Irish Poet Leanne O'Sullivan to Receive 15th O'Shaughnessy Award for Poetry

Irish poet Leanne O’Sullivan will receive the 15th annual Lawrence O'Shaughnessy Award for Poetry of the University of St. Thomas Center for Irish Studies.

Leanne O'Sullivan

Leanne O'Sullivan

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 recently retired as head of the I.A. O'Shaughnessy Foundation. The award will be presented in private ceremonies on Tuesday, April 12.

O’Sullivan will make two public speaking appearances. She will read from her work at 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 15, in the auditorium of the John R. Roach Center for the Liberal Arts 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.

In addition to her St. Thomas appearance, O’Sullivan will take part in a public conversation with local poet Katrina Vandenberg, “The Personal and the Mythic: Poetry and Stories.” The event begins at 7 p.m. Monday, April 11, at the Hamline Midway Branch Library Auditorium, 1558 W. Minnehaha, St. Paul.

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

Vandenberg is the author of The Alphabet Not Unlike the World and Atlas: Poems, both published by Milkweed Editions. Her essays and poems have appeared in numerous national and regional journals, including The American Scholar, Poetry Daily, The Southern Review and Orion. Vandenberg is the recipient of many awards, including a Bush Artist Fellowship, a Loft-McKnight Award, a Minnesota State Arts Board grant.    

Leanne O’Sullivan was born on the Beara Peninsula in southwestern Ireland in 1983, and now lives in the city of Cork. Her poetry collections are Waiting for My Clothes and Cailleach: The Hag of Beara, both published by Bloodaxe Books. Her work has been included in various anthologies, including Selina Guinness' The New Irish Poets and Billy Collins's Poetry 180: A Turning Back to Poetry. Previous honors include the 2010 Rooney Prize for Irish Literature, presented by the United States Ambassador to Ireland, and the 2009 Ireland Chair of Poetry bursary. 

O’Sullivan’s first collection, Waiting for My Clothes, appeared when she was 21. Former United States poet laureate Billy Collins said of that book: “What is remarkable about Leanne O'Sullivan is not that she is so young but that she dares to write about exactly what it is to be young. A teenaged Virgil, she guides us down some of the more hellish corridors of adolescence with a voice that is strong and true.”

Her second book, Cailleach: The Hag of Beara, marked a significant turning away from the confessional character of her early work and focused instead on a figure from Irish myth. Nessa Mahony, writing in the Irish Times, said of that book that O’Sullivan was taking a journey into “the furrows of Irish mythology in her exploration of the eternal feminine … . O’Sullivan’s vision continues to be deeply romantic in its trust that nature is a panacea for human suffering; these poems catch one’s breath with their exquisite rendering of the Irish landscape.”