Poet Tom French of County Meath, Ireland, will receive the 20th annual Lawrence O’Shaughnessy Award for Poetry of the University of St. Thomas Center for Irish Studies.
French, 49, is the author of three books. He will read from his work Friday, April 22, at 7:30 p.m. in the first-floor auditorium of the John R. Roach Center for the Liberal Arts 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 1948-50, formerly served on the university’s Board of Trustees and is the retired head of the I.A. O’Shaughnessy Foundation.
French was born in Kilkenny in 1966 and raised in Tipperary. He lives close to the coast of County Meath with his wife and family. He is a graduate of the University of Limerick and works in the Local Studies Department of the Meath County Library Service. He received bursaries in literature from An Chomhairle Ealaíon/The Arts Council, Ireland in 1999 and 2009.
His collections are Touching the Bones (2001, Forward Prize for Best First Collection 2002), The Fire Step (2009) and Midnightstown (2014) all published by the Gallery Press. He edited A Meath Anthology (Meath County Library Service) in 2010. His poem “West” was awarded the Dermot Healy International Poetry Prize in 2015, and his e-chapbooks The Night Ahead (2013) and Taking the Oath (2015) are published by Smithereens Press. A fourth collection, The Way to Work, will be published by the Gallery Press this year.
French will take part in a public conversation with Minnesota poet and playwright Ed Bok Lee on Wednesday, April 20, at 7 p.m. The event, titled “The Intimate Other: Poets and the Family,” will be held at the Merriam Park Branch Library, 1831 Marshall Ave. in St Paul.
Lee’s book Whorled (Coffee House Press) won the 2012 American Book Award and the 2012 Minnesota Book Award in Poetry. His first book, Real Karaoke People (New Rivers Press), won the 2006 PEN/Open Book Award. Recognition for his poems, fiction, essays and plays includes grants from the McKnight Foundation, Jerome Foundation, Minnesota State Arts Board, the Loft Literary Center and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Both the conversation and the reading are co-sponsored by the Friends of the St. Paul Public Library, a nonprofit group that advocates for the library.
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, Leanne O’Sullivan, Gerard Smyth, Leontia Flynn, Catherine Phil MacCarthy and Paula Meehan.