Belfast Telegraph

‘His words touched our lives’ ... family and friends gather to remember Belfast poet Ciaran Carson

Ciaran Carson's brothers Liam and Brendan Carson. Credit: Freddie Parkinson
Ciaran Carson's brothers Liam and Brendan Carson. Credit: Freddie Parkinson

By Eimear McGovern

The life of Ciaran Carson has been celebrated at what was described as a civic reception for a quintessential Belfast poet at the city’s Lyric Theatre two months on from his death. 

Liam Carson, himself a poet and writer, said his brother had wished to live to see his final collection, Still Life, be published.

“Unfortunately he didn’t make it but his work has been imprinted on the city,” said Mr Carson.

A panel of speakers, writers and musicians as well as friends of the celebrated poet took part in the event on Monday night, where they shared stories of Mr Carson and his writing.

The chief executive of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Roisin McDonough, said tributes had described him as an inspiration to anyone who loves poetry and as the Troubles ‘laureate’.

“He was effortlessly elegant and generous,” she said.

“He touched our lives profoundly and through his words he will continue to do so.”

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Mr Carson’s contemporary, Medbh McGuckian, said she was captivated by his talent as she looked back on his work.

“I never realised how many perfect poems there were,” she said.

“I’m not saying I never revered them but there were so many that were just perfect.”

The harpist Una Monaghan played her interpretation of his work The Star Factory for the audience at the Lyric’s Naughton Studio.

“Ciaran has given us a richness of sounds in his words and I continue to hear them every creative day,” Ms Monaghan added.

Carson, who was among the so-called ‘Belfast Group’ of poets in the 1960s —which included Seamus Heaney, Michael Longley and Paul Muldoon — grew up in one of the few Irish-speaking families in the city at the time.

The event was a collaboration between the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, the Seamus Heaney Centre at Queen’s University Belfast and the Irish Secretariat in Belfast.

Mr Carson’s wife Deirdre Shannon and their children Manus, Gerard and Mary were also present.

There was music from traditional Irish singer Len Graham at the event, a fitting tribute for the man who once admitted he was as happy playing traditional music with his wife in a pub as he was with some of Northern Ireland’s most celebrated and future poets at Queen’s University.

His final volume of poetry, Still Life, was published the month after his death.

It is structured as a series of responses to paintings which open up to observations on his own mortality and reflections on walks with his wife in their corner of north Belfast.

It ends with the lines: “And I loved the big windows and whatever I could see through them, be it cloudy or clear,

“And the way they trembled and thrilled to the sound of the world beyond.”

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