Harry Clifton wins Poetry Now award

Sat, Apr 5, 2008, 01:00

THE WINNER of this year's Irish Times Poetry Now award is Dublin-born poet Harry Clifton for his collection, Secular Eden: Paris Notebooks 1994-2004.

The €5,000 award will be presented to Clifton at the DLR Poetry Now International Poetry Festival in Dún Laoghaire today.

Clifton's Secular Eden: Paris Notebooks 1994-2004, published by Wake Forest University Press, is the author's first full collection since 1994 and was one of five books chosen for the shortlist by the judges.

The other shortlisted titles were: Out of Breathby Eamon Grennan (Gallery Press); Reality Checkby Dennis O'Driscoll (Anvil Press); Black Moonby Matthew Sweeney (Cape Poetry); and The Boy in the Ringby Dave Lordan, a debut collection published by Salmon Poetry.

This is the fourth year of the award, which was won last year by Seamus Heaney for District and Circle. Other previous winners were Derek Mahon for Harbour Lightsand Dorothy Molloy, who won the inaugural prize for her posthumously published collection, Hare Soup.

Clifton has lived in Africa, Asia, Italy and France. He has published several collections of poems, including The Liberal Cage, The Desert Route: Selected Poems 1973-1988and Night Train Through the Brenner, which was his last collection, published in 1994. He has also published an account of a year spent in the Abruzzo mountains, On the Spine of Italy, and a collection of short stories, Berkeley's Telephone and Other Stories.

Clifton has received the Patrick Kavanagh Award and was an international fellow at the University of Iowa. He teaches at University College Dublin.

In choosing Secular Eden: Paris Notebooks 1994-2004as the winner, the judges described the collection as "the achievement of several years' work . . . with great profundity to the poems in how they explored ideas . . . and a real sense of vocation in the collection".

The judges for this year's award were academic Philip Coleman, poet and translator Sasha Dugdale, and novelist, poet and short-story writer William Wall.

Dr Coleman is director of the MPhil in literature of the Americas at Trinity College Dublin and author of a recent study on American poet John Berryman. Dugdale is author of two poetry collections, The Estate and Notebook,which won an Eric Gregory Award, and a recently published translation of Russian poet Elena Shvarts. Wall's novel, This is the Country, was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2005.