Belfast Telegraph

Award winning Belfast poet Ciaran Carson passes away aged 70

Belfast poet Ciaran Carson.
Belfast poet Ciaran Carson.

Award winning Belfast poet and novelist Ciaran Carson has passed away at the age of 70.

Mr Carson's son Gerard said that his father passed away "peacefully early Sunday surrounded by his loving family".

"Such an amazing person who I learned so much from and will miss very dearly. RIP Dad," he wrote on social media.

Among many honours throughout his career Mr Carson was the recipient of both the TS Eliot Prize and the Forward Prize.

Mr Carson was born in Belfast in 1948 and spent his early years living on the lower Falls Road.

He attended St Mary's Christian Brothers' Grammar School before obtaining a degree in English from Queen's University Belfast.

Mr Carson worked as an Arts Officer at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland for over 20 years before being appointed a Professor of English at Queen's in 1998.

He also served as the Director of  the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry.

Throughout his career Mr Carson published 16 volumes of poetry and also wrote a number of novels, and books about traditional music.

Damian Smyth of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland led the tributes to Mr Carson.

“Ciaran Carson wrote some of the best poems written in English in our time, among the very best ever written in Ireland; his inventive and roomy imagination found a way to write about Belfast in particular which made the city uniquely his own, street by street; his legacy in The Irish for No (1987), Belfast Confetti (Irish Times Literature Prize (1990), First Language (TS Eliot Prize) 1993), Breaking News (Forward Prize 2003), and other poetry collections, have gone straight into the common culture for good," he said.

"His work in translation was pioneering, finding geniuses congenial to his own in other languages to share his powerful vision, the very epitome of international transaction and exchange. His achievements in prose - Last Night’s Fun, the novel Shamrock Tea (longlisted for the Booker Prize), and his astonishing memoir The Star Factory, are also lasting wonders. It is recognised that his pocket guide to Irish Traditional Music remains, 35 years after publication, a classic introduction.

"He was also a writer who brought his native Irish language in the 1970s right into the mainstream of Northern Ireland culture in particular, always with big-hearted hospitality. Several generations of poets and writers in Belfast have saluted his influence through his stewardship of the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry at Queen’s after a long career as Literature and Traditional Arts Officer of the Arts Council, where briefly I had the pleasure of being his colleague.

"His was one of the few indispensable, humane, open-handed and bountiful imaginations through the blackest days of our recent history, raising our common idiom repeatedly to fresh nuances of compassion, new dimensions of discernment and feeling. He was a great writer in every sense of that word and his passing is a huge loss to us all.”

Poetry NI said they were "shocked" to hear of Mr Carson's passing.

"He undeniably made Northern Ireland a richer place with his poetry," the organisation wrote on social media.

Belfast Telegraph columnist Malachi O'Doherty said that while Mr Carson's passing was "not unexpected", it had "touched many of us deeply".

Senior Lecturer at Queen's Dr Phillip McGowan worked with the poet and writer and said he was an "absolute original".

"True intellect, fantastic poet & writer & tin whistler. Formidable force. Friend. The very definition of genius," he wrote on Twitter.

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