O’Shaughnessy Award for Irish Poetry

The Lawrence M. O’Shaughnessy Award for Poetry, established in 1997, is presented annually to a contemporary Irish poet by the Center for Irish Studies at the University of St. Thomas. The award is named for Lawrence O’Shaughnessy, who taught English at St. Thomas from 1948 to 1950, served on the university’s board of trustees and headed the I.A. O’Shaughnessy Foundation. This internationally noted award (which includes a $5,000.00 cash prize) is presented each April, and every year The Friends has proudly co-sponsored a series of public events featuring the O’Shaughnessy Award-winning poets. Most of the readings or other events occur on the St. Paul campus of the University of St. Thomas or in one of the branches of the Saint Paul Public Library.

O’Shaughnessy Award Winners

Katie Donovan – 2017

Katie DonovanDublin-based poet Katie Donovan will receive the O’Shaughnessy Poetry Award in April.  Her free public reading, which will follow a week of classroom visits and public appearances, will be on Friday, April 21, 2017 at 7:30 p.m. in the auditorium of John Roach Center at the University of St. Thomas.

Donovan, born 1962, grew up on a farm in County Wexford, and was educated at Trinity College Dublin and at UC Berkeley. She spent a year in Hungary teaching English before returning to Ireland to work as a journalist withthe Irish Times. She has published five poetry collections, all with the British publisher Bloodaxe. Currently she works as an Amatsu practitioner and has taught creative writing at the Institute of Art, Design and Technology in Dun Laoghaire. She is widowed and has two children.

Her books include Watermelon Man, Entering the Mare, Day of the Dead, Rootling: New and Selected Poems, and most recently, Off Duty, a collection that focuses on the year in which her husband died of throat cancer.

“Deep Heart’s Core: Poetry & Mystery”

Join O’Shaughnessy Award-winning Irish poet Katie Donovan and local writer James Lenfestey for a conversation about their craft and the influence of the great mysterious in poetry. Presented with the Center for Irish Studies at the University of St. Thomas.

Journalist and poet James P. Lenfestey was born and raised in De Pere, Wisconsin, and educated at Dartmouth College. In 1974, he discovered the work of T’ang poet Han-shan, or Cold Mountain, whose poems offer both thematic and formal inspiration for Lenfestey’s concise, image-driven poetry. He is the author of several poetry collections, including A Cartload of Scrolls: 100 Poems in the Manner of T’ang Dynasty Poet Han-Shan and Into the Goodhue County Jail: Poems to Free Prisoners, the essay collection The Urban Coyote: Howlings on Family, Community and the Search for Peace and Quiet, and a haibun volume of interwoven poetry and prose, Seeking the Cave: A Pilgrimage to Cold Mountain, a Minnesota Book Award finalist.

During his career as a journalist, Lenfestey served as an editorial writer for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, where he received three Page One Awards for excellence in journalism. He chairs the Literary Witnesses poetry program in Minneapolis.


Tom French – 2016

Poet Tom French of County Meath, Ireland, received the twentieth annual Lawrence O’Shaughnessy Award for Poetry of the University of St. Thomas Center for Irish Studies.

Tom French was born in Kilkenny in 1966 and raised in Tipperary. He lives close to the coast of County Meath with his wife and family. He is a graduate of the University of Limerick and works in the Local Studies department of the Meath County Library Service. He received bursaries in literature from An Chomhairle Ealaíon/The Arts Council, Ireland in 1999 and 2009. His collections are Touching the Bones (2001, Forward Prize for Best First Collection 2002), The Fire Step (2009) and Midnightstown (2014) all published by the Gallery Press. He edited A Meath Anthology  (Meath County Library Service) in 2010. His poem “West” was awarded the Dermot Healy International Poetry Prize in 2015, and his e-chapbooks ‘The Night Ahead’ (2013) and ‘Taking the Oath’ (2015) are published by www.smithereenspress.com. A fourth collection ‘The Way to Work’ will be published by the Gallery Press in 2016.


Paula Meehan – 2015

Poet Paula Meehan of Dublin, Ireland, received the 19th annual O’Shaughnessy Award. She is the current holder of the Ireland Chair of Poetry funded by the arts councils of both Ireland and Northern Ireland. All are invited to hear Meehan read from her work at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, April 24, in the O’Shaughnessy Educational Center auditorium on the University of St. Thomas’s Saint Paul campus.

