Frank Ormsby


1947- ; b. Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh; ed. St. Michael’s College, Enniskillen, and QUB (MA, English); teacher of English and then Head of English at Royal Belfast Academical Institute, 1971- ; succeeded James Simmons as editor of Honest Ulsterman with Michael Foley, 1969-72; alone 1972-84, and with Robert Johnstone to 1989; Eric Gregory Poetry prize, 1974; Ripe for Company ( 1971); Business as Usual (1973); Being Walked by a Dog (1979); A Store of Candles (1977), Poetry Society Choice; second prize in National Poetry Comp., 1979; issued The Ghost Train (Gallery 1996), a new collection;
winner of the O’Shaughnessy Poetry Award of Univ. of St Thomas, Minnesota, 2002 ($5,000); he has edited a number of anthologies incl. the ground-breaking Poets of the North of Ireland (1979); also Northern Windows (1987), on Ulster autobiography, Rage for Order (1992), on poetry of the Troubles - named after the title-phrase in a poem by Derek Mahon; also edited the Collected Poems of John Hewitt, and a selection of Amanda McKittrick Ros (1988).. DIL FDA HAM ORM OCIL

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Poetry collections
  • Knowing My Place (Belfast: Honest Ulsterman Publications 1971);
  • Ripe for Company (Belfast: Honest Ulsterman Publications 1971);
  • Spirit of Dawn (Belfast: Honest Ulsterman Publications 1973);
  • Business as Usual (Belfast: Honest Ulsterman Publications 1973);
  • Being Walked by a Dog (Belfast: Honest Ulsterman Publications 1979);
  • A Store of Candles (OUP 1977; rep. Gallery 1986);
  • A Northern Spring (London: Secker & Warburg; Gallery 1986);
  • The Ghost Train (Belfast: Blackstaff/Gallery 1995), 53pp.
  • ed., Poets of the North of Ireland (1979; new edn. 1990);
  • ed., The Long Embrace: Twentieth Century Irish Love Poems (Belfast: Blackstaff 1987; rep. 1990), 208pp. [in mem. John Hewitt];
  • ed., Northern Windows, an Anthology of Ulster Autobiography (Belfast: Blackstaff 1987);
  • ed., Thine in Storm and Calm: An Amanda McKittrick Ros Reader (1988);
  • ed., Collected Poems of John Hewitt (Belfast: Blackstaff 1992);
  • ed., Rage for Order (Belfast: Blackstaff 1992);
  • ed. The Hip Flask: Short Poems from Ireland (Belfast: Blackstaff Press 2000), xx, 147pp., ill. [, woodcuts by Barbara Childs].
  • ed., The Blackbird's Nest: An Anthology of Poetry from Queen's University, Belfast (Belfast: Blackstaff Press 2006), q.pp.

A recital from The Blackbird’s Nest: An Anthology of Poems from Queens University, Belfast (2006), is available at Blackstaff Press - online [1.11.2011].

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Patricia Horton, “An Appetite for Poetry”, interview with Ormsby, Causeway (Autumn 1995), pp.51-56; Ronald Marken, ‘“A Line’s Trail in the Water’: The Poetry of Frank Ormsby’, in Irish University Review, 14 (Autumn 1984), pp.221-27; Ron Marken, ‘Michael Foley, Robert Johnstone and Frank Ormsby: Three Ulster Poets in the Go Situation’, in Poetry in Contemporary Irish Literature, ed. Michael Kenneally [Studies in Contemporary Irish Literature 2; Irish Literary Studies 43] (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1995), pp.130-43.

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Fred Johnston, review of The Ghost Train and collections by other poets, Irish Times (27 Feb. 1996), Weekend Review, p.9, noting an echoing, however lightly, of Robert Graves; poems incl. “The Last Word’ [‘Between what is and what is not / We walked, the Huntress loosed a shot ... yet we, transparent, without fear / What were we but singing air?; also “A charm on the Night of Your Birthday”; “You Made your Hair a Sail to Carry Me’. Also “Of Certain Architects, Technicians, and Butchers”; “Trial by Existence”; judged a varied but decently crafted work.

Oonagh Warke, review of The Ghost Train, in Books Ireland (May [q.d.]), p.130; carriages of memories; cites titles, “Geography”, “The all Ireland Campaign”, Roslee hero”, “One Saturday”, Gatecrasher”, “Reading to My Father”, “The Charlotte Gibson Bed”.

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Blackbirds, North Circular Road

Were here long before us,
so seem to preside
through our first winter.
Snow in the garden
a chance not to be missed,
they swivel and flit,
as though in time and space
they mapped the neighbourhood:
a random, elliptical print
their work in progress.

This one a Presbyterian,
sleeping rough
in the grounds of Rosemary Church.

The one disposed
to match profiles with Cavehill:
a tunic rag from an old rebellion.
Settling and re-settling,
a third recalls the merchant Jew who built here.
We share his view
of distant shipyard cranes,
the glint of water.

And this must be the Blackbird of Belfast Lough,
released to the air one summer
from the verge
of a monkish gospel.
Yes, this will be Yellow Bill
on the latest leg of his journey, fluttering down
yards from the study window, bringing us the free
gift of his ease in the barbed winter hedges,
nonchalant,deft slalom in the snowbound tree.’

The Irish Times (8 March 2002)

For the Record

When I stabbed a Belfast gigolo at the Plaza
they transferred me to the country to cool down.
There were no poolrooms or waterfront hotels,
just woods, cows, a village, flat fields
and enough fresh air to poison a city boy.
And when the MPs kicked me senseless in Duffy’s Bar
for being a “wise guy”, I burned their quarters down
one night in May with gas from their own jeeps
and they could prove nothing.
Cornered at St-Marcouf, I shot my way
to a medal and commendation (posthumous),
a credit at last to my parents, whoever they were,
and the first hero produced by the State Pen.

Quoted on Facebooky by Eunice Yeates [18.06.2014]

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James Simmons, Ten Irish Poets (Cheadle: Carcanet 1974), selects “Business as Usual”; “Interim”; “Winter Offerings”; “In Great Victoria Street”; Floods”; “Dublin Honeymoon”; “Hair Horseworm”; “Three Domestic Poems”; “Onan”; “McQuade”; “Castlecoole”; “An Uncle Remembered”; “Virgins’.

Peter Fallon & Seán Golden, eds., Soft Day: A Miscellany of Contemporary Irish Writing (Notre Dame/Wolfhound 1980), “Interim”; “A Small Town in Ireland”; “A Country Cottage, Towards Dawn’.

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Seamus Deane, gen. ed., The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing (Derry: Field Day 1991), Vol. 3 selects from A Store of Cold Candles, “Island”; “A Northern Spring”, “Mcconnell’s Birthday”, “Home” [1400-1401]; BIOG, p.1435.

Patrick Crotty, ed., Modern Irish Poetry: An Anthology (Belfast: Blackstaff Press 1995), selects “Passing the Crematorium” [306]; “Home” [306]; from “A Paris Honeymoon: L’Orangerie” [307].

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