Leontia Flynn


1974- ; b. Downpatrick, 27 Dec.; grew up in Ballyloughlin, Co. Down; entered TCD for one year; continued English at QUB; grad. MA in English, Edinburgh Univ., where she read the Northern Irish poets; completed a dissertation on Mebdh McGuckian at QUB (“Reading Medbh McGuckian”, 2004); winner of Gregory Award, 2001; issued These Days (2004), winner of Forward Prize for Best First Collection; writer in residence, Princess Grace Irish Library (Monaco), 2005; appt. Temp. Lect. at Univ. of Ulster, 2005; included in Poetry Book Society’s “Next Generation” presentation, 2005;
issued Drives (2008), in the form of postcards home to Belfast from foreign cities; winner of Forward Prize for Best Collection and shortlisted for the Whitbread Prize and winner of Rooney Prize, 2008; broadcast her view of Belfast on The Essay (BBC3), 14 May 2009; her collection Profit and Loss (2011) recommended by Poetry Society, and shortlisted for T. S. Eliot Poetry Prize; issued Reading Medbh McGuckian (2014), a critical study; she is published by Cape Poetry; married with a daughter; lives in Belfast and holds post-doctoral Research Fellowship at the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry (QUB); awarded The Irish Times Irish Poetry Now Award, March 2010.

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  • These Days (London: Jonathan Cape 2004), 64pp.;
  • Drives (London: Jonathan Cape 2008), 57pp.;
  • Profit and Loss [Cape Poetry] (London: Cape 2011), 58pp. [see COPAC notice - infra].
  • The Radio (London: Jonathan Cape 2017).
  • Reading Medbh McGuckian (IAP 2014) [see note];
  • ‘Re-assembling the Atom: Reading Medbh McGuckian’s Intertextual Materials’ in The Poetry of Medbh McGuckian, ed. Shane Alcobia-Murphy & Richard Kirkland (Cork UP 2010) [q.pp.];

Note: Reading Medbh McGuckian (2014), launched by Irish Academic Press in No Alibis Bookstore, Belfast, Wed. 30th April 2014; previously a PhD dissertation as L. M. Flynn, “Reading Medbh McGuckian” (Belfast: QUB 2004) - available at the British Library on World Wide Web.

Anthologies: Joan McBreen, The Watchful Heart: A New Generation of Irish Poets - Poems & Essays (Moher: Salmonpoetry 1009) [q.pp.] contrib. ‘Out’, to Granta: The Magazine of New Writing, ed., Sigrid Rausing [Iss. 135: New Irish Writing], (Spring 2016).

[ Her 15-min. BBC broadcast on Belfast was available on podcast (14-20th May 2009) ].

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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; Fran Brearton, review of Profit and Loss, in The Guardian (2 Sept. 2011) - available online; Erin C. Mitchell, ‘“To Sift / Through Old Boxes of Junk I’ve Kept”: Leontia Flynn’s Gifts of Museums’, in New Hibernia Review, 18, 2 (Summer 2014), pp.110-20; John MacAuliffe, ‘Serious about the butt of her jokes’, review of The Radio, in The Irish Times (18 Nov. 2017) - available online.

See also Ben Wilkinson, ‘Critical Perspective: Leontia Flynn’ at Contemporary Writers website: ‘The eminent poet-critic Tom Paulin has described Leontia Flynn’s poetry as “smart as a whip, lyrical, always on point the real, right thing”, and, given the freewheeling originality and assuredness of her debut collection, These Days (2004), it is hard to dissent from such a verdict. [...’ &c. - online; accessed 02.03.2011.]

Interview with Leontia Flynn at Culture Northern Ireland
—When did you first fall in love with poetry?
—I don’t recall a watershed moment. I remember a Robert Louis Stevenson poem from Primary Three, and poems like “The Highwayman” from later school anthologies. Then when I was 14 I spent the whole summer writing nonsense poems, which seemed vitally necessary at the time. By the time I was 16 and starting Philip Larkin for A level it had happened gradually. Then I really fell for Larkin. (sixteen year old school girl falls for Philip Larkin all wrong, but unlike him I was ready to commit )
Go online or see copy - as attached.
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Fran Brearton, review of Drive in Tower Poetry (in 2009): ‘[...] Flynn’s is one of the most strikingly original and exciting poetic voices to have emerged from Northern Ireland since the extraordinary debut by [Paul] Muldoon 35 years ago. [...] refreshing in a Northern Irish poetic tradition at risk of taking itself as seriously as it has been taken by its critics. There is a different kind of risk, therefore, for Flynn in her debut collection too. At first glance, some of the poems seem throw-away, off-hand, brief jottings on the page rather than fully realised poetic achievement. Yet the assurance and skill required to hide those same qualities of assurance and skill is also what gives the ten-line seemingly ephemeral and anecdotal poems scattered across These Days [2004] their depth and originality. In a reversal of strategies adopted by one of her immediate precursors Medbh McGuckian, Flynn makes it seem easy, which, for her readers, can also make it that little bit harder to grasp what she is about. [...]’ (Available at Tower Poetry (Christ Church, Oxford) - online.]

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Frances Leviston, review of Drives by Leontia Flynn, in The Guardian (30 Aug. 2008): ‘Leontia Flynn emerged fully-formed in 2004 with a first collection, These Days, that placed her at the centre of a new wave of Belfast poets - Alan Gillis, Nick Laird, Colette Bryce - who were bearing not only the history of that city but of its poetry with admirable ease. Drives, thankfully, does not break with the rapidly shifting intelligence, wit and fluent manipulation of sound that made These Days such an unexpected pleasure; but it does explore at greater length, and with greater focus, some of the preoccupations that were already powering Flynn’s earlier work. / The “drives” of the neat title are both noun and verb, and refer to the psychological patterns that Flynn sees - with a perhaps pathological sharpness, and a certainly unfashionable interest in Freud - governing her own life and the lives of others, as well as to all the journeys we make, and the means by which we make them, in this increasingly mobile world. [...] This is delicate, circumspect work, the syntax perfectly managed [...]’ (See full-text version in RICORSO Library, “Criticism > Reviews”, via index, or direct.)

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Ben Wilkinson, ‘Critical Perspective: Leontia Flynn’, in Contemporary Writers on the British Council Website. ‘[...] If Flynn attempts to find an answer to this question in Drives, it is through the series of portraits of the lives of other poets and creative artists (reminiscent of those in Michael Hofmann’s Corona, Corona) that are dotted throughout the book. Exploring subjects including Virginia Woolf’s bi-polar disorder and breakdowns, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s alcoholism, and Elizabeth Bishop’s loss of her mother to mental illness and consequent orphaning as a child, these portraits do not shirk from difficult themes and, contrary to first impressions and occasional lapses, succeed in reaffirming the resilience and capability of the individual in the face of considerable adversity. For while in the collection’s title poem, the poet’s mother “isn’t one to assign / meaning to [her children’s] ways, their worlds’ bewildering drives”, Flynn is conversely drawn to exploring the ways in which lives are, can be, and perhaps should be, lived; her poetry often looking for what she calls the “basic wage, take-what-you-get epiphany” wherever it might be found. Her occasionally repetitious subject matter aside, then, Flynn’s lyric abilities and stylistic flair offer the reader fascinating, often darkly comic poetic insight into the human condition and our existential concerns.’ (See further online; accessed 20.06.2011.)

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‘My mother’s car is an estimable motor,

The car in which my mother,
during a morning’s work, will sometimes drive

to Dundrum, Ballykinlar, Seaford, Clough
‘Newcastle’, ‘Castlewellan’, ‘Analomg’.
They drive along the old road and the new road –
my father, in beside her, reads the signs

as they escape him – for now they are empty signs,
now one name means as little as another;
the roads they drive along are fading roads[.]’


—Post by John Field (Cape Poetry) on Poor Rude Lines [blogy] - online; accessed 17.04.2014.

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‘There isn’t much in my life I’d miss if it were over:
the weird cheerful meanness of people to each other,
about pay, status, odd grudges, responsibility;
work’s meaninglessness – but it’s opposite, leisure’s abyss!
a snake coiled in the chest morning after morning …
How do I cope when poetry is part of this bullshit?’


—Quoted in Ben Wilkinson, ‘Critical perspective: Leontia Flynn’ at Contemporary Writers online; accessed 29.11.2010

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See more ...
—as attached.

See more ...
“Don’t Worry”
“The Floppy Disk”
“The Superser”
“My Father’s Language” “Birds in My Story”
as attached.

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Audiolinks ...

Poems by Leontia Flynn at Poet Casting
“These Days”
“The Man With the Hatchet”
[ Downloadable at poetcasting.co.uk ]

Poems from These Days (2004) and Drives (2008) at the Poetry Archive

“For Stuart, who accidentally obtained a job in the Civil Service”
“Without Me”
“The Furthest Distances I’ve Travelled”
“These Days”
“Saturday in the Pool”

—Go online

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Profit and Loss (2011) - summary: ‘Celebrated as an unusually original poet - nervy, refreshing, deceptively simple - Leontia Flynn has quickly developed into a writer of assured technical complexity and a startling acuity of perception. In her third collection, Flynn examines and dismantles a fugitive life. The first sequence moves through a series of rooms, reflecting on aspects of the author’s personal and family history. Using the idea of the haunted house or the house with a sealed-off room, and Gothic tropes of madness, doubles, revenants and religious brooding, the poems consider ideas of inheritance and legacy. The second section comprises a magnificent long poem written in the months leading up to the banking crisis and presidential election of October 2008. Taking as its occasion a flat-clearing, it assumes a more public voice (inspired partly by Auden’s “Letter to Lord Byron”), and reflects on aspects of the rapid social and technological change of the last decade. An extraordinarily moving reflection on mutability and mortality prompted by the spring-cleaning of a life's detritus, “Letter to Friends” evolves from a private reliquary to a public obsequy. Its collapse back into private griefs, including the poet’s father’s decline into Alzheimer’s disease, is pursued in the third section of the book. Here the theme of a tallying of private and public balance sheets, of different kinds of profit and loss, widens to include poems of motherhood and marriage, the possibilities of hope and repair.’ (See COPAC online.)