John Montague Biography

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(British and Irish Poetry, Revised Edition)

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John Patrick Montague was born in Brooklyn of Irish parents in 1929. His father, James Terence Montague, had gone there for employment in 1925, joining a brother who ran a speakeasy. James’s wife, Mary (Molly) Carney, and their two sons joined him in 1928; John, the third son, was produced by this reunion. In 1933, the three brothers were sent to County Tyrone in Northern Ireland, the older two moving in with Carney relatives in Fintona, the youngest staying with two unmarried Montague aunts in Garvaghey. John’s mother returned to Ireland in 1936, settling in Fintona (his father did not return until 1952).

Montague was reared apart from his mother and brothers, though he spent some holidays with them. He excelled at local schools, developed a stammer that would persist through his life, and won a scholarship to a boarding school in Armagh. He spent summer holidays during World War II with cousins in the South of Ireland. Having enrolled at University College, Dublin, he received a B.A. in history and English in 1949. He traveled in Austria, Italy, and France; in 1952, he received his M.A. in Anglo-Irish literature.

Montague traveled to the United States in 1953, spending a year at Yale University, a summer at Indiana University, and a year in the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where he received a master of fine arts degree in 1955. There he met Madeleine de Brauer. They were married in her native France before returning to Dublin in 1956.

He worked for the Irish tourist board for three years (1956-1959), became associated with Liam Miller’s Dolmen Press, helped found Claddagh Records, and published his first book of poems before moving to Paris in 1961, where for two years, he was correspondent for the Irish Times. He lived in Paris during most of the 1960’s, but also in the United States (teaching during 1964-1965 at the University of California, Berkeley) and Ireland. His first marriage ended in divorce; in 1972, he was married to Evelyn Robson, a French woman.

They settled in Cork, where Montague taught at University College, Cork (1972-1988) and where they reared their daughters, Oonagh (born 1973) and Sibyl (born 1979). For much of the 1990’s, Montague spent a semester each year in residence as distinguished professor in the New York State Writers Institute at Albany. He separated from his second wife. He and his new partner, American-born novelist Elizabeth Wassell, made their home at Ballydehob, County Cork, Ireland.


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

John Patrick Montague (MAHNT-uh-gyew) was born in Brooklyn of Irish parents, but he and his two older brothers were sent to live in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland, when he was four. He was separated from his brothers and raised by two aunts in Garvaghey. His mother returned to Ireland when he was seven, but he seldom saw her or his brothers (he was twenty-three when his father finally returned to Ireland).

Montague attended local schools, then St. Patrick’s College, Armagh, as a boarding student (1941-1946). He went to University College, Dublin, receiving a B.A. in English and history in 1949, an M.A. in Anglo-Irish literature in 1952. In the late 1940’s, he began to write and publish poems and to travel in France and other European countries. He returned to the United States in 1953, studied at Yale University, Indiana University, the University of Iowa, and the University of California at Berkeley, earning an M.F.A. at Iowa in 1955. During these years, he met and was influenced by many American writers, from Robert Penn Warren and William Carlos Williams to Gary Snyder and Allen Ginsberg. He married in 1956 and returned to Ireland, where he worked for three years for the Irish tourist board in Dublin.

The title of his first book of poems, Forms of Exile, announces a major theme and explores variations on it: separation, alienation, dispossession, loss. Montague both affirms his Irishness and distances himself from repressive aspects of Irish Catholicism. His second book, Poisoned Lands, and...

(The entire section is 1,106 words.)