About Sinead Morrissey

Sinead Morrissey is the author of five collections of poetry, the last four of which have been shortlisted for the T. S. Eliot Award. Her most recent, Parallax, won the coveted prize in 2013. Her work has received numerous accolades 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’.

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

Poems by Sinead Morrissey

Genetics - Sinead Morrissey
Electric Edwardians - Sinead Morrissey

1801

Read by Sinead Morrissey

1801 - Sinead Morrissey - Read by Sinead Morrissey
Sinead Morrissey in the Poetry Store

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Awards

Patrick Kavanagh Award 1990

Prize website

Eric Gregory Award 1996

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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

Prize website

National Poetry Competition 2007

Prize website

Lannan Literary Fellowship 2007

Prize website

T. S. Eliot Prize (shortlist) 2010

Prize website

Forward Prize for Best Collection (shortlist) 2010

Prize website

Irish Times/Poetry Now Award 2010

Prize website

T. S. Eliot Prize (shortlist) 2013

Prize website

Forward Prize (shortlist) 2013

Prize website

T. S. Eliot Prize 2013

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