Harry Clifton was born in 1952 in Dublin, where he was educated at Blackrock College and University College, Dublin. After graduating, Clifton began an extended period of travel outside of Ireland. Many of his experiences from this time had major influence on his poetry because he believes the true home of the poet is 'not in a place, but in the language itself'. He lectured at a teacher training college in Nigeria In the early 1970s, and has lived in places throughout Europe, Africa and Asia, working as an aid administrator in Thailand for Indo-Chinese refugees in the 1980s. He wrote On the Spine of Italy: A Year in the Abruzzi (Macmillan, 1999), a prose work based on a year he spent in Italy’s Abruzzi Mountains. He subsequently lived in Switzerland, England and Germany before settling in Paris for ten years, a period that he recorded in Secular Eden: Paris Notebooks 1994–2004 (Wake Forest University Press, 2007). His poems have been translated into several European languages, with a French translation of selected poems, Le Canto d'Ulysse, published in 1996. He also published a book of stories, Berkeley’s Telephone & Other Fictions (Lilliput Press, 2000). He now lives in Dublin with his wife, Irish novelist Deirdre Madden, and teaches at Trinity College Dublin's Oscar Wilde Centre.
He has published ten books of poetry, including The Desert Route: Selected Poems 1973-88, published by the Gallery Press in Ireland and Bloodaxe Books in Britain in 1992. His latest titles are The Winter Sleep of Captain Lemass (2012), The Holding Centre: Selected Poems 1974-2004 (2014), Portobello Sonnets (2017), and Herod's Dispensations (2019); all published by Bloodaxe Books in Britain and Ireland, and by Wake Forest University Press in the USA. A new collection, Gone Self Storm, is due from Bloodaxe Books in the UK and Wake Forest Press in the US in 2023.
Harry Clifton was poet-in-residence at the Frost Place in New Hampshire, an International Fellow at the University of Iowa, and a representative for Ireland at the International Writing Program in Iowa. He has held many teaching positions at universities, including Bremen and Bordeaux in France, and Trinity College and University College, Dublin, in Ireland. In 2008, Clifton won the Irish Times Poetry Now Award for Secular Eden, and was shortlisted for the same award in 2012 for The Winter Sleep of Captain Lemass. He served as the fifth Ireland Professor of Poetry in 2010–2013, and is a member of Aosdána.
Books by Harry Clifton