Award-winning poet Sinéad Morrissey was born on April 24, 1972 in Portadown, County Armagh, Northern Ireland and was raised in Belfast. She earned a BA and a PhD from Trinity College, Dublin. She spent the next several years teaching and traveling abroad, spending time in Japan and New Zealand before returning to Northern Ireland to teach at Queen's University, Belfast. In 2016 she was appointed as Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Newcastle. She has published five collections of poetry all by Carcanet Press: There Was Fire in Vancouver (1996), Between Here and There (2001), The State of the Prisons (2005), Through the Square Window (2009) and Parallax (2013), which won the coveted T. S. Eliot Prize, awarded to the best new collection of poetry written in English and published either in the United Kingdom or the Republic of Ireland. Her subject matter ranges widely. Parallax, which includes poems selected from previous collections as well new verse, contains long poems about prison reform and the debt crisis in Europe. Among her other awards are first place in the 2007 British National Poetry Competition for her poem, "Through the Square Window," the 2005 Michael Hartnett Poetry Prize for The State of the Prisons, and a Lannan Foundation Fellowship. She has also served as poet laureate of the city of Belfast.
This week's featured poem, "Reading the Greats," presents an unique take on reading great literature, risk, and failure.
READING THE GREATS
Is it for their failures that I love them?
Ignoring the regulation of Selected Poems,
with everything in that should be in—
all belted & buttoned & shining—
I opt instead for the omnivorous Completes.
For their froth. Their spite. For avoidable mistakes:
Larkin on Empire, say or Plath on Aunts.
The thrill of when they dip, trip up, run out
of things to write about before they start,
is the consolation of watching
a seascape suddenly drained and stinking
of flies & fisheads & bladderwrack.
And the tide impossibly distant. And no way back.
Yes, I love them for that.