John Montague was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1929. A few years later his family returned to County Tyrone, Northern Ireland, where he was raised. He was educated at University College, Dublin, where he received his BA and MA degrees. In 1955 he received an MFA from the University of Iowa.
Before beginning a career of college teaching, he worked as Paris correspondent for the Irish Times. He has taught at universities in France, Ireland, Canada, and the United States. In 1998, he was named the first "Irish Professor of Poetry", a three-year appointment to be divided among The Queen's University in Belfast, Trinity College Dublin, and University College Dublin.
He now divides his time between West Cork, Ireland, and France.
Derek Mahon has called Montague "the best Irish poet of his generation." He has received many awards, including the Irish-American Cultural Institute's Award for Literature, the American Ireland Fund Literary Award for 1995, and a Guggenheim Fellowship.
He is the author of numerous collections and editor of anthologies. Wake Forest is the publisher of his last nine volumes, including his most recent, Drunken Sailor (2005).
"[H]e is a world-class poet, one of that extraordinary group perhaps a dozen? who illuminate our lives, not just for now, but for as long as words have meaning." Carolyn Kizer