Irish poet Gerard Smyth will receive the 16th annual Lawrence O’Shaughnessy Award for Poetry of the University of St. Thomas Center for Irish Studies.

Gerard Smyth

Smyth will read from his work at 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 20, in the auditorium of O’Shaughnessy Educational Center on St. Thomas’ St. Paul campus. The reading, free and open to the public, will cap a week of events, classroom visits and public appearances by the poet.

The $5,000 O’Shaughnessy Award for Poetry, established in 1997, honors Irish poets.  The award is named for Lawrence O’Shaughnessy, who taught English at St. Thomas from 1948 to 1950, formerly served on the university’s Board of Trustees and recently has retired as head of the I.A. O’Shaughnessy Foundation.

Smyth was born in Dublin in 1951 and began publishing poetry in the late 1960s.  His first full collection, World Without End (New Writers Press, 1977), was followed  by Loss and Gain (Raven Arts Press, 1981) and Painting the Pink Roses Black (Dedalus Press, 1986), before a long period during which he stopped writing poetry.

After 12 years, he began writing again in 1999 and published Daytime Sleeper (Dedalus Press, Dublin, 2002), a collection of new work that was translated into Romanian and published in Bucharest in 2003. Dedalus Press also published his 2004 A New Tenancy, his 2007 The Mirror Tent and in 2011 his most-recent The Fullness of Time: New and Selected Poems.

Smyth grew up in Dublin’s old Liberties area, which has influenced and is featured in much of his poetry. It is the factor in his work that prompted poet Michael Hartnett to say: “Gerard Smyth is essentially a city-poet; lyrical, passionate … he may do for Dublin in verse what Joyce did for it in prose.”

Smyth has worked all his professional life as a journalist with The Irish Times where he was managing editor with responsibility for arts coverage. He was the newspaper’s poetry critic for several years in the late 1970s.  He was elected a member of Aosdana, the Irish academy of arts and letters, in 2009.

Previous winners of the O’Shaughnessy Award are Eavan Boland, John F. Deane, Peter Sirr,  Louis de Paor,  Moya Cannon, Frank Orsmby, Thomas McCarthy, Michael Coady, Kerry Hardie, Dennis O’Driscoll,  Seán Lysaght, Pat Boran, Mary O’Malley, Theo Dorgan and Leanne O’Sullivan.

For more information about the award or Smth’s reading on April 20, contact Jim Rogers, director of the Center for Irish Studies, at (651) 962-5662 or jrogers@stthomas.edu.

Smyth also will participate in two events co-sponsored by the Friends of the St. Paul Public Library, a nonprofit group that advocates for the library.

  • He will participate in the Minnesota Book Awards Gala Saturday evening, April 14, at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in downtown St. Paul.
  • He will participate in a public conversation, “Poetry and the City; The Urban Muse,” with local poet Patricia Kirkpatrick at 7 p.m. Monday, April 16, in the auditorium of the Hamline Midway Branch Library, 1558 Minnehaha Ave. West.

Poetry editor for Water-Stone Review, Kirkpatrick is the author of Century’s Road, poetry chapbooks, books for young readers, essays, and interviews with prominent American writers.  She has taught at Macalester College and Hamline University and served on the board of St. Paul Almanac. She has won fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Bush Foundation, and received a McKnight Loft Award in Poetry.