Ciaran Carson was born on October 9, 1948, in Belfast, Northern Ireland, the son of Liam Carson, a postman. He acquired his taste for language and storytelling very early. He recalls that when he was two or three, his father would tell his children stories in Gaelic every evening, and each story would continue (at least it seemed that way to the child) for weeks.
Carson was educated at Queen’s University in Belfast, from which he received a Bachelor of Arts degree in English. From 1974 to 1975, he worked as a schoolteacher in Belfast, after which he became the Traditional Arts officer for the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, in Belfast, a position he held until 1998.
Carson’s first volume of poetry was The New Estate (1976), followed by The Irish For No (1987). In the latter collection, Carson, who was raised as a Catholic, reflects with humor and satire on the violent situation in Belfast. This book appeared during the civil conflict in Northern Ireland known as “the Troubles,” in which the majority Protestants, who wanted Northern Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom, clashed with the minority Catholics, many of whom wanted a united Ireland free of British rule. The conflict, which also involved the terrorist organization, the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and the British Army, began in 1969 and lasted nearly three decades and resulted in thousands of deaths. Carson’s Belfast Confetti (1993), which was highly acclaimed by critics, also examines Belfast and its violent history.
Carson’s fourth volume of poetry, First Language (1994), focuses on language, examining how in Belfast, English, Gaelic, and slang intersect, often resulting in a failure of communication. It was awarded the first ever T. S. Eliot Prize for the outstanding book of poetry published in Great Britain in 1994.
Opera Et Cetera (1996) is notable for its puns and other wordplay, as well as its form. Each ten-line poem is written in rhyming couplets. Other poetry collections by Carson are The Alexandrine Plan: Versions of Sonnets by Baudelaire, Mallarmé, and Rimbaud (1998), The...
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