Ciaran Carson was born in 1948 in Belfast and educated at The Queen’s University there. He knows intimately not only the urban Belfast in which he was raised as a native Irish speaker, but also the traditions of rural Ireland. A traditional musician and a scholar of the Irish oral traditional, Carson was long the Traditional Arts Officer of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.
In 2003, Carson was appointed Chair of Poetry at the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry at The Queen’s University, and lives in Belfast with his wife, fiddle player Deirdre Shannon.
His volumes of poetry, published in North America by Wake Forest University Press, include The New Estate (1976), The Irish For No (1987), the critically acclaimed Belfast Confetti (1989), First Language (1994) which won the first ever T.S. Eliot Prize for the outstanding book of poetry published in Great Britain, Opera Et Cetera (1996), The Alexandrine Plan (1998), The Twelfth of Never (1998), Selected Poems (2001), and Breaking News (2003), which won the prestigious Forward Prize for best collection of poetry. Wake Forest published The Midnight Court, Carson’s rollicking translation of Brian Merriman’s eighteenth-century poem in Irish, in 2006, his mysterious, For All We Know, 2008, and his Collected Poems in 2009. On the Night Watch and Until Before After were published as companion volumes in spring, 2010. His most recent title, In the Light Of, contains poems that are adaptations of Rimbaud’s Illuminations. Carson was also awarded the Butler Literary Award for Poetry by the Irish American Cultural Institute in 2000.
His translation of Dante’s Inferno (2002) was awarded the Oxford Weidenfeld Translation Prize.
Carson’s black humor, satire, and playful and serious interests in wordplay make him, as Ben Howard described in a retrospective of Carson’s career in Shenandoah, “one of the most gifted poets now writing in England and Ireland.”
In addition to poetry, Carson’s prose books include Last Night’s Fun, about traditional Irish music; The Star Factory, his personal history of Belfast; the dazzling, magical Fishing for Amber; and the strange and hallucinogenic Shamrock Tea.