© Image by Caroline Forbes

Sinéad Morrissey

(b. 1972)

"[Her] poems come to us with the intimacy of whispered secrets" – Paul Batchelor

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  • There Was Fire in Vancouver, 1996
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  • Between Here and There, Carcanet, 2002
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  • The State of the Prisons, Carcanet, 2005
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  • Through the Square Window, Carcanet, 2009
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  • Parallax, Carcanet, 2013 (forthcoming)
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Sinéad Morrissey is the author of four collections of poetry, with the fifth, Parallax, forthcoming from Carcanet in September 2013. Her previous three collections were all shortlisted for the T. S. Eliot Award and her work has received numerous prizes including the Patrick Kavanagh Award (of which she was the youngest ever winner), the Michael Hartnett Prize and the Irish Times/Poetry Now Award. In 2007 she took first prize in the National Poetry Competition with ‘Through the Square Window’, a haunting poem that contrasts an image of the dead gathering outside a window with that of a child sleeping peacefully indoors.

Morrissey was born in Northern Ireland in 1972 and grew up in Belfast. Educated at Trinity College, Dublin, she has travelled widely and lived in Japan and New Zealand before returning to her birthplace in 1999. In 2002 she was appointed Writer in Residence at Queen’s University Belfast, and she is currently Reader in Creative Writing at the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry at Queen’s.

Morrissey’s work is characterised by the tenderness of her approach to her wide-ranging subjects, which is brought out by her soft yet intense reading style. In addition to more intimate poems touching on family and motherhood, she frequently draws on historical material, effortlessly adopting different voices to dramatic effect. ‘1801’, inspired by the diaries of Dorothy Wordsworth and spoken in her voice, celebrates the quiet beauty of rural domesticity, and showcases Morrissey’s talent for simple yet powerful images such as ‘William as pale as a basin’, the ‘basket of excellent lettuces’ and ‘scarlet beans’. Morrissey’s sensitivity is such that even the potentially cumbersome sestina form is delicately handled to great effect in ‘Telegraph’, a moving piece about the legacy of abuse handed down in an American family, perfectly suited to its repetitive, almost claustrophobic form.

‘Electric Edwardians’ is the piece that perhaps captures Morrissey’s approach to writing most succinctly. With its mournful description of early footage of the general public and the transience of these depicted lives, whose images are fading away even from the film stock itself, the poem reminds us of our own predicament – and the poet’s impossible desire to capture life in each of its moments, to (as in a line from Morrissey’s colourful travelogue ‘China V’), ‘catch the day in my hands like a fish / and have it always’.

Sinéad Morrissey's recording was made at Audio ID in London on 14 September 2012. The producer was John Green.

Prizes

Patrick Kavanagh Award 1990
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Eric Gregory Award 1996
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Rupert and Eithne Strong Trust Award 2002

T. S. Eliot Prize (shortlist) 2002
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Michael Harnett Award for Poetry 2005
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T. S. Eliot Prize (shortlist) 2005
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National Poetry Competition 2007
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Lannan Literary Fellowship 2007
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T. S. Eliot Prize (shortlist) 2010
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Forward Prize for Best Collection (shortlist) 2010
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Irish Times/Poetry Now Award 2010
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