O’Leary.

Groarke has held teaching positions as the Heimbold Chair of Irish Studies at Villanova (in 2004), at Wake Forest University, at the National University at Galway and at Maynooth, and at the University of Manchester.

marina carr

Marina Carr: 2003

Marina Carr was born in the midlands of Ireland, in Tullamore, County Offaly. She attended University College Dublin, where she studied English and philosophy, before staging her first play in 1991 (Low in the Dark).

Carr’s early plays, in their absurdist willingness to address the arbitrariness of social constructions like gender roles, draw ready comparisons to Samuel Beckett, who was a major focus of her graduate work. Many of Beckett’s works exist in strange, and timeless settings, and Carr’s frequent use of elements of Greek tragedy help to reinforce this confused sense of chronology. But whereas Beckett’s plays seem to take place in unfixed locations, many of Carr’s works are set in her native Ireland. As Cathy Leeney has written, “Carr creates a parallel stage world precisely local, yet mythic and archetypal.” Likewise, Catherine Rees claims that the playwright’s “blend of rural Irish domestic tragedy and classical re-writing […] marks her out as a writer concerned with both the minutiae of individual struggles and the poetry of grand-scale human tragedy.”

As one may expect from the above quotation, her dramas are usually violent tragedies, but they are spiked with black comedy. This uneasy balancing act is made even more singular by the finely wrought lyrical prose she gives to her characters. A New York Times review from 2000 reads, “Her characters love too much and too deeply; they reject the roles that society assigns them; they curse and are cursed; they fight and they kill. And yet for all their darkness, Ms. Carr’s plays reveal a vivid sense of black comedy and poetic turns of phrase.”

Since her writing career began in the late 1980s, Carr has written sixteen plays, and heralded much praise. A Guardian reviewer claims that “her real gift is for scathingly accurate observations of Irish life.” She won the Irish Times Playwright Award in 1998 after the first run of her play By the Bog of Cats…, the Susan Smith Blackburn Award for Portia Coughlan, Best New Irish Play at the Dublin Theatre Festival for her 1994 The Mai, the EM Forster Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters (2001), the American/Ireland Fund Award (2004), the Hennessy Award, and a Macaulay Fellowship. She has also been a member of Aosdána, a state-sponsored organization for irish artists, since 1996.

Carr’s plays have been performed in such far-flung countries as Brazil, South Korea, Estonia, Iceland, the Netherlands, Hungary, Norway, Russia, and the Czech Republic. She has held positions as the Writer-in-Residence at the Abbey Theatre (Ireland’s national theater) and as a professor at both Trinity College Dublin and Dublin City University. She held the Heimbold Chair of Irish Studies at Villanova University in 2003.

eamon grennan

Eamon Grennan: 2002

Dublin-born poet Eamon Grennan was educated at a Cistercian monastery in his youth and later attended University College, Dublin, where he met future poets Eavan Boland and Derek Mahon. He lived in Rome for a year before moving to the United States to earn a Ph.D. at Harvard.

Since beginning to write poetry seriously in the late 1970s (his first collection, Wildly for Days, came out in 1983), Grennan has published ten collections and has continued to split his time between the United States and the west of Ireland. In addition to his own verse, he has completed translations of Italian and Greek poets and playwrights and a collection of essays on twentieth century Irish poetry called Facing the Music (1999).

Influenced by American poets like Robert Frost, Elizabeth Bishop, and William Carlos Williams and the Irish writer Patrick Kavanagh (among many Irish-language poets), Grennan explains that his work tries (in keeping with the musical title of his essay collection) “to marry speech patterns to musical language.” He goes on to say that work also attempts “to establish a kind of range of commitment to the domestic on the one hand, to the erotic on the other, to the natural world, the simple, observed world, and at the same time stay fairly clear.”

Upon receipt of the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize in 2003 for his 2002 collection Still Life with Waterfall, poet Robert Wrigley wrote, “Grennan would have us know—no, would have us see, feel, hear, taste, and smell—that the world, moment by ordinary or agonizing moment, lies chock-full with its own clarifications and rewards.” Former United States Poet Laureate Billy Collins has said, “Few poets are as generous as Eamon Grennan in the sheer volume of delight his poems convey, and fewer still are as attentive to the marvels of the earth. To read him is to be led on a walk through the natural world of clover and cricket and, most of all, light, and to face with an open heart the complexity of being human.”

Eamon Grennan has won a number of Pushcart Prizes, plus fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Guggenheim Foundation. His translation The Selected Poems of Giacomo Leopardi, won the 1997 PEN Award for Poetry in Translation. He taught from 1974 to 2004 at Vassar College, during which time he also took short-term position at other institutions, including those at New York University, Columbia University, and, in 2002, at Villanova University.

Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill

Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill: 2001

Born in Lancashire, England to Irish parents, Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill moved to Ireland when she was five, living in the Dingle Gaeltacht in County Kerry (one of several regions in Ireland in which the Irish language is used primarily) and in County Tipperary. She was raised speaking both Irish and English at home, and this has carried over into her career as a poet; she now writes verse exclusively in Irish.

