Image by Caroline Forbes

Ian Duhig

b. 1954

I do mock literature and take it seriously at the same time, but anyone who is passionately attached to a football team will have similar mixed feelings - Ian Duhig

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About Ian Duhig

Ian Duhig (b. 1954) was the eighth of eleven children born to Irish parents with a liking for poetry. He has won the National Poetry Competition twice, and also the Forward Prize for Best Poem; his collection, The Lammas Hireling, was the Poetry Book Society's Choice for Summer 2003, and was shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize and Forward Prize for Best Collection. Chosen as a New Generation Poet in 1994, he has received Arts Council and Cholmondeley Awards, and has held various Royal Literary Fund fellowships at universities including Lancaster, Durham, Newcastle and his own alma mater, Leeds.

His poetry is open to a multiplicity of subjects, from Apollinaire to Yorkshire pudding, from string vests to sutras; he has a particular gift for ignoring barriers between subjects that could be thought to be distinct. Thus 'Paschal Anthem' revels in the detail that Lent once ended with ceremonies to ridicule the herring, combining the studious discovery of that fact with the less than glamorous fish. This poem is also written to the tune of 'The Shoals of Herring' by Ewan MacColl, which - although Duhig does not sing it - shows his mastery of metrical demands, as does 'There is No Rose of Such Virtue', a hymn to "Our Lady of Atheists" inspired by experiences of Cumbria during a foot-and-mouth outbreak.

While involved in social work, he encouraged people, whether homeless or suffering from addiction, to help themselves through poetry; this period informs 'Chocolate Soldier', where a famous folk music club in York, next to Duhig's hostel for the homeless, barred everyone connected to the hostel - while "singing songs like 'I am a jolly beggarman'". The grim humour of that is a recurrent note. 'Fundamentals', for example, is a dramatic monologue packed with irony in which a missionary attempts to convert a reluctant crowd to a polite, colonial Christianity.

Duhig ensures he mentions any knowledge that is necessary to these poems, whether it is the Hiroshima setting of 'From the Plague Journal', or the Suibhne reference in 'Margin Prayer from an Ancient Psalter', and reads the poems in a gravelly tone that accentuates the music and feeling of each. This is true to his description of poetry, in an interview with Lidia Vianu, as "the alchemy of mind and heart".

His recording was made on 6 February 2003 at The Audio Workshop, London and was produced by Richard Carrington.

Ian Duhig's Favourite Poetry Saying:

"Only those who are lost in error follow the poets." - Qur'an 26.224, trans. M.A.S. Abdel Haleem

Additional material and useful links

Weekend workshop with Ian Duhig: Sisters Hand in Hand. Poetry and song.

Weekend workshop with Ian Duhig: Sisters Hand in Hand. Poetry and song. Stones Barn, Roweltown, Cumbria. 13-15 September, 2013. Cost £190. For more information or to book click on the link above.

Selected bibliography

Pandorama, Picador 2010

The Speed of Dark, Picador 2007


The Nightwatchgirl of the Moon (editor), ILF Books 1998...


One, an anthology of new Yorkshire writers (editor), ILF...

The Lammas Hireling, Picador 2003


Nominies, Bloodaxe 1998 - out of print


The Mersey Goldfish, Bloodaxe 1994 - out of print

The Bradford Count, Bloodaxe 1991 - out of print


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