I lecture in Creative Writing with a special focus on poetry. In addition, I hold a PhD in late eighteenth-century fiction.
I have published five collections of poetry with Carcanet Press: There Was Fire in Vancouver (1996); Between Here and There (2002); The State of the Prisons (2005); Through the Square Window (2009) and Parallax (2013). My awards include The Patrick Kavanagh Award, the Eithne and Rupert Strong Award, the Michael Hartnett Poetry Prize, a Lannan Literary Fellowship (U.S.A.) and in 2007 my poem 'Through the Square Window' took first prize in the UK National Poetry Competition. Between Here and There, The State of the Prisons and Though the Square Window were all shortlisted for the T S Eliot Prize. Through the Square Window was also shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best Collection and was the winner of the Irish Times/Poetry Now Award in 2009. My most recent book, Parallax, was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best Collection, 2013. In 2013 I was appointed as the Inaugural Belfast Poet Laureate. Throughout 2013/2014 I will be engaged in several community-based writing projects and will be generally acting as an ambassador for poetry.
Through the Square Window (2009) concerns itself with pregnancy, birth, childhood and the process of language acquisition in young children. As with The State of the Prisons (2005), historical material embedded in many of these poems amplifies the collection's themes. Parallax (2013) concerns itself primarily with disjunction and takes visual media, particularly film and photography, as its primary inspiration. Using the glass-plate photographs of Belfast's slums by Alexander Robert Hogg in 1911 as my starting point, I explore the falsification of reality inherent in any photograph, and the potential political radicalism of photography when it emerged as a new visual medium. Poems about the Soviet Union each offer a different perspective on Russia under Communism. Politics and history remain central to my interests as a poet.
I am involved in the teaching of Creative Writing at all levels within the School.
At undergraduate level, I currently teach on the Stage One Introduction to Creative Writing module, which focuses on the rules of successful creative writing both generally and in relation to each writing mode's specific requirements (poetry, prose, and drama). Throughout the course of this module students study a range of writing genres, from the short story to the film script and the haiku. At Stage Two I teach a Creative Writing Poetry module, which focuses in more depth on the rules of good contemporary poetry and its many forms and variants. I am the supervisor for Stage Three Creative Writing students writing poetry dissertations.
At postgraduate level, I co-convene, with Professor Fran Brearton, the MA in Poetry. Within this MA I teach a second-semester Creative Writing module on The Contemporary Long Poem. I also contribute to Approaches to Poetry in semester one, and conduct creative writing poetry workshops.
I act in a supervisory capacity to students undertaking a PhD in Creative Writing and would welcome applications from students who wish to undertake a PhD in Creative Writing focusing on poetry.
Research output: Contribution to journal › Article
Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceeding › Chapter (peer-reviewed)
Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceeding › Chapter
Activity: Public engagement and outreach › Festival/Exhibition
Activity: Awards › Prize (including medals and awards)
Activity: Awards › Other distinction
Contribution to conference papers, events and activities