The Ireland Chair of Poetry was established by the Arts Council/ An Chomhairle Ealaíon, the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Trinity College Dublin, Queen’s University Belfast and University College Dublin to celebrate the exceptional contribution of Irish poets to the world of literature. Every three years a poet of honour and distinction is chosen to represent the Chair as Ireland's Professor of Poetry. During their tenure the holder spends a year attached to each of the three universities and resides for a period of approximately eight weeks at each. While in residence, the poet gives informal workshops or readings, spends time working with students and performing outreach work and makes one formal presentation a year, usually in the form of a lecture.
Current Ireland Professor of Poetry
The current Ireland Professor of Poetry is Frank Ormsby. Ormsby's appointment was announced by the President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins on Friday 6th September 2019. Commencing 1 November 2019, the current term will run until 31 October 2022.
Frank Ormsby said of his 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.’
Professor Kevin Rafter, who is Chair of the Ireland Chair of Poetry Trust in his capacity as the Chair of the Arts Council of Ireland said, “I want to wish Frank Ormsby good wishes in his work as the new 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 was born in 1947 in Enniskillen and educated at Queen’s University, Belfast. He was Head of English at the Royal Belfast Academical Institution until 2010. As editor of ‘The Honest Ulsterman’ magazine for twenty years and editor of a number of influential anthologies, such as ‘Poets from the North of Ireland’ and ‘A Rage for Order: Poetry of the Northern Ireland Troubles’, he was a central figure in the burgeoning of Ulster poetry since the 1960s. To date he has published seven collections of poems, most recently ‘The Darkness of Snow’. His eighth collection ‘The Rain Barrel’ will be published in October 2019.
Previous Ireland Professors of Poetry
The following poets have previously served as the Ireland Professor of Poetry:
- John Montague (1998 to 2001)
- Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill (2001 to 2003)
- Paul Durcan (2004 to 2007)
- Michael Longley (2007 to 2010)
- Harry Clifton (2010 to 2013)
- Paula Meehan (2013 to 2016)
- Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin (2016 to 2019)
The Ireland Chair of Poetry is governed by an independent Board of Trustees representing the five sponsoring bodies and a distinguished poet. Since the Board was set up in 1998, it has evolved and changed ensuring fairness and equality. The current Trustees are: Professor Kevin Rafter, Chair (Chair of the Arts Council/An Chomhairle Ealaíon), John Edmund (Chairman of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland), Sir Donnell Deeny, Professor Fran Brearton (Queen's University Belfast), Professor Nicholas Grene (Trinity College Dublin), Professor Mary Clayton (University College Dublin), Michael Longley, Adrian Hall and Professor Brian Walker.