Born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, into an Irish-speaking family, poet Ciarán Carson attended Queen’s University, Belfast. He held the position of traditional arts officer of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland from 1975 to 1998 and was appointed director of the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry at Queen’s University in 2003.
Carson is the author of a number of collections of poetry, including The Irish for No (1987), winner of the Alice Hunt Bartlett Award; Belfast Confetti (1989); First Language: Poems (1994), winner of the T.S. Eliot Prize; Breaking News (2003), winner of the Forward Poetry Prize; For All We Know (2008); On the Night Watch (2010); and Until Before After (2010). Wake Forest University Press has published his work for American readers, including The Midnight Court (2006), a translation of the 18th-century Irish poet Brian Merriman’s work, and Carson’s own Collected Poems (2009).
Carson’s work is both political and personal as it engages recent history—including the Troubles and violence in Northern Ireland—and the past. In The Irish for No, Carson’s long lines encompass listings of both urban realities and nostalgic images of the past, linking memory and cartography to give a portrait of life in Belfast. The more recent On the Night Watch and Until Before After offer more personal lyrics.
Carson’s interest in traditional Irish music informs Last Night’s Fun: About Music, Food and Time (1997), a book of prose, and the history of Belfast plays in his memoir, The Star Factory (1998). Carson is also author of the novel Shamrock Tea (2001).