Before publishing her first book in 1981, titled An Dealg Droighin, she studied English at University College Cork. It was while studying there in the early 1970s that she began her affiliation with the Innti school of Irish-language poets (their name comes from a local poetry journal). Among the aims of this movement was to broaden the social and political scope of the Irish language, to move it from a rural context to a contemporary, urgent, and urban one without interference from the perceived stuffiness and rigidity of the academy. In a 1995 interview, she claimed, “One of the things that causes me to get up in the morning is the desire to take Irish back from that grey-faced Irish revivalist male preserve.”

The first collection of English translations of Ní Dhomhnaill’s work was published in 1986, which Irish Studies scholar Eamonn Wall has called “a watershed in modern Irish poetry” in the Encyclopedia of World Literature in the Twentieth Century. Wall went on to argue that Ní Dhomhnaill’s work has “renewed interest in poetry written in Irish, has revolutionized how poetry in Irish is written, and has widened the thematic possibilities available to Irish poets, writing in both Irish and English.” He also singled her out for her love poetry, her ability to capture geographical settings in verse, and her reanimation and celebration of powerful Irish women from history, folklore, and myth.

Irish-educated American writer Beverly Parayno writes, “Ní Dhomhnaill's poetry portrays women and the postcolonial subject as strong and active, as well as fragile and vulnerable. This plurality of identity helps to liberate both marginalized roles from their traditional stereotypes in contemporary Irish culture. Her reimagined roles for women and the formerly colonized attain a national and international context through the medium of English translation.”

Upon the publication of her first collection, Ní Dhomhnaill was elected to Aosdána, a state-sponsored association for Irish artists. She has published over half a dozen books of Irish-language poetry, edited several anthologies, worked as a reviewer, and has written several plays and works for children. She has published five books in dual-language editions, most recently The Fifty Minute Mermaid in 2007 with English language translations by Paul Muldoon.

Ní Dhomhnaill’s poetry has been translated into English by such prominent figures as Seamus Heaney, Medbh McGuckian, and Paul Muldoon. She has received numerous honors for her work, including the Irish American Foundation O’Shaughnessy Award for Poetry in 1988 and the American Ireland Fund Literature Prize in 1991. She served as Ireland’s Professor of Poetry from 2001 – 2004 and Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council’s Writer in Residence in 1998. She has also taught at New York University, Boston College, and Villanova University.

peter fallon 2000

Peter Fallon: 2000

Born in Germany in 1951, Fallon moved to County Meath in Ireland in 1957 to live on his uncle’s farm. At the tender age of eighteen (and before graduating from Trinity College, Dublin) Fallon founded the Gallery Press, which has since published over four hundred titles en route to becoming one of Ireland’s most prominent literary publishing house. Gallery has published books from internationally famous Irish writer Brian Friel, Pulitzer Prize winner Paul Muldoon, and Nobel Prize winner Seamus Heaney, not to mention hundreds of younger Irish literary figures like Derek Mahon, Ciaran Carson, Medbh McGuckian, and John Banville.

As a poet, Fallon has published fifteen books since 1978, giving readings at hundreds of American and European colleges, universities, conferences, and workshops along the way and overseeing translation of his work into half a dozen languages. Some titles include News of the World (1998), A Flowering (2006), The Company of Horses (2007), and Ballynahinch Postcards (2007). His work is marked by a concern for “the local and the national” (according to the Irish Times) and a sense of “quiet understatement, the poet as a kind of poker-player with the soul” (according to the Examiner [Cork]).

Of his 2007 collection Airs and Angels, American novelist, poet, and critic Wendell Berry claims Fallon writes “with an acute particularity of eye and ear, recording ordinary events made extraordinary by the amplitude of his care and the precision of his notice […] These poems, by their likening of like things, compose a mythology of the daily world that makes it unworldly, more than we expected, better than we would have bargained for if we had been given a chance to bargain. Thus the world speaks to us, presents a ‘verdict,’ which it does not translate, but from which we may learn to live considerably in it.”

Seamus Heaney remarked in 2010, “Care, company, community have been fundamental concerns of Peter Fallon’s writing in and about the world, care for people and place, for planet earth and the poetry of earth, for the values espoused in Virgil’s Georgics which he has translated…and the seriousness of that caretaking has developed over the years to a point where the artistic and the moral have converged.”

In his nearly five-decade career, Fallon has won the O’Shaughnessy Poetry Award from the Irish American Cultural Institute in 1993, was honored by the Irish Times on their Books of the Year list in 1998, and was also recognized by the Poetry Book Society for a translation of Virgil’s Georgics (later published by Oxford University Press in its World Classics Series) in 2004.

Fallon has held teaching positions at Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts and Trinity College, Dublin. He served as the inaugural Heimbold Professor of Irish Studies at Villanova University, where he was also honored with an honorary doctorate. Fallon has also been a member of Aosdána, an Irish association of writers and artists that is supported by the Arts Council of Ireland whose membership is limited to 250 members. He now lives in County Meath, very near the farm he began working when he was a boy.

Click here to listen to lectures given by past Heimbold Chairs

  • Peter Fallon (2000)
  • Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill (2001)
  • Mary O'Malley (2013)