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Ciaran Carson (1948 – 2019)

Monday 7th October 2019 at 10am 0 Comments

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland has learned with great sadness of the death of the highly-acclaimed Belfast poet, writer, musician, and former colleague at the Arts Council, Ciaran Carson, who has died after an illness on Sunday 6th October, aged 70.

Born in Belfast in 1948 and brought up bi-lingual, Ciaran Carson graduated from Queen’s University with a degree in English, before joining the Arts Council of Northern Ireland in 1975, where, until 1998, he served as Traditional Music Officer, then Literature Officer. In 2003, he was appointed Professor or English and the Founding Director of the Seamus Heaney Centre at Queen’s University. He retired from Queen’s in 2016, remaining Emeritus Professor of the School of Arts, English and Languages at Queen’s.

Ciaran Carson published his first collection of poetry, The New Estate, in 1976. He would go on to publish fourteen collections of poems, five prose books and celebrated translations of the Dante’s Inferno (2002), for which he was awarded the Oxford Weidenfeld Translation Prize, and the Irish saga, Táin Bó Cúailnge (2007).

His award-winning poetry collections include The Irish for No (1987), winner of the Alice Hunt Bartlett Award, Belfast Confetti (1990), which won the Irish Times Irish Literature Prize for Poetry, First Language: Poems (1993), winner of the TS Eliot Prize, Breaking News (2003), which won the Forward Poetry Prize, For All We Know (2008), shortlisted for both the 2008 TS Eliot Prize and the Costa Poetry Award, and From Elsewhere (2015), shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best Collection. From There to Here (Selected Poems and Translations) was published on the occasion of his 70th birthday, in October 2018.

His prose books include The Star Factory (1997), a memoir of Belfast, Fishing for Amber (1999) and Shamrock Tea (2001), a novel longlisted for the Booker Prize. Last Night’s Fun: About Time, Food and Music (1996), a book about Irish traditional music, reflects the author’s life-long interest in, and high level of accomplishment as, a musician.

Roisin McDonough, Chief Executive of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, paid tribute:

“Ciaran Carson was a poet of extraordinary breadth and depth, and one of the best and most respected of his generation. His work is steeped in the presence of Belfast, its history, its cityscape, its language and its music, all of which he lived and translated into words of rare insight and brilliance. Even in his later works, which had become more expansive in their scope, he remained an artist who was, to the end, made in Belfast.”

Ciaran Carson is survived by his wife, the acclaimed fiddle player Deirdre Shannon, and their three children, Manus, Gerard and Mary.

Ciaran Carson’s essay, A fusillade of question-marks; some reflections on the art of the Troubles, written for the Arts Council’s Troubles Art Archive in 2009, can be viewed at the Troubles Art Archive, www.troublesarchive.com.

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