Liam Ó Muirthile is a poet and writer. Born in Cork City in 1950, he learned Irish at school and in the Irish speaking region of West Kerry. His first collection of poetry was Tine Chnámh in 1984 which received the Irish-American Cultural Institute’s literary award and the major Oireachtas prize for poetry. He received the Butler Award in 1996 for his novel Ar Bhruach na Laoi, and both the Arts Council Prize and Gradam Chló Iar-Chonnacht for his third collection of poems Walking Time agus Dánta eile.
Liam Ó Muirthile has also written for the stage. Amharclann de hÍde produced his play Tine Chnámh in the Project Theatre in Dublin in 1993. The play was an adaptation, with Michael Scott, of the title poem of his first collection. His play Fear an Tae was produced in the Andrew’s Lane Theatre, Dublin in 1995, and Liodán na hAbhann was staged in the Crypt Theatre in Dublin Castle in 2000. Liam Ó Muirthile wrote a weekly column, An Peann Coitianta, for the Irish Times from 1989 to 2003.
Liam Ó Muirthile is closely associated with the group of poets who, while attending University in Cork in the late 1960’s, chose the Irish language as their creative medium. These poets, known as the Innti generation – Innti was a poetry journal founded by the poet and editor Michael Davitt (1950-2005) – were variously influenced by the work of the poet Seán Ó Ríordáin, also from Cork, by the work and presence of the musician and composer Seán Ó Riada on the University campus, and by American culture.
One of the fundamental achievements of the Innti generation was to carry the Irish language, which is essentially rural, oral and folkloric in its Weltanschauung, into the throb and thrust of the city and to create a contemporary urban landscape for an idiom rooted in meadow, seashore and distant horizons. The counterculture of the sixties is strongly reflected in the work of this group of Irish language poets, and ranges from Irish traditional music and song, to jazz, the language of city laneways and country hearths, to Bob Dylan, Georges Brassens, and Ravi Shankar.
As a student Ó Muirthile studied French literature and this has left its mark on his work. He has done some translation from French – Apollinaire, Villon, Prévert, and Anne Hébert.
He is a poet of immense formal and musical mastery. This reflects his deep and scholarly reading of the classical and neo-classical poetry in the Irish language along with his reading outside of the Irish language. In his recent work he has allowed more of the varied patterns of language – and indeed other languages, including English – into his lines, loosening “the knot that ties”. This can be seen in his latest volume of poetry, titled Walking Time, which brings together the English language world he grew up in and the Irish language, the language he is at home within. His own path, he says, “has been a lifelong journey into language, as if that journey in itself discovered and uncovered the true self. That journey is effectively my poetry.”
Tine Cnámh. Sáirseál Ó Marcaigh, Dublin 1984.
Díalann Bóthair. Gallery Press, Oldcastle 1992.
Walking Time. Cló Iar-Chonnachta, Galway 2000.
Danta Déanta. Cois Life, Dublin 2005.
An Seileitleán agus véarsaí seilí eilí. Cois Life, Dublin 2005.
An Peann Coitiante. Comhar, Dublin 1992.
An Peann Coitiante 2. Cois Life, Dublin 1997.
Ar An bPeann. Cois Life, Dublin 2005.
Ar Bhruach na Laoi. Comhar, Dublin 1995.
Gaothán. Cois Life, Dublin 2000.
Sister Elizabeth ag eitilt. Cois Life, Dublin 2005.
Tine Chnámh. Sáirséal Ó Marcaigh, Dublin 1984. Revised and adapted for stage by Liam Ó Muirthile and Michael Scott.
Fear an Tae. Cois Life, Dublin 1999.
Liodán na hAbhann. Cois Life, Dublin 2001.
Irish Writers Online
The Gallery Press
One of Ó Muirthile’s publishers.
Irish emigré’s website.