About Vona Groarke

Vona Groarke is one of the leading Irish poets of her generation. Born in Mostrim, Ireland, she studied at Trinity College, Dublin and University College, Cork. She has held positions at Villanova and Wake Forest Universities in the USA, and she is currently Senior Lecturer in Poetry at the Centre for New Writing at Manchester University. In 2014, she was appointed editor of Poetry Ireland Review. She has been the recipient of many prizes and grants, including the Brendan Behan Memorial Prize for her first collection, Shale (1994), and the Michael Hartnett Award for Flight (2002), which was also shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best Collection. The author of one translation, Lament of Art O'Leary (from the eighteenth century Irish classic of Eibhlín Dubh Ní Chonaill), and six poetry collections, Groarke's latest book, X, was published by Gallery Press in early 2014.

Groarke's poems often move outwards from close, scrupulous attention to small objects, natural phenomena, and individual words. Her poem “Bodkin”, for example, available to listen to on the site, begins by identifying “bodkin” (which can be taken to refer to an arrowhead, one of the fourteen tribes of Galway, and a sewing needle) as “a word from a dream, or several, spiked on it / like old receipts”. From this starting point, Groarke teases out the sonic and semantic suggestiveness of the word, unfolding a dense and playful litany of imagined meanings from it, from the frivolous - “a bobbin spinning like a backroad drunken bumpkin” - to the politically charged - “a Balkan / fairy story, all broken bones poked inside out”. It demonstrates that the experiences offered by Groarke's poems are often “something beginning with slightness / and possibly taken from there”, as she puts it in “The Verb 'to herringbone'”. Her first book opened with a quotation from the American poet Elizabeth Bishop, and Groarke's precise poems are, at times, Bishop-like in their reticence, mystery and power.

Her work often focuses on the difficulties of being an Irish poet abroad, obliquely interrogating questions of belonging, nationality and shared history. These questions are addressed in various forms, from meditations upon her distance from her family, as in “Away” (“I Skype and Skype / and no one answers”), to garrulous satirical pieces, such as “An American Jay”, which gives an account of “spinning channels between the election and Iraq” before switching to “an Anglophile mid-morning with the Kumars // or All Creatures Great and Small”. The caution and care of her poems overlay a complex and witty engagement with historical and political contexts, as demonstrated by works like “Imperial Measure” and “To Smithereens”.

This recording demonstrates the distinctiveness and subtlety of Groarke's music. It shows how central the cadences of spoken language are to all of her work, and reinforce the impression the poems create on the page: that each piece is an intimate communication with its reader. In their generous spareness, they present us all with the gift Groarke offers up to her daughter in “Going Out”: “a new arrangement by, and for, you.”

 

Other People's Houses, Gallery Press, 1999.

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Flight and Earlier Poems, Wake Forest University Press,...

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Shale, Gallery Press, 1994.

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Flight, Gallery Press, April 2002.

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Juniper Street, Gallery Press, March 2006.

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Spindrift, Gallery Press, 1 September 2009.

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X, Gallery Press, 27 February 2014.

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Prizes

Sunday Tribune / Hennessy Awards for Poetry 1993

New Irish Writer of the Year 1993

Brendan Behan Memorial Prize for Shale

Shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best Collection 2002 for Flight

Michael Hartnett Award for Flight

Shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best Single Poem published in 2003-2004

Recordings

Vona Groarke

Vona Groarke Downloads

1An Teach Tui

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2Around the Houses

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3Aubade

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4Away (1)

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5Away

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6Bodkin

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7Bournemouth

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8Desire

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9Family

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10For the Unkempt House

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11from Lament for Art O' Leary

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12Ghosts

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13Glaze

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14Going Out

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15Horses

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16Imperial Measure

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17Indoors

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18Is It Time

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19Islands

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20La Route

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21Maize

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22Monet's Palette, Musee Marmottan

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23Pier

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24Some Weather

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25The Annotated House

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26The Clutch Handbag

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27The Lighthouse

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28The Riverbed

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29To Smithereens

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30Tonight of Yesterday

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31Veneer

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32White Noise

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Books by Vona Groarke