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John Montague

Born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1929, he was raised in Co. Tyrone, and educated at University College Dublin, and Yale University and the University of California at Berkeley. He co-founded Claddagh Records, and became president of Poetry Ireland in 1979. He has taught at UCD, University College Cork, the Sorbonne.  He has also lectured at several American universities, and served as Distinguished Writer-in-Residence at the New York State Writers Institue.  His poetry includes Forms of Exile (1958); Poisoned Lands (1961); A Chosen Light (1967); Tides (1970); The Rough Field (1972), which was performed with music by the Chieftains at the Roundhouse in London and the Peacock Theatre; A Slow Dance (1975); The Great Cloak (1978); The Dead Kingdom (1984); Mount Eagle (1988); The Love Poems (1992); Time in Armagh (1993); Collected Poems (1995); Smashing the Piano (1999); Carnac (a translation of work by the French poet Guillevic published in 1999); Drunken Sailor (2001); Speech Lessons (2011) and New Collected Poems (2012). The Lost Notebook , a novella set in Florence, won the first Hughes Award in 1987. In 2000, he wrote a memoir, Company , and Penguin published his Selected Poems, and in 2007 he produced a second volume of memoirs, The Pear is Ripe. He has published three collections of stories: Death of a Chieftain (1964), An Occasion of Sin (1992) and A Love Present (1997). He won the Marten Toonder Award in 1977, a Guggenheim fellowship in 1980, and the Ireland Funds Literary Award in 1995. He was the first Ireland Professor of Poetry from 1998 to 2001. He lives in Co. Cork.

Aosdána mourns the passing of John Montague (December 2016)

It is only now with his death that Ireland can truly appreciate the historic achievements of John Montague, a founder member of Aosdána. As a Northern Catholic from the complicated territory of Tyrone he spoke truth and peace to his Protestant neighbours; he was a significant Irish-American, with roots in New York; he was Yeatsian in the glory of his friends, like Samuel Beckett; he played an important part in the renaissance of Irish music, through Claddagh Records, which he established with Garech Browne; he played, along with Thomas Kinsella, a pioneering role in Irish publishing, through the Dolmen Press; he was an inspiring teacher of young writers, particularly in Cork; he was a notable critic, novelist, short story writer, and memoirist. But, above all, he was a poet. His poetry has, in the words of Aosdána member Thomas McCarthy, ‘an expansive fluency and national grandeur… a splendid, exceptional integrity: it ebbs and flows and shimmers like the tide.’ This is a tide that cannot go out. Ní bheidh a leithéid arís ann.

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