President Michael D. Higgins announces new Ireland Professor of Poetry

Posted on: 27 May 2016

President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins announced that Eiléan Ni Chuilleanáin had been awarded the prestigious position of the Ireland Professor of Poetry 2016 at a special reception in the Provost's House this week. Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin will be the seventh Irish Professor of Poetry, taking up the position from its current holder, Paula Meehan, who finishes her term at the end of October. 

The seventh Ireland Chair of Poetry is robed by her predecessor, poet, Paula Meehan.

President Higgins on making the announcement said:

“Eiléan’s poems have, at their heart, an instinctive understanding of the importance of indicating the right of each individual mind to reflect on and see the world in its own way. They are truly inclusive works which allow for the differing experiences, viewpoints and perspectives of those with whom we share a common journey. The journey of which Eiléan so often speaks is a universal non linear voyage where connection is taken as a given; one rooted in a shared history of elusive possibility where: ‘Odysseus rested on his oar, and saw The ruffled foreheads of the waves’.”

The Ireland Chair of Poetry was set up in 1998 following the award of the Nobel Prize in Literature to Seamus Heaney, to honour his achievement and that of other Irish poets.

Eiléan Ni Chuilleanáin has long been established as one of the leading Irish poets of her generation, and her appointment to the Ireland Chair of Poetry will be widely recognised as the fitting tribute to her extraordinary achievement.  Her sometimes elusive poems have an unmistakable beauty, elegance and grace that carries readers into their own special world of image and feeling.  She moves at ease between Irish and European landscapes, between the material and the spiritual realms, unifying them by the force of her compelling imagination.  She has been an important advocate and spokesperson for poetry, both as an editor of the long-running journal Cyphers which she helped to found, and in her outreach activities such as the poetry workshops in schools and prisons which she has led with her husband, the poet Macdara Woods.  With all these gifts, she will bring great authority and distinction to the Ireland Chair.

Born in Cork, Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin is the author of numerous poetry collections, including Acts and Monuments (1966), which won the Patrick Kavanagh Award; The Magdalene Sermon (1989); The Girl Who Married a Reindeer (2001); Selected Poems (2009); and The Sun-fish (2010), which won the International Griffin Poetry Prize. Her most recent volume, The Boys of Bluehill (2015), was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best Collection. She translated two books by the Romanian poet Ileana Malancioiu, After the Raising of Lazarus (2005) and The Legend of the Walled-Up Wife (2012), as well as Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill’s The Water Horse (2001, co-translated with Medbh McGuckian.  A fine scholar and teacher as well as a poet and translator, she is an Emeritus Fellow of Trinity College Dublin where she taught from 1966 until her retirement as Professor of English in 2011.  She is a member of Aosdána, the Irish affiliation of writers and artists.

Bob Collins, Chairman of The Ireland Chair of Poetry said, The establishment of the Ireland Chair of Poetry was, and is, a powerful statement of the importance of the creative and the cultural in the lives of individuals and of the community. It has achieved more than might have been imagined when the idea was first conceived. The Chair celebrates the rich poetic tradition on the island of Ireland and reminds us of the important and prophetic voice of the contemporary community of poets. The support of the two Arts Councils and of the three Universities sustains it and guarantees its future".

Speaking at the announcement today Trinity Provost, Dr Patrick Prendergast said: “We are especially delighted that this year’s Ireland Chair of Poetry is Eiléan, an exceptional poet and also one of our own professors, formerly of the School of English and now Fellow Emeritus. All three universities, Trinity, UCD and QUB, will benefit greatly from her engagement through poetry in her new role, fostering and deepening our understanding of poetry.”

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.  The Chair is tenable for a period of three years  during which time the holder will be attached to each of the three universities in turn and will be required to be in residence at each for approximately one academic term per year. In addition, the holder will make three formal presentations and hold other informal workshops, lectures and readings for the public.

Every three years nominations are requested and the new Ireland Professor of Poetry is appointed by the five participating organisations. The current trustees are: Bob Collins, Chairman (Chairman of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland) Sheila Pratschke, (Chairman of the Arts Council/An Chomhairle Ealaíon), 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. 

Professor John Montague was the first Ireland Professor of Poetry from 1998 to 2001 and was followed by Professor Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill in 2001. Professor Paul Durcan was the third Ireland Professor of Poetry, 2004 to 2007. Professor Michael Longley was the fourth Ireland Professor of Poetry, 2007 to 2010. Professor Harry Clifton was the fifth Ireland Professor of Poetry, 2010 to 2013. Professor Paula Meehan was the sixth Ireland Professor of Poetry, 2013 to 2016.

President's full speech & audio:



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