Northern Ireland news

Tributes to Belfast poet Ciaran Carson

Poet and novelist Ciaran Carson
Mairead Holland

TRIBUTES have been paid to Belfast poet and novelist Ciaran Carson who has died at the age of 70.

Mr Carson was one of the “Belfast Group” of poets in the 1960s which included Séamus Heaney, Michael Longley and Paul Muldoon.

Throughout his career he published numerous volumes of poetry and also wrote several novels, along with books about traditional music.

His awards included the TS Eliot Prize and the Forward Prize.

The father-of-three, who had been suffering from cancer, passed away "peacefully early Sunday surrounded by his loving family".

Writing on social media, his son Gerard described him as "such an amazing person who I learned so much from and will miss very dearly".

Peter Fallon of Gallery Press, Mr Carson's publisher, said they were "devastated" by the news. Writing on social media, he said that since his diagnosis in March, Mr Fallon had been "heroic" but they were not surprised.

"His work was heroic for the 35 years he and I worked together ...There are few better books than his Collected Poems. It is not an exaggeration to compare his mapping of Belfast with Joyce's of Dublin."

Poetry Northern Ireland said Mr Carson had “undeniably made Northern Ireland a richer place with his poetry”.

The Seamus Heaney Centre said staff were devastated by the death of a friend and colleague and the centre's first director.

Mr Carson was born in Belfast in 1948 and spent his early years living on the lower Falls Road.

He attended St Mary's Christian Brothers' Grammar School before graduating with a degree in English from Queen's University Belfast.

He worked for the Arts Council of Northern Ireland from 1975 to 1998, where he was responsible for traditional music and then literature.

He went on to be appointed Professor of Poetry and director of the Seamus Heaney Centre at Queen's University, Belfast.

Damian Smyth, of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, said Mr Carson "wrote some of the best poems written in English in our time, among the very best ever written in Ireland; his inventive and roomy imagination found a way to write about Belfast in particular which made the city uniquely his own, street by street".

He added: "His was one of the few indispensable, humane, open-handed and bountiful imaginations through the blackest days of our recent history, raising our common idiom repeatedly to fresh nuances of compassion, new dimensions of discernment and feeling.

"He was a great writer in every sense of that word and his passing is a huge loss to us all.”

Mr Carson is survived by his wife Deirdre and children Manus, Gerard and Mary.

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