John McAuliffe

John McAuliffe

John McAuliffe has published four books with The Gallery Press, A Better Life (2002), which was shortlisted for a Forward PrizeNext Door (2007), Of All Places (2011) which was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation and The Way In (2015)His poems have been published in Best Irish Poems 2008 & 2010, Cork Literary Review, The Guardian,  International Literary Quarterly, The Irish Times, The North,  Poetry, Poetry Ireland Review, Poetry Review, PN Review, The Rialto, The Spectator, The Stinging Fly, and The Watchful Heart.

He was born in 1973 and grew up in Listowel, Co. Kerry. He lives in Manchester, where he co-directs the Centre for New Writing at the University of Manchester and edits the Manchester Review and the online poetry digest

In Spring 2010 he was Visiting Heimbold Professor of Irish Studies at Villanova University. He has written a monthly poetry column for The Irish Times since 2012 and has been a member of the Irish Arts Council since 2013.


'I had seen some of the poems before, in the Smith Doorstop pamphlet A Midgie or in Poetry Review or The North but seeing them again here, with their relatives, changed them. I have my favourites; 'Badgers', 'Continuity', 'Bringing the Baby to Rossaveal' seem to go together, to bubble under with trouble, an externalised trouble, and with sadness that this is how it is. Best of all I like the poems that don't remind me of anyone but John McAuliffe and for me, they include 'A Name', 'A Midgie', 'Continuity', 'Snow' and 'Of All Places'. I have only had this book a week – John read from it as part of the Manchester Literature Festival on Monday 17th October and I it's really too soon to be saying anything at all and too important for the saying to be done by me. I will wait for the big reviews it deserves.' — Jane Aspinall


The wind sails leaves around the house like late notices
for the garden’s deterioration. Turn a blind eye.
RTE longwave announces gigs in familiar venues,
I like the presenter’s comfortable thoughts of tonight
and the day after, until, that is, he introduces
The Holy Land by the Bothy Band then veers
into advertising a poetry broadsheet and a silver plate,
before attacking quote the crimson tides
and purple mountains end quote someone (who?)
might waste their money on instead in Woolworth’s.
There’s a snatch of a shipping forecast and
I’m unloading the dishwasher when I hear a new voice,
which strands me by announcing, ‘This is The Archive Hour.
And that was The Long Note 30 years ago today’ 
out of earshot as I am of the autumn sun and rain
which the radio forecast, too, on this hour that’s gone
south with its silver plate, its piano and bodhran,
where, in Woolworth’s, a crimson tide progresses
beneath a purple mountain and someone hums a reel:
he knows the start of it but puts a question mark
against the title: it’s ‘The Holy Ground’ but he doesn’t join the dots.
He has places to go. There will be time again for names and dates,
for taking it all down, for credits, for footnotes.


At the end of December police in Chicago arrested the so-called Christmas Day bomber. We were warned our flight from Manchester would be lengthily delayed: we spent our allotted three airport hours being frisked and moved along between security queues, but we left on time and arrived, early, in Philadelphia, which was bright and cold, sun shining off the residual snow from heavy falls over Christmas. I would start teaching at Villanova University in early January, an appointment which offered more time for writing than teaching. Time, and a new setting, to revise and complete, without the usual distractions, poems begun in Manchester.

The university, in Bryn Mawr on the Main Line in suburban Philly, has offered a productive home to Irish writers for more than a decade: Derek Mahon, Sebastian Barry, Peter Fallon, Claire Keegan and others have lived in and sometimes written about the house we arrived to, which backed onto the football stadium on the campus. Auden lived and worked nearby at Swarthmore, Temple and Bryn Mawr itself while writing The Sea and the Mirror, while Thomas Kinsella had taught at Temple for decades and, as we discovered, still lives downtown.

I planned to finish one set of poems for Peter and Ann Sansom at Smith/Doorstop, but soon the weather intervened. Philly had three storms, and an accumulated snowfall of around 5 feet, which froze over. The first time, we took photos and enjoyed digging ourselves out. Third time around, I broke the snow shovel. The neighbourhood has no footpaths and the roads were blocked. Classes were cancelled. I had time to write new poems as well as revising: we discussed, via the web, how to integrate new poems into the pamphlet, whose name and shape kept changing. Rather than splitting the poems by theme or place or form, we ran the different tones together, then talked about how many or how few poems make up a pamphlet. A Midgie emerged.

Around the same time as the final proofs came through, two and a half months of snow came to an end. Friends put me in touch with Philly-resident writers. We were all, it turned out, trying not to write poems about snow; everyone talked about Obama’s turbulent start to 2010 and whether (and how) differently the US stacks the deck for its citizens and visitors. The productive, generative strangeness of the snowstorms gave way to a sunny mid-March. Healthcare receded, the New York Times ran stories about the Vatican in Ireland and the rise of the Tories in the UK. We started planning a trip to the Southwest before flying back to Manchester. Tonight, muggy and wet, I walked around the football stadium to one of the university’s gleaming new auditoriums, where the head of a London think tank was introduced as a key advisor to ‘Britain’s next prime minister’ before he sketched out a nostalgic vision of local communities, free markets and universal beliefs which he called ‘Red Toryism.’ He spoke in praise of America’s Catholic universities’ promotion of ‘objective good’ which he contrasted with British universities’ ‘teaching of uncertainty’ and ‘engines of sophistry’. Familiar feelings surfaced.

— John McAuliffe, Bryn Mawr March 24th 2010

Titles by this author

  A Midgie
A Midgie

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