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About the book
  • Published: 15 November 2009
  • ISBN: 9780224090032
  • Imprint: Jonathan Cape
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 64
  • RRP: $27.99

Gorse Fires


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‘Few living poets can write as perceptively and as movingly… The tragic vision expressed throughout the collection makes Gorse Fires burn with grim intensity. This is major work.’
John Banville, Independent on Sunday

Emerging, as it did, after over a decade of silence, Gorse Fires had an immediate and resounding impact – revealing a poetry that seemed renewed and re-energised – and winning the Whitbread Prize for Poetry in 1991. It is now regarded as the pivotal book in Michael Longley’s distinguished career.

If Ireland remains Longley’s starting-point or implied focus, it is often sighted through disturbing perspectives that derive from foreign cultures, from Homer’s Odyssey, from the Second World War, and from the Holocaust. Even his beautifully precise poems about the West of Ireland are shadowed by the many destructive forces ranged against the creative act.

Longley’s versions of Odysseus’ return to Ithaca and ‘Ghetto’ (based on the Polish ghettoes) epitomise his concern with the meaning of home and family. He sees these archetypes of Western civilisation as vulnerable, problematic, violated by power. Odysseus’ homecoming involves murder and vengeance as well as reunions – a connection with the ambiguities of

  • Pub date: 15 November 2009
  • ISBN: 9780224090032
  • Imprint: Jonathan Cape
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 64
  • RRP: $27.99

About the Author

Michael Longley

Michael Longley was born in Belfast in 1939 and educated at the Royal Belfast Academical Institution and Trinity College Dublin where he read Classics. He has published ten collections of poetry including Gorse Fires (1991) which won the Whitbread Poetry Award, and The Weather in Japan (2000) which won the Hawthornden Prize, the T. S. Eliot Prize and the Irish Times Poetry Prize. His Collected Poems was published in 2006. In 2001 he received the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry, and in 2003 the Wilfred Owen Award. He was awarded a CBE in 2010. He was Ireland Professor of Poetry, 2007–2010. He and his wife, the critic Edna Longley, live and work in Belfast.

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Praise for Gorse Fires

“. . . a contemporary who should endure over the life of our language”

Donald Hall

“One of the finest lyric poets of our century ”

John Burnside

“Longley may not possess, or want, the international glamour of some of his contemporaries, but the poems in Gorse Fires, both individually and collectively, bewitch with the magic of coherence”

Carol Ann Duffy, Guardian

“A keeper of the artistic estate, a custodian of griefs and wonders”

Seamus Heaney


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