Leontia Flynn

1974- ; b. Downpatrick, 27 Dec.; grew up in Ballyloughlin, Co. Down; studed at TCD (Dublin) for one year; continued English at QUB; grad. MA in English, Edinburgh Univ., where she read the Northern Irish poets; completed a dissertation on Mebdh McGuckian at QUB (“Reading Medbh McGuckian”, 2004); winner of Gregory Award, 2001; issued These Days (2004), winner of Forward Prize for Best First Collection; writer in residence, Princess Grace Irish Library (Monaco), 2005; appt. Temp. Lect. at Univ. of Ulster, 2005; included in Poetry Book Society’s “Next Generation” presentation, 2005;
issued Drives (2008), in the form of postcards home to Belfast from foreign cities; winner of Forward Prize for Best Collection and shortlisted for the Whitbread Prize and winner of Rooney Prize, 2008; broadcast her view of Belfast on The Essay (BBC3), 14 May 2009; her collection Profit and Loss (2011) recommended by Poetry Society, and shortlisted for T. S. Eliot Poetry Prize; issued Reading Medbh McGuckian (2014), a critical study; she is published by Cape Poetry; married with a daughter; lives in Belfast and holds post-doctoral Research Fellowship at the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry (QUB); awarded The Irish Times Irish Poetry Now Award, March 2010; ed., with Frank Ormsby, The Yellow Nib (2015).

There isn’t much in my life I’d miss if it were over:
the weird cheerful meanness of people to each other,
about pay, status, odd grudges, responsibility;
work’s meaninglessness - but it’s opposite, leisure’s abyss!
a snake coiled in the chest morning after morning ...
How do I cope when poetry is part of this bullshit?

—Quoted in Ben Wilkinson, ‘Critical perspective: Leontia Flynn’ at Contemporary Writers online; accessed 29.11.2010 [unavailable at 15.04.2023].

