Born outside Aughrim, Co. Wicklow in 1947, as W.J. McCormack, he was educated at Trinity College, Dublin and in Derry. He has written and edited numerous works of criticism on Irish literature and history, including Ascendancy and Tradition in Anglo-Irish History 1789-1939 (1985), and Fool of the Family: A Life of J. M. Synge (2000). His own poetry collections, which typically address historical and political themes, include Stones (1970); The Noise of the Fields (1976); Jubilee for Renegades: Poems 1976-1980 (1982); At the Protestant Museum (1985); The Puzzle Tree Ascendant (1988), which featured illustrations by the artist Mary Fitzgerald; The Engraved Passion: New and Selected Poems 1970-1991 (1991); Swiftmail (1992) and a satirical collection, Gubu Roi (2000). He lived intermittently in Hungary over a period of 10 years, and has translated English poems by the Hungarian writers Agnes Nemes Nagy, Sándor Wéöres, and Endre Ady. A Wild Night at the Avondale Hotel, a work of fiction, appeared in 1990, and he also wrote the libretto to a chamber opera by Irish composer John Buckley, The Words Upon the Window-Pane (1991), and a commentary on the art of Margaret Fitzgibbon (2002). He now lives near Rockcorry, Co. Monaghan.
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