Bernard O'Donoghue

We are delighted that Bernard O’Donoghue agreed to judge our Tenth International Open Poetry Competition ‘Poets Meet Politics’. Bernard has taken an active and helpful interest in Hungry Hill Writing since the beginning. He has judged the competition twice previously and has led workshops as part of our awards weekend held in Castletownbere, Co. Cork, Ireland.

Born in Cullen, County Cork in 1945, he has lived in Oxford since 1965. His first full-length collection, The Weakness, emerged in 1991 with Chatto & Windus. His second collection, Gunpowder (1995) won the Whitbread Poetry Award. More recently, a selection of his poetry was published by Faber in 2008 and followed by Farmers Cross (2011), which was shortlisted for the TS Eliot Prize. In 2009 he was honoured by the Society of Authors with a Cholmondeley Award. His latest collection, The Seasons of Cullen Church, returns with a compelling and simple diction to that place and time. He has published six collections of poetry, including Gunpowder, which won the 1995 Whitbread Prize for Poetry, and Farmers Cross (2011).

Until recently, O'Donoghue taught and worked for Oxford University, specialising in medieval verse and contemporary Irish literature. His reputation as a scholar consolidated in 1995 with his critical work, Seamus Heaney and the Language of Poetry. More recently O'Donoghue edited the Cambridge Companion to Seamus Heaney and has produced a number of translations of medieval works, including Gawain and the Green Knight (2006).

Bernard O'Donoghue's poetry is marked by a gift for poetic portraiture, sketching characters at moments of emotional intensity. From encounters during his childhood in Ireland, to elegiac recollections of academics and poets in Oxford, O'Donoghue's readers are met by a generous yet understated control of voice. Each portrait delivers a miniature, crafted narrative, encapsulating through a brief, controlled moment the full emotion of living. At their most potent, O'Donoghue's poems seem to act as epitaphs to well-lived lives, but their achievement for a reader is that they do so without sentimentality, nor by trivialising. (Poetry Archive)