Meehan was born in 1955 in Dublin, Ireland, where she still lives today. She studied at Trinity College, Dublin, and at Eastern Washington University in Cheney, WA. 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, with the most recent being Dharmakaya (2002) and Painting Rain (2009). She has conducted many residencies in universities, prisons, and in the wider community. Her poems and plays have been translated into many languages, including Irish.

Catherine Phil MacCarthy – 2014

Poet Catherine Phil MacCarthy of Dublin, received the eighteenth annual Lawrence O’Shaughnessy Award for Poetry. She was born in County Limerick in 1954. She has been a full-time writer since 1999, and is frequent teacher and workshop leader at schools and festivals throughout Ireland. Her previous honors include being a prizewinner in the 1992 Patrick Kavanagh Award for a first collection; the Fish International Poetry Prize in 2010; and multiple awards from the Irish Arts Council. She completed an artist’s residency at Centre Culturel Irlandais in Paris in Spring 2013.

She is the author of four collections of poetry, This Hour of the Tide (1994), published by Salmon Press;  the blue globe (1998) and Suntrap (2007), both from Blackstaff Press; and The Invisible Threshold, (Dedalus Press 2012). She is also the author of a novel, One Room an Everywhere (Blackstaff, 2003).

Leontia Flynn – 2013

Poet Leontia Flynn of Belfast, Northern Ireland, received the 17th annual Lawrence O’Shaughnessy Award for Poetry of the University of St. Thomas Center for Irish Studies. Leontia Flynn was born in County Down in Northern Ireland in 1974. She won an Eric Gregory award for younger poets in 2001 and her first book of poems, These Days (Jonathan Cape, 2004), won the Forward prize for best first collection, and was shortlisted for the Whitbread Poetry Prize. On the basis of her first book, she also was named one of 20 “Next Generation” poets by the Poetry Book Society in Britain.

The critic Fran Brearton, a co-editor of the Oxford Handbook of Modern Irish Poetry, has said of Flynn that her “humor, her ability to entertain, and her astute powers of observation are wonderful gifts. She is one of the most original and accomplished poets of her generation; her voice is distinctive, and her technique as lightly and deftly carried as her learning.”

Gerard Smyth – 2012

The 2012 O’Shaughnessy’ Poetry Award honoree, Gerard Smyth, was born in Dublin in 1951. He has been publishing poetry in literary journals in Ireland, Britain and North America since the late 1960s. He is the author of six poetry collections: World Without End (New Writers’ Press, 1977), Loss and Gain (Raven Arts Press, 1981), Painting the Pink Roses Black (Dedalus, 1986), Daytime Sleeper (Dedalus, 2002), which also appeared in a Romanian translation in 2003, A New Tenancy (2004) and The Mirror Tent (2007). His most recent collection, The Fullness of Time: New and Selected Poems, was published in April 2010. Click here to visit his website.

“Gerry Smyth is a poet of the mundane and the mysterious, a poet of the everyday and also of the eternal.” – Dennis O’Driscoll

Leanne O’Sullivan – 2011

Leanne O’Sullivan is the recipient of the 15th annual Lawrence O’Shaughnessy Award for Poetry presented by the University of St. Thomas Center for Irish Studies. Born in Cork, Ireland in 1983, Leanne O’Sullivan had her first collection Waiting for my Clothes published when she was just 21 years of age. She has been writing poetry since she was 12, and began writing poems not thinking they would ever form part of a book, but ‘writing down the reasons one should live for’ and ‘becoming addicted to looking at things to find the beauty in them.’ Poet Billy Collins writes of O’Sullivan, “A [young] Virgil, she guides us down some of the more hellish corridors of adolescence with a voice that is strong and true. For that alone, she deserves our full attention.”

Her work has been included in various anthologies, including Best Irish Poetry 2010 (Southword Publishing), Selina Guinness’s The New Irish Poets (Bloodaxe Books, 2004) and Billy Collins’s Poetry 180: A Turning Back to Poetry (Random House, 2003). Her latest collection is Cailleach: The Hag of Beara published by Bloodaxe (2009).

Theo Dorgan – 2010

In 2010, Irish poet Theo Dorgan of Dublin received the 14th annual Lawrence O’Shaughnessy Award for Poetry. Theo Dorgan was born in Cork, Ireland, in 1953 and now lives in Dublin. His poetry collections include The Ordinary House of Love (Salmon, 1991); Rosa Mundi (Salmon, 1995); Sappho’s Daughter (Wave Train, 1998); What This Earth Cost Us (Dedalus, 2008); and Greek (Dedalus, 2010). He has had a lengthy career as a