Development & Alumni Relations Office 


09 September 2019

At a special ceremony held at Riddel Hall at Queen’s University Belfast (Friday 06 September, 2019), Irish President Michael D. Higgins announced that Frank Ormsby – a Queen’s BA English 1970 graduate – is to be the eighth Irish Professor of Poetry.

The award was established in 1998 by An Chomhairle Ealaíon (the Irish Arts Council) and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland in conjunction with Trinity College Dublin, UCD and Queen's following the award of the Nobel Prize in Literature to the legendary Seamus Heaney. It celebrates the exceptional contribution of Irish poets, north and south, to the world of literature.

The position is held for three years during which time the holder is attached to each of the three universities in turn and will be in residence at each for one academic term per year. In addition, the Irish Professor of Poetry makes three formal presentations and holds informal workshops, lectures and readings for the public during his/her period in office.

Speaking on the announcement President Higgins (pictured centre above) said: “I congratulate Professor Ormsby on being chosen for this well-deserved honour, and wish him well in his new role, a role I know he will assume with intelligence, sensitivity and enthusiasm.

“I am confident that his unmatched talent will cast its own dynamic and distinctive light across his three-year tenure as Ireland’s Professor of Poetry.”

Frank Ormsby (above left) said of his prestigious appointment: “The professorship of Irish poetry is unique. It has done more than any other initiative to raise the profile of poetry in Ireland in the last 20 years, both as a recognition for established poets and a golden opportunity for younger emerging poets.

“The collaboration of three universities and both arts councils is a bold venture and I am honoured and thrilled to be part of it.”

Born in Irvinestown, Co Fermanagh in 1947, Frank Ormsby was educated at St Michael's College, Enniskillen and at Queen's where he studied English where he was influenced by fellow poetry luminaries Seamus Heaney, Michael Longley, Paul Muldoon, Derek Mahon, and Philip Hobsbaum.

A central figure in Ulster poetry since the late 1960s, Frank edited the literary journal Honest Ulsterman from 1967 for a 20 year period and was editor of several issues of influential anthologies including Poetry Ireland Review, Poets from the North of Ireland and A Rage for Order: Poetry of the Northern Ireland Troubles. He also taught at The Royal Belfast Academical Institution from 1976 until his retirement in 2010, where he was Head of English.

His own collections include most recently The Darkness of Snow (2017) and previously Goat’s Milk: New and Selected Poems (2015), Fireflies (2009), The Ghost Train (1995), A Northern Spring (1986), and A Store of Candles (1977). His eighth collection, The Rain Barrel, will be published next month.

President Higgins described Mr Ormsby as one of a golden generation of poets and said his poetry frequently engages in themes of origin, exile and elegy, often in a domestic setting. He paid tribute to him for writing candidly, courageously and humorously about his illness in his recent collection that includes the lines:

          "My brother and I at a wedding:

           Enough tremors between us to rival the air-conditioning".

Professor Kevin Rafter (pictured right), Chairman of the Arts Council of Ireland and of the Ireland Chair of Poetry Trust, said: “I want to wish Frank Ormsby good wishes in his work as the Ireland Professor of Poetry.

“The announcement of his appointment by President Higgins at Queen’s University is fitting given the all-Ireland nature of the Poetry Trust.”

Frank Ormsby’s literary honours include a Cultural Traditions Award given in memory of John Hewitt (1992) and a Lawrence O’Shaughnessy Award for Poetry from the University of St. Thomas at St. Paul, Minnesota (2002).

Previous holders of the Ireland Chair of Poetry were Professor Eiléan Ni Chuilleanáin, who finishes her term as Professor of Irish Poetry at the end of October, Paula Meehan, Harry Clifton, Michael Longley, Paul Durcan, Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill and John Montague.

For general enquiries about this story, or to submit graduate news items, please contact Gerry Power, Communications Officer, Development and Alumni Relations Office, Queen's University Belfast or telephone: +44 (0)28 9097 5321.

Photo credit: Parkway Photography  | Ireland Chair of Poetry Trust

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