UCC School of English Remembers John Montague
The School of English was saddened to hear that our former colleague, the renowned poet John Montague, passed away on 10 December, aged 87, at his home in Nice.
Born in Brooklyn in 1929, John grew up from the age of four in Co. Tyrone. A graduate of UCD, he would go on to study under Robert Penn Warren at Yale and at Berkeley, where he encountered Gary Snyder and Allen Ginsberg. His first collection of poetry,Forms of Exile, was published by Liam Miller’s Dolmen Press in 1958. In 1972 John was appointed to the position of assistant lecturer in the Department of English at UCC, retiring as an Associate Professor in 1988. In the year John came to Cork he published the poetic sequence The Rough Field, an extended examination of Ulster’s history and his own upbringing in the province, a volume recognised since its appearance as one of the most significant works of modern Irish literature.
During his tenure at UCC John published several more highly-acclaimed collections of poetry, including A Slow Dance (1975), a revised version of Poisoned Lands(1977), The Great Cloak (1978), and a further sequence of interconnected lyrics centring on Irish and personal history, The Dead Kingdom (1984). He also edited The Faber Book of Irish Verse (1974). Following his retirement from UCC, John’s many publications included story stories, novellas, and memoirs, as well as several more collections of poetry. His Collected Poems appeared from Gallery Books in 1995 and an expanded edition in 2012. The recipient of numerous literary awards and prizes, John was appointed first Ireland Professor of Poetry (1988-2001). Writing in The Sunday Times, John Carey observed that ‘His best poems are … splinter-sharp, they go straight to the heart and catch in the memory like burrs.’