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  • These Days (London: Jonathan Cape 2004), 64pp. [see contents].
  • Drives (London: Jonathan Cape 2008), 57pp.
  • Profit and Loss [Cape Poetry] (London: Cape 2011), 58pp. [see COPAC notice - infra].
  • The Radio (London: Jonathan Cape 2017), 64pp. [see contents]..
  • Nina Simone is Singing (Edinburgh: Mariscat Press 2021), 29pp. [Shortlisted for Michael Marks Award, 2021]
  • Taking Liberties [forthcoming] (Aug. 2023)
  • Leontia Flynn Reading from Her Poems (Stroud: Poetry Archive [200?], audio disc and leaflet; 42 mins.
  • Reading Medbh McGuckian (IAP 2014) [see contents].
  • ‘Re-assembling the Atom: Reading Medbh McGuckian’s Intertextual Materials’ in The Poetry of Medbh McGuckian , ed. Shane Alcobia-Murphy & Richard Kirkland (Cork UP 2010) [q.pp.].
Miscellaneous (contrib. to)
  • The Blackbird’s Nest: An Anthology of Poetry from Queen’s University Belfast, ed. Frank Ormsby, with a foreword by Seamus Heaney and an afterword by Ciaran Carson (Belfast: Blackstaff Press 2006), xxix, 151pp. [Flynn contribs. the last piece, “By My Skin”; see listing].
  • Belfast Songs, ed. Stephen Hackett & Richard West (Belfast: Factotum 2003, 61pp. [with Daniel Jewsbury, Aaron Kelly, Paul Muldoon, Will Bradley, Leontia Flynn, om lekha, Chris Magee, Colin Graham, Suzanna Chan, Richard West, Glenn Patterson, Stuart Watson, John Gray and Martin McLoone.]
  • Love Poet, Carpenter: Michael Longley at Seventy, ed. Robin Robertson (London: Enitharmon Press 2009), 125pp..
  • Response (Belfast: Print workshop 2011), ill. [boxed], with poems by Michael Longley, Paul Muldoon, Ciaran Carson, Medbh McGuckian, Alan Gillis, Miriam Gamble, and Sinead Morrissey and ills. by James Allen, James Millar, Helen Paisley, Bill Penney, Sarah Gordon, Jessica Hollywood, Peter Hutchinson, and Raymond Henshaw; signed copy held in QUB Lib.]
  • ‘On MacNeice on Trains’, in Incorrigibly Plural: Louis MacNeice and His Legacy ed. Fran Brearton & Edna Longley (Manchester: Carcanet 2012), xvi, 301pp. [Chap. 5].
  • with Frank Ormsby, The Yellow Nib, No. 10 (Belfast: QUB 2015), 100pp.
  • “Gerard Manley Hopkins” to Poetry (Oct. 2014) [as infra].
  • “101” to The Mimic Octopus: Anthology of Imitation, ed. Will Harris and Richard Osmond (London: MMXIV [2014), 1 vol. unpaged [20 other contribs. include Tim Gunn, Helen Mort and Robert Crawford; ills. [by Aisha Farr].
  • ‘Out’, to Granta: The Magazine of New Writing, ed., Sigrid Rausing [135: New Irish Writing ], (Spring 2016) [see listing].
Anthologies (incl. in)
  • The New Irish Poets, ed. Selina Guinness (Tarset, Northumberland: Bloodaxe Books 2004), 336pp., ill [ports.; see listing].
  • The Forward Book of Poetry 2005, with pref. by William Sieghart and foreword by Lavinia Greenlaw (2005), 129pp. {Michael Longley also included with 12 others].
  • Magnetic North: The Emerging Poets, ed. John Brown (Derry: Verbal Arts Centre / Lagan Press, 2006), 326pp.
  • The Watchful Heart: A New Generation of Irish Poets - Poems & Essays, ed. Joan McBreen (Moher: Salmon Poetry 2009) [‘And would you, I mused, perhaps understand me more, if I could, for a single second, shut the fuck up?’ - “Art and Wine”].
  • incl. in The New North: Contemporary Poetry from Northern Ireland, ed. Chris Agee (Cambridge: Salt 2011), xxicv, 247pp. [see details].
  • incl. in Jerzy Jarniewicz, Sześć poetek irlandzkich / Leontia Flynn [et al.]; wybór wierszy, przekład, posłowie oraz noty] (Wrocław : Biuro Literackie, 2012) [copy in TCD Lib.]
  • The Wake Forest Book of Irish Women’s Poetry, ed. Peggy O’Brien [2nd edn.] (Winston-Salem, NC: Wake Forest University Press 2011), lxxiii, 657 p/ selected and with a preface by Peggy O'Brien.
  • incl. in Granta [New Irish Writing] (London: Granta 2016), 256pp. [see contents]

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Bibliographical details
These Days (London: Jonathan Cape 2004), 64pp. CONTENTS [Poems]: Naming it; Acts of faith; Eeps; Come live with me; Without me; For Stuart who accidentally obtained a job in the civil service; Donegal; Festival time; Games; Brinkwomanship; Here; The amazing, disappearing; The second Mrs. de Winter; Without me; Without me; The miracle of F6/18; Without me; On the third floor for the royal infirmary; When I was sixteen I met Seamus Heaney; My dream mentor; Snow; Nocturne; Without me; What you get; Two crossings; Doyne; Pet deaths; A pause; It's a wonderful life; Bridges; Bed poem; Perl poem; Granite; The Franklin's tale; April, 7 p.m; The myth of tea boy; The morning after Ruth's going-away party; Holland; The magician; Satis house; Boys; The man with the hatchet; For Lily Allen; It's a wonderful life; The furthest distances I've travelled; 26; By my skin; Mangles; These days.

The Radio (London: Jonathan Cape 2017), 64pp. CONTENTS [poems]: In the Beginning; Yellow Lullaby; Alzheimer’s Villanelle; Brunties: An Elegy; Poem in Praise of Hysterical Men and Women; Bobby Fischer: Very Displaced Elegy; Gerard Manley Hopkins; Radio; Listening to My Mother Listen to the Radio; Radio; August 30th 2013; Field of Yellow Flowers with Airplane and Standing Figure: Poem for Gavin Turning 40; Poem for Ruth in the Heatwave Summer of 1995; Out; Buddleia: Poem in Memory of Roberta Gray; Black Mould and Mildew: Obsessive-Compulsive Poem for Lawrence; Flights; Poem about all the Space I Told My Husband I Needed; Taking Blood; Fish in the Berlin Aquarium; Wives in Mid-Twentieth Century American Fiction; Give it Up, Moron; Government Servants; I Can't Say I Love You; Ode to Moy Park; Poem in Homage to Built Things in Three Dimensions; Malone Hoard; Glitch: Poem for 2016; Mast; First Dialogue; Second Dialogue; Third Dialogue.

Reading Medbh McGuckian (2014) - CONTENTS: Author’s Note; Introduction; Ch. 1: ‘Not Sacrificed to Plot ... ’; Ch. 2: ‘This Oblique Trance is My Natural Way of Speaking ... ’. Ch. 3: ‘A Hill Wind Blows at the Book’s Edges / To Open a Page ...’; Ch.04: ‘Clear Cut from Another World, as if Translating ...’; Ch.5: ‘The War Degree’; Conclusion; ‘Reading in a Library’; Bibliography; Index. Orig. as PhD dissertation - L. M. Flynn, “Reading Medbh McGuckian” (Belfast: QUB 2004); previously available at the British Library on World Wide Web and launched by Irish Academic Press in No Alibis Bookstore, Belfast, Wed. 30th April 2014.

Chris Agee, ed., The New North: Contemporary Poetry from Northern Ireland (Cambridge: Salt 2011), xxicv, 247pp. [with Seamus Heaney; Derek Mahon; Michael Longley; Cathal Ó Searcaigh; Jean Bleakney; Chris Agee; Moyra Donaldson; Gary Allen; Andy White; Ciaran Carson; Medbh McGuckian; Paul Muldoon; Matt Kitkham; Georóid Mac Lochlainn; Frank Sewell; Paul Grattan; Sinéad Morrissey; Alan Gillis; Leontia Flynn; Nick Laird.]

[ Her 15-min. BBC broadcast on Belfast was available on podcast (14-20th May 2009) ].

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  • Elmer Kennedy-Andrews, ‘New Voices (Peter McDonald, Sinead Morrissey, Alan Gillis and Leontia Flynn)’, in Writing Home: Poetry and Place in Northern Ireland, 1968-2008 (Woodbridge: D. S. Brewer 2008), pp.249-86.
  • Fran Brearton, review of Profit and Loss, in The Guardian (2 Sept. 2011) - available online;
  • Erin C. Mitchell, ‘“To Sift / Through Old Boxes of Junk I’ve Kept”: Leontia Flynn’s Poetic “Museumsֲ: Losing, Saving, and Giving Away Belfast's Trash’,, in New Hibernia Review , 18, 2 (Summer 2014), pp.110-20 [available at JSTOR - online].
  • John MacAuliffe, ‘Serious about the butt of her jokes’, review of The Radio , in The Irish Times (18 Nov. 2017) - available online.
  • Katarzyna Poloczec, ‘Writing the 'new Irish' into Ireland's old narratives: The poetry of Sinéad Morrissey, Leontia Flynn, Mary O'Malley, and Michael Hayes’, in Literary visions of multicultural Ireland : the immigrant in contemporary Irish literature, ed. Pila Villar-Argaiz (Manchester UP 2016), Chp. 9.

See also Alexandra Rhoanna Pryce, Selective Traditions: Feminism and the Poetry of Colette Bryce, Leontia Flynn and Sinead Morrissey [PhD thesis.] (Oxford UP 2014)

Note: An account of Leontia Flynn’s response to Robert Lowell is given in Robert Lowell and Irish Poetry, ed. Eve Cobain & Philip Coleman (Peter Lang 2020).

Interview with Leontia Flynn at Culture Northern Ireland
—When did you first fall in love with poetry?
—I don’t recall a watershed moment. I remember a Robert Louis Stevenson poem from Primary Three , and poems like “The Highwayman” from later school anthologies. Then when I was 14 I spent the whole summer writing nonsense poems, which seemed vitally necessary at the time. By the time I was 16 and starting Philip Larkin for A level it had happened gradually. Then I really fell for Larkin. (Sixteen year old school girl falls for Philip Larkin all wrong, but unlike him I was ready to commit )
Go online or see copy - as attached.

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Fran Brearton, review of Drivein Tower Poetry (in 2009): ‘[...] Flynn’s is one of the most strikingly original and exciting poetic voices to have emerged from Northern Ireland since the extraordinary debut by [Paul] Muldoon 35 years ago. [...] refreshing in a Northern Irish poetic tradition at risk of taking itself as seriously as it has been taken by its critics. There is a different kind of risk, therefore, for Flynn in her debut collection too. At first glance, some of the poems seem throw-away, off-hand, brief jottings on the page rather than fully realised poetic achievement. Yet the assurance and skill required to hide those same qualities of assurance and skill is also what gives the ten-line seemingly ephemeral and anecdotal poems scattered across  These Days  [2004] their depth and originality. In a reversal of strategies adopted by one of her immediate precursors Medbh McGuckian, Flynn makes it seem easy, which, for her readers, can also make it that little bit harder to grasp what she is about. [...]’ (Available at Tower Poetry (Christ Church, Oxford) - online.]

Frances Leviston, review of Drives by Leontia Flynn, in The Guardian (30 Aug. 2008): ‘Leontia Flynn emerged fully-formed in 2004 with a first collection, These Days , that placed her at the centre of a new wave of Belfast poets - Alan Gillis, Nick Laird, Colette Bryce - who were bearing not only the history of that city but of its poetry with admirable ease. Drives , thankfully, does not break with the rapidly shifting intelligence, wit and fluent manipulation of sound that made These Days such an unexpected pleasure; but it does explore at greater length, and with greater focus, some of the preoccupations that were already powering Flynn’s earlier work. / The “drives” of the neat title are both noun and verb, and refer to the psychological patterns that Flynn sees - with a perhaps pathological sharpness, and a certainly unfashionable interest in Freud - governing her own life and the lives of others, as well as to all the journeys we make, and the means by which we make them, in this increasingly mobile world. [...] This is delicate, circumspect work, the syntax perfectly managed [...]’ (See full-text version in RICORSO Library , “Criticism > Reviews”, via index, or direct.)

Ben Wilkinson, ‘Critical Perspective: Leontia Flynn’, in Contemporary Writers on the British Council Website: ‘The eminent poet-critic Tom Paulin has described Leontia Flynn’s poetry as “smart as a whip, lyrical, always on point - the real, right thing”, and, given the freewheeling originality and assuredness of her debut collection, These Days (2004), it is hard to dissent from such a verdict.

Further: Wilkinson speaks of Drives as containing a ‘series of portraits of the lives of other poets and creative artists (reminiscent of those in Michael Hofmann’s Corona, Corona) [...] dotted throughout the book [which e]xploring subjects including Virginia Woolf’s bi-polar disorder and breakdowns, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s alcoholism, and Elizabeth Bishop’s loss of her mother to mental illness and consequent orphaning as a child, these portraits do not shirk from difficult themes and, contrary to first impressions and occasional lapses, succeed in reaffirming the resilience and capability of the individual in the face of considerable adversity. For while in the collection’s title poem, the poet’s mother “isn’t one to assign / meaning to [her children’s] ways, their worlds’ bewildering drives”, Flynn is conversely drawn to exploring the ways in which lives are, can be, and perhaps should be, lived; her poetry often looking for what she calls the “basic wage, take-what-you-get epiphany” wherever it might be found. Her occasionally repetitious subject matter aside, then, Flynn’s lyric abilities and stylistic flair offer the reader fascinating, often darkly comic poetic insight into the human condition and our existential concerns.’ (See further online; accessed 22.03.2011.)

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‘My mother’s car is an estimable motor,

The car in which my mother,
during a morning’s work, will sometimes drive

to Dundrum, Ballykinlar, Seaford, Clough
‘Newcastle’, ‘Castlewellan’, ‘Analomg’.
They drive along the old road and the new road -
my father, in beside her, reads the signs

as they escape him - for now they are empty signs,
now one name means as little as another;
the roads they drive along are fading road[.’

—Post by John Field (Cape Poetry) on Poor Rude Lines [blog] - online; accessed 17.04.2014.

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Gerard Manley Hopkins

At the mention of Gerard Manley Hopkins, my mild-mannered father
— tender, abstracted — would exercise the right
to revert to type. That is to say: devout; that is, proscriptive. He would rather
we did not so bandy the good Jesuit’s name about
in talk of “gay this” and “gay that” — just as he would rather
my sister did not, from the library, request “sick” Lolita.
Like tars on a stage deck, yo ho, we roll our eyes.
Somebody snaps on the poisonous gas-fired heater
— and I put off a year or two the hypothesis
I’ll form, with a wave, to provoke him to these wobblers
that all in such matters swing from pole to pole;
as Hopkins was wont (his muse being bi[nsey] po[p]lar[s])
to swing from joy’s heights, alas, to the abyss
and for whom the mind had “mountains; cliffs of fall.”


“O the mind, mind has mountains; cliffs of fall
Frightful, sheer, no-man-fathomed. Hold them cheap
May who ne’er hung there....” Who’s not known the hell
that fashions itself from the third night without sleep —
the third or the fourth — in whose black margins crawl
shrill horrors, and where breathless, poleaxed, pinned
— as though in the teeth of an outrageous gale —
the mind — sick — preys upon the stricken mind.
And “worst, there is none” — no none — than this wild grief:
Citalopram-wired. Our sweating selves self-cursed.
Oh, “Mary, mother of us, where is your relief?”
as Hopkins wrote — but, far gone, at its worst
it’s her first form I want. Please stroke my hair.
It’s alright now. I’m here, I’m here. There, there.

—First published in Poetry (Oct. 2014); available at Poetry Foundation - online; accessed 15.04.2023.

See more ...
“The Dream House” “Ultrasound Scan” “Colette” “Song”
“Don’t Worry”
“The Floppy Disk”
“The Superser”
“My Father’s Language” “Birds in My Story”
See all - as attached.

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Poems by Leontia Flynn at Poet Casting
“These Days” Play
“Mangles” Play
“Song” Play
“The Man with the Hatchet” Play
[ downloadable at poetcasting.co.uk.; defunct at 12.08.2023 ]

Poems from These Days (2004) and Drives (2008) at the Poetry Archive
“For Stuart, who accidentally obtained a job in the Civil Service” read & listen
“Without Me” read & listen
“The Furthest Distances I’ve Travelled” read & listen
“These Days” read & listen
“Saturday in the Pool” read & listen
“Drive” read & listen
—Go to Poetry Archve - online [crashed server at 12.08.2023]

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Profit and Loss (2011) [Publisher’s notice]: ‘Celebrated as an unusually original poet - nervy, refreshing, deceptively simple - Leontia Flynn has quickly developed into a writer of assured technical complexity and a startling acuity of perception. In her third collection, Flynn examines and dismantles a fugitive life. The first sequence moves through a series of rooms, reflecting on aspects of the author’s personal and family history. Using the idea of the haunted house or the house with a sealed-off room, and Gothic tropes of madness, doubles, revenants and religious brooding, the poems consider ideas of inheritance and legacy. The second section comprises a magnificent long poem written in the months leading up to the banking crisis and presidential election of October 2008. Taking as its occasion a flat-clearing, it assumes a more public voice (inspired partly by Auden’s “Letter to Lord Byron”), and reflects on aspects of the rapid social and technological change of the last decade. An extraordinarily moving reflection on mutability and mortality prompted by the spring-cleaning of a life's detritus, “Letter to Friends” evolves from a private reliquary to a public obsequy. Its collapse back into private griefs, including the poet’s father’s decline into Alzheimer’s disease, is pursued in the third section of the book. Here the theme of a tallying of private and public balance sheets, of different kinds of profit and loss, widens to include poems of motherhood and marriage, the possibilities of hope and repair.’ (See COPAC - online.)

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