Peter McDonald

1962- ; b. Belfast (44a Woodview Drive), ed. Methodist College, Belfast, and University College, Oxford (PhD 1987); junior research fellow, Christ Church, Oxford, 1986-1988; fellow and lecturer in English, Pembroke College, Cambridge; selections in Trio Poetry 3 (Belfast: Blackstaff 1982); New Chatto Poets (London: Chatto & Windus 1986); ed., Map-Maker’s Colours: New Poets of Northern Ireland (Montreal, Nu-Age Editions 1988); Newdigate Prize for Poetry, 1983; Eric Gregory Award, 1987;
first full-length collection, Biting the Wax (1989); moved to Univ. of Bristol; new collection, Adam’s Dream (1996); also Louis MacNeice: The Poet in His Contexts (OUP 1990); ed. with Alan Heuser, Selected Plays of Louis MacNeice (1991); appt. to snr. lectureship at Oxford; Mistaken Identities: Poetry and Northern Ireland (1997), criticism, dealing especially with Seamus Heaney, MacNeice, and Mahon; he is an editor of poems of W. B. Yeats, the 3rd vol. (1899-1910) appearing from Routledge in 2023. ORM

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  • with Johnston Kirkpatrick & Trevor McMahon, Trio Poetry, 3 (Belfast: Blackstaff 1982), 59pp..
  • Biting the Wax (Newcastle: Bloodaxe 1989, 1990) [1 85224 077 6].
  • Adam’s Dream (Newcastle: Bloodaxe 1996).
  • The House of Clay (Manchester: Carcanet 2006), 71pp.
  • Hermes the Hunter (2016)
Critical monographs
  • Louis MacNeice, the Poet in His Contexts (OUP 1991).
  • Mistaken Identities: Poetry and Northern Ireland (OUP 1997), 240pp.
  • Serious Poetry: Form and Authority from Yeats to Hill (OUP 2002), 225pp.
Articles, &c.
  • ‘Seamus Heaney as Critic’, in Poetry in Contemporary Irish Literature ed., Michael Kenneally [Studies in Contemporary Irish Literature 2] (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe, 1995), pp.174-89.
  • ‘History and Poetry: Derek Mahon and Tom Paulin’, in Contemporary Irish Poetry: A Collection of Critical Essays, ed. Elmer Andrews (Macmillan 1996), pp.86-106.
  • Ed., The Poems of W. B. Yeats, 1899-1910 (London: Routledge 2023), 474pp. [available at Taylor Francis - online; accessed 16.11.2023]
  • ed., with Alan Heuser, Selected Plays of Louis MacNeice (Clarendon Press 1994).
Reviews (sel.)
  • review of Early Poetry; Wild Swans; Michael Robartes; Winding Stair [Cornell UP ‘Manuscript Materials’], in Irish Literary Supplement, 27 Sept. 1996.
  • review of Keith Alldritt, W. B. Yeats: The Man and the Milieu, and Stephen Coote, W. B. Yeats: A Life, in Times Literary Supplement (9 Sept. 1997), p.26.
  • [...]
  • [recent TLS review of new letters of Louis MacNeice, ed. Allison].


Elmer Kennedy-Andrews, ‘New Voices (Peter McDonald, Sinead Morrissey, Alan Gillis and Leontia Flynn)’, in Writing Home: Poetry and Place in Northern Ireland, 1968-2008 (Woodbridge: D. S. Brewer 2008), pp.249-86.

Adam Kirsch, ‘Formal Complaints’, review of Serious Poetry: Form and Authority from Yeats to Hill (OUP), 225pp., in Times Literary Supplement (29 Nov. 2002), p.6; Fiona Sampson, review of The House of Clay, in The Irish Times (3 March 2007), Weekend, p.13 [‘a writer of range as well as subtlety’].


The Thread”: How slightly, twenty years ago, / I managed to construe the girl / I met three times, or twice, then so / awkwardly flirted with, by proxy, / dispatching printed poems of mine / whose frail and thin-spun lines / took scarcely any weight (I see / that much), carried no weight at all. // In a bored moment, by sheer chance, / news of her death crosses my eyes, / and minutes pass while I realise / that now, at this distance, / I can’t so much as picture her, / feeling for the least snag or pull / in a line that’s barely visible, / and slighter than a thread of hair.’ (Times Literary Supplement, 20 Aug. 2004, p.4.)


A little squeal, and then the sound
of a spring being tightly wound
in on itself, is all there is
at first, a sudden note and whizz-
whir coming from the bunched-up grass,
but maybe as the minutes pass
and you lie still, you start to see
a round bird moving clumsily,
all body, getting ready now
to risk the air, and chance a low
flight that will take it further out
from the covey: as if in doubt,
and happier with the ground below,
it hesitates; it doesn’t go.

—from Hermes the Hunter (2106); printed by Tom ’Evelyn with commentary [online] 01.05.2016).

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Patrick Crotty, ed., Modern Irish Poetry: An Anthology (Belfast: Blackstaff Press 1995), selects “Sunday in Great Tew” [416]; “Peacetime” [419]


Kitsch-friendly: reviewing Keith Alldritt, W. B. Yeats (1997), and Stephen Coote, W. B. Yeats (1997), in Times Literary Supplement (19 Sept. 1997), MacDonald remarks on a kind of ‘kitsch reader-friendliness’ of the one, and a digression in the other based on the mistranscription of ‘Kent’ for ‘Kew’ in Denis Donoghue’s edn. of the Memoirs; ‘it is worth remembering that biography, practised in this way, is as happy dealing in fictions as in facts.’

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