Leontia Flynn was born in County Down in 1974 and currently lives in Belfast. After taking her MA at Edinburgh, she completed her PhD on the poetry of Medbh McGuckian at Queen’s in Belfast in 2004, joining her subject in the distinguished list of poets associated with the University since the 1960s. Flynn was awarded an Eric Gregory award in 2001, helping her to complete her first collection, These Days, for which she won the Forward Prize for Best First Collection.
These Days is an accomplished and lively debut, brimming with humour and hints of mischief while serious in its overall intent. Its landscape is that of shiftless youth, rented flats, bread-and-butter jobs and millennial angst. Age is a preoccupation throughout, the characters all attempting to ‘become’, as the poet too tries out various stances. In her formal facility and casual allusiveness, a discernible point of reference for Flynn is perhaps Paul Muldoon, who looms large as the most significant influence on many younger poets in the UK and Ireland. The poet herself has pointed to Denise Riley’s poem ‘Shantung’ as important, noting that individual poems rather than poets often serve as the best trail-blazes on the journey of a young writer.
Flynn’s easy wit and tonal sure-footedness allow a more playful engagement with the daunting Northern Irish tradition than some of her contemporaries, as in ‘When I Was Sixteen I Met Seamus Heaney’: “I had read the The Poor Mouth – but who was Seamus Heaney? / I believe he signed my bus ticket, which I later lost.” As her “dream mentor” puts it in one poem, “If you can fashion something with a file in it for the academics / to hone their malicious nails on – you’re minted. / And another thing, don’t write about anything you can point at.”
In 2005, Flynn was included in the Poetry Book Society’s “Next Generation” promotion, underlining the fact that she is a new talent to watch in the field of UK and Irish poetry, within which the poetry of Northern Ireland continues play a significant role.
These Days, Jonathan Cape, London, 2004
Interview with Leontia Flynn
Leontia Flynn on proverbs