Nigel McLoughlin

b. 1968


The composition stage of the poem is not finished until I am satisfied with how the poem works in the mouth and in the ear as well as in relation to its imagery and its meaning.

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About Nigel McLoughlin

Nigel McLoughlin was born in Enniskillen in 1968. In 2005 he moved to take up post at the University of Gloucestershire where he is now Professor of Creativity & Poetics. He has published five poetry collections and written many contributions to creative writing pedagogy.

McLoughlin's poetic output marks him as an intensely nuanced poet of place. His most striking poetry, written while living in the lakelands of Fermanagh or on the West Coast of Donegal, connects experiences of family, memory, politics and history. His fourth collection, Dissonances, earned great critical acclaim, presenting these thematic concerns in four distinct sections, each with different challenges for the reader. In each part of the book readers encounter variations on the tightly crafted lyric that characterises McLoughlin’s work, described by one reviewer as “a series of Polaroids… Lyrical moments in time” (Rachel Green, When the Dogs Bite).

In an essay McLoughlin discusses how “the composition stage of the poem is not finished until I am satisfied with how the poem works in the mouth and in the ear as well as in relation to its imagery and its meaning”. For him, the writing process is one of close attunement to the emotional effect of the line in relation to content, sometimes working these elements disparately to create unexpected effects.

Through this attention to poetry’s spoken qualities, McLoughlin presents a version of Ireland rich with Yeats’ mythic history, where political violence and family love are inseparable from the green, contested landscape where human dramas play out. Yet, as Michael S. Begnal notes, “McLoughlin is not content to endlessly reiterate the standard rural pieties that we are now all so familiar with” (Eyewear). Against this familiarity readers encounter a layer of philosophical questioning, regarding the power of language, of poetry, to affect and represent the world.

As well as guest editing and reviewing for a number of literary journals, McLoughlin is Editor of Iota magazine. In 2002 he co-edited Breaking the Skin: Twenty-First Century Irish Writing (Black Mountain Press, 2002). Across his editorial roles, McLoughlin has shown a commitment to giving space to new voices, to expanding the canon of Irish literary traditions, and of the many traditions of poetry in English.

The selection for the Poetry Archive samples work from across his career. You’ll find poems drawing on mythic songs relating to Amergin alongside the explosive shapes of ‘Shrapnel’ poems like ‘News’. Holding together this broad technical display, McLoughlin’s voice is a delight, rich with roots that stretch deeply into the poet’s sense of home.

Nigel McLoughlin's Favourite Poetry Sayings

"The struggle to organise movement, to organise sounds around oneself, discovering their intrinsic nature, their peculiarities, is one of the most important constants of the work of the poet: laying in rhythmic supplies. I don't know if the rhythm exists outside me or only inside me - more probably inside. But there must be a jolt to awaken it; in the same way as the sound of a violin, any violin, provokes a buzz in the guts of the piano." - Vladimir Mayakovsky

Selected bibliography

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Prizes

Hennessey Prize, shortlisted, 1999, 2001

Kavanagh Prize, 2000

A tour of the Archive with Andrew Motion

My short tour of the Poetry Archive is designed to show its range, as well as the strength-in-depth of its holdings...

Featured Guided Tours


Books & cds by Nigel McLoughlin