Irish poet John Montague dies aged 87

Born in Brooklyn in 1929, he was raised in Tyrone

Irish poet John Montague dies aged 87

John Montague prior to a Bloomsday conferral ceremony where he was awarded an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Literature at UCD in 2011 | Image: RollingNews.ie

Irish poet and Aosdána member John Montague has died aged 87.

He was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1929 and raised in Tyrone.

Montague - who lived in Cork - was educated at University College Dublin, Yale University and the University of California at Berkeley.

He co-founded Claddagh Records, and became president of Poetry Ireland in 1979.

He also taught at UCD, University College Cork and the Sorbonne.

He had lectured at several American universities, and served as distinguished Writer-in-Residence at the New York State Writers Institute.

His poetry included Forms of Exile (1958); Poisoned Lands (1961); A Chosen Light (1967); Tides (1970); The Rough Field (1972), which was performed with music by the Chieftains at the Roundhouse in London and the Peacock Theatre.

'The Lost Notebook', a novella set in Florence, won the first Hughes Award in 1987.

In 2000, he wrote a memoir, 'Company', and Penguin published his selected poems.

In 2007 he produced a second volume of memoirs, 'The Pear is Ripe'.

He also published three collections of stories: Death of a Chieftain (1964), An Occasion of Sin (1992) and A Love Present (1997).

He won the Marten Toonder Award in 1977, a Guggenheim fellowship in 1980, and the Ireland Funds Literary Award in 1995.

He was the first Ireland Professor of Poetry from 1998 to 2001.

"Another great loss"

The Arts Council has expressed its regret at his passing.

Sheila Pratschke, chair of the Arts Council said: "A true giant of Irish letters, John Montague possessed a voice and vision which was wholly unique and deeply needed, at once intensely relevant and local, while also embracing and celebrating the cosmopolitan.

"His loss will be felt acutely but his work will continue to inspire both readers and writers for generations to come."

President Michael D Higgins says Mr Montague was one of Ireland's finest poets.

"The death of John Montague represents another great loss to Irish letters, a further break with a rich body of work that was the gift of poets and dramatists, to Ulster, Ireland and the world.

"All of the themes of the last century are engaged in John Montague’s work - separation, exile, memory, conflict, the making and teaching of poems in academic settings far and wide, and the challenge of their delivery, generously undertaken in a myriad of settlings.

"His work which includes magnificent love poems, and which indeed show a love of the world in all its curiosity, was immense.

"John Montague produced a body of work that was recognised by his peers as of the finest kind – lines hewn out of experience as if granite, nothing avoided or evaded, and this writing went on to the end.

"Familiar with the literature of other languages, he was a careful translator and source of encouragement to others.

"His wry, self-deprecating company, his humour, his openness to opposite opinions, will be missed by all of us who were privileged to be his friends – and so many were.

"To his wife Elizabeth Wassell; his daughters Sibyl and Oonagh, and all those who loved him, Sabina and I send our deepest sympathy."