Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin is new Ireland Professor of Poetry

President Higgins announces poet will succeed Paula Meehan in prestigious role for three-year term

President Michael D Higgins announced today at the Provost’s House, Trinity College, Dublin that Eiléan Ni Chuilleanáin has been awarded the prestigious position of the Ireland Professor of Poetry 2016.

Ní Chuilleanáin will be the seventh Ireland Professor of Poetry, taking over until October 2019 from the current holder, Paula Meehan, who finishes her term at the end of October.

The Ireland Chair of Poetry was set up in 1998 following the award of the Nobel Prize in Literature to Seamus Heaney, to honour his achievement and that of other Irish poets.

Ni Chuilleanáin has long been established as one of the leading Irish poets of her generation, and her appointment to the Ireland Chair of Poetry will be widely recognised as the fitting tribute to her achievement. Her sometimes elusive poems have an unmistakable beauty, elegance and grace that carries readers into their own special world of image and feeling. She moves at ease between Irish and European landscapes, between the material and the spiritual realms, unifying them by the force of her compelling imagination.


She has been an important advocate and spokesperson for poetry, both as an editor of the long-running journal, Cyphers, which she helped to found, and in her outreach activities such as the poetry workshops in schools and prisons which she has led with her husband, the poet Macdara Woods. With all these gifts, she will bring great authority and distinction to the Ireland Chair.

Born in Cork, Ní Chuilleanáin is the author of numerous poetry collections, including Acts and Monuments (1966), which won the Patrick Kavanagh Award; The Magdalene Sermon (1989); The Girl Who Married a Reindeer (2001); Selected Poems (2009); and The Sun-fish (2010), which won the International Griffin Poetry Prize. Her most recent volume, The Boys of Bluehill (2015), was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best Collection. She translated two books by the Romanian poet Ileana Malancioiu, After the Raising of Lazarus (2005) and The Legend of the Walled-Up Wife (2012), as well as Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill’s The Water Horse (2001, co-translated with Medbh McGuckian.

A scholar and teacher as well as a poet and translator, she is an Emeritus Fellow of Trinity College Dublin where she taught from 1966 until her retirement as Professor of English in 2011. She is a member of Aosdána.

Speaking at the announcement, Trinity Provost Dr Patrick Prendergast said: “We are especially delighted that this year’s Ireland Chair of Poetry is Eiléan, an exceptional poet and also one of our own professors, formerly of the School of English and now Fellow Emeritus. All three universities, Trinity, UCD and QUB, will benefit greatly from her engagement through poetry in her new role, fostering and deepening our understanding of poetry.”

The Ireland Chair of Poetry was established by the Arts Council/ An Chomhairle Ealaíon, the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Trinity College Dublin, Queen’s University Belfast and University College Dublin to celebrate the exceptional contribution of Irish poets to the world of literature. The Chair is tenable for a period of three years (non-renewable) during which time the holder will be attached to each of the three universities in turn and will be required to be in residence at each for approximately one academic term per year. In addition, the holder will make three formal presentations and hold other informal workshops, lectures and readings for the public.

John Montague was the first Ireland Professor of Poetry from 1998 to 2001 and was followed by Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill in 2001, Paul Durcan in 2004, Michael Longley in 2007 and Harry Clifton in 2010