Irish Poet Paula Meehan to Receive 19th O’Shaughnessy Award for Poetry

Poet Paula Meehan of Dublin, Ireland, will receive the 19th annual Lawrence O'Shaughnessy Award for Poetry from the University of St. Thomas Center for Irish Studies.

Paula Meehan

Paula Meehan

Meehan, who is the current holder of the Ireland Chair of Poetry funded by the arts councils of both Ireland and Northern Ireland, will read from her work 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 24, in the auditorium of the O’Shaughnessy Educational Center on St. Thomas' St. Paul campus.

The reading, free and open to the public, will cap a week of events, classroom visits and public appearances by the poet.

Meehan will take part in a public conversation with Minnesota poet laureate Joyce Sutphen on Wednesday, April 22. The event, titled “Home by Starlight: Poets in Conversation,” begins at 7 p.m. at the Merriam Park Branch Library, 1831 Marshall Ave.

Sutphen was named Minnesota’s second poet laureate in August 2011. She is a widely published poet whose book Naming the Stars (2004) won the Minnesota Book Award for Poetry. She has many Irish connections as well, including participation in the Yeats Summer School in Sligo and at the John Hewitt School in Armagh.

Both events are co-sponsored by the Friends of the St. Paul Public Library, a nonprofit group that advocates for the library.

Meehan also will attend a reception at noon Thursday, April 23, in the Luann Dummer Center for Women where she will give an informal talk and answer questions.

The $5,000 O'Shaughnessy Award for Poetry, established in 1997, honors Irish poets. The award is named for Lawrence O'Shaughnessy, who taught English at St. Thomas from 1948 to 1950, formerly served on the university's Board of Trustees, and is the retired head of the I.A. O'Shaughnessy Foundation.

Meehan was born in 1955 in Dublin, where she still lives. She studied at Trinity College, Dublin, and at Eastern Washington University in the United States. She has received many awards, including the Marten Toonder Award for Literature, the Butler Literary Award for Poetry, the Denis Devlin Memorial Award and the PPI Award for Radio Drama.

She has published five collections of poetry, the most recent being Dharmakaya (2002) and Painting Rain (2009). A selected volume, titled Mysteries of the Home, was published in 1996 and has been re-issued by Dedalus Press. She has conducted many residencies in universities, in prisons, in the wider community, and her poems and plays have been translated into many languages, including Irish.

Her writing for stage includes the plays Mrs. Sweeney (1997), Cell (1999) and several plays for children. Her poetry has been set to music by artists as diverse as the avant-garde composer John Wolf Brennan and the folksinger Christy Moore. She has collaborated throughout her working life with dancers, visual artists and filmmakers. Meehan is a member of Aosdána, the Irish affiliation of writers and artists.

At the time of her selection as Ireland Professor of Poetry in 2014, the Irish Times wrote: “If Yeats and Heaney are the standard bearers, raising poetry into public consciousness, Meehan is among the pivotal poets whose grace notes enhance an art that is our jewel in the crown.”

Previous winners of the O'Shaughnessy Award are Eavan Boland, John F. Deane, Peter Sirr, Louis de Paor, Moya Cannon, Frank Orsmby, Thomas McCarthy, Michael Coady, Kerry Hardie, Dennis O’Driscoll, Seán Lysaght, Pat Boran, Mary O’Malley, Theo Dorgan, Leanne O’Sullivan, Gerard Smyth, Leontia Flynn and Catherine Phil MacCarthy.

For more information, please contact Jim Rogers, director of the Center for Irish Studies, at (651) 962-5662 or