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About this poet

Born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on October 9, 1948, Ciaran Carson learned English while playing in the streets. He attended Queen's University, Belfast not long after Seamus Heaney, Michael Longley, and Derek Mahon, and received his degree in English.

Carson has published several collections of poetry. His U.S. publications include Belfast Confetti (1989), First Language (1994), Opera Et Cetera (1996), The Alexandrine Plan (1998), The Twelfth of Never (1998), Breaking News (2003), The Midnight Court (2006), For All We Know (2008), and the recent On the Night Watch (2010), all published by Wake Forest University Press.

In addition, Carson has written four books of prose: Last Night's Fun, The Star Factory, Fishing for Amber: A Long Story, and Shamrock Tea, a novel, which was longlisted for the Booker Prize. Carson has also been recognized for his work in translation. His translation of Dante's Inferno (2002) was awarded the Oxford Weidenfeld Translation Prize, and, in 2003, he was made an honorary member of the Irish Translators' and Interpreters' Association.

Carson has received several awards including the Alice Hunt Bartlett Award, the T.S. Eliot Prize, the Irish Times Irish Literature Prize for Poetry, the Forward Poetry Prize and a Cholmondeley Award.

Since 1998, he has been a professor of English at Queen's University. He founded the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry at the University in 2003.

The Assignation

Ciaran Carson, 1948
I think I must have told him my name was Juliette,
with four syllables, you said, to go with violette.

I envisaged the violet air that presages snow,
the dark campaniles of a city beginning to blur

a malfunctioning violet neon pharmacy sign
jittering away all night through the dimity curtains.

Near dawn you opened them to a deep fall and discovered
a line of solitary footprints leading to a porch:

a smell of candle-wax and frankincense; the dim murmur
of a liturgy you knew but whose language you did not.

The statues were shrouded in Lenten violet, save one,
a Virgin in a cope of voile so white as to be blue.

As was the custom there, your host informed you afterwards&em;
the church was dedicated to Our Lady of the Snows.

From For All We Know by Ciaran Carson. Copyright © 2008 by Ciaran Carson. Reprinted by permission of Wake Forest University Press. All rights reserved.

From For All We Know by Ciaran Carson. Copyright © 2008 by Ciaran Carson. Reprinted by permission of Wake Forest University Press. All rights reserved.

Ciaran Carson

Ciaran Carson

Born in Northern Ireland in 1948, Ciaran Carson has published several collections of poetry, including On the Night Watch (Wake Forest University Press, 2010)

by this poet

poem
I fear the vast dimensions of eternity.
I fear the gap between the platform and the train.
I fear the onset of a murderous campaign.
1 fear the palpitations caused by too much tea.

I fear the drawn pistol of a rapparee.
I fear the books will not survive the acid rain.
I fear the ruler and the blackboard and the
poem

hurtling from 
the airport down
the mountain road

past barbed wire
snagged with
plastic bags

fields of scrap
and thistle
farmyards

from the edge
of the plateau
my eye zooms

into the clarity
of Belfast
streets
poem
through the trip
wired minefield

hand in hand
eyes for nothing

but ourselves 
alone

undaunted by
the traps & pits

of wasted land
until

you stoop
& pluck

a stem
of eyebright