Janice Fitzpatrick-Simmons


1954- ; b. Boston, dg. of Catholic and Protestant parents; ed. Franconia College, grad. B.A. (Creative Writing and Classical Literature); studied under Charles Simic and Charles Dawson at New Hampshire Univ., and grad. M.A; She was formerly elected to the New Hampshire State Board of Education, 1980, and appointed Elections Supervisor represented the Jesse Jackson Rainbow Coalition; appt. Asst. Dir. at the Robert Frost Place, New Hampshire for some years; experienced an unhappy marriage in America; developed an exchange programme with the Guthrie Centre, Monaghan (dir. Bernard McLoughlin);

met and later married James [“Jimmie”] Simmons at the Robert Frost Place, with whom a son Ben (b. 1988); came to Ireland to undertake a PhD, 1987; founded, with Simmons, The Poets’ House/Teach na hÉigse, at Portmuck [Islandmagee], Co. Down, 1990, where an MA was established in Creative Writing supported by Aberdeen University; The Poets’ House removed to Falcarragh, Co. Donegal, 1996, following bigotted objections from local politicos;

suffered the death of Jimmie Simmons, 2001 and continued to manage The Poets’ House with much support from the Irish poetry community; relocated its teaching function to Waterford IT, n September 2005; awarded the Patrick and Katherine Kavanagh Fellowship, 2009; received The Royal Literary Fund Bursary in 2010; moved to a stone-built country house at Dowra [Bothar na Glearagh], Co. Cavan, 2014;

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Poetry collection
Leaving America
(Belfast: Lapwing 1992), 35pp.; Settler (Moher: Salmon Publishing 1995); Starting at Purgatory (Moher: Salmon Publishing 1999); The Bowsprit (Belfast: Lagan Press 2005), 60pp.; and Saint Michael in Peril of the Sea (Moher: Salmon Poetry 2009).

Note: “The House that Sean Built”, a poem [on institutional abuse of children in Ireland] appeared in The Irish Times (6 Dec. 2014). Her work has been anthologised in A Rage for Order, The Blackbird's Nest and Irish American Poets Since 1800.

Notices of her collections and other news relating to her can be found at the Salmon website - online [search - accessed 08.12.2014].

[ See also Leaving America (Lapwing 1992 - online. ]

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  fromThe Long Way Home
  For me, everything about your care
pinned to the moment when you hand
loosened its hard grip on mine; the life
you loved so well closing down
Today a man died at home, his family wept beside him.
—In The Bowsprit (2005); quoted in Tommy Frank O'Connor, review in Studies: An Irish Quarterly Review (Spring 2006), p.110.

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  The House That Sean Built


Look at the bones of the children
they come from our broken-ness.
Look at the bones of the children
they come on the wings of what went wrong.
How they come to us now;
lu lay lu la, thou tiny little child.
They come as a warning on the wings of storm
that faces the world and our broken-ness.
The bones are asking us the old questions,
they are an augury read them well.
Look at the bones of the children
they are ciphering a question about choices.
The bones ask about the choices we are
making that come from our broken-ness
from the bones of the children who cry out
for healthcare and the rights of the people
It comes from the bones of our children
from deep inside austerity
from our broken-ness, from the bones of the children
in a waste tank, from the children sold,
the woman beaten into signing a form,
from a famine of ideals, from the heart of a master
who would control us, who would silence the voice
of the bones of the children, the rights of a people
born on the winds of our broken-ness.

—In The Irish Times (9 Dec. 2014; accessed 12.12.2104).

Note: The poem combines title-reference to Sean Ross Abbey, a mother-and-child home in Roscrea, Co. Tipperary, with the shocking news of babies remains found in a disused cesspit attached to the Bon Secour Home in Tuam, another such home for unmarried mothers and their children, discovered by Catherine Corless of Tuam, publicised globally after many years work in 2014, and substantiated by the findings of an official commission in March 2017.

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Marriage lines
: Janice Fitzpatrick-Simmons’s first marriage name was McGroary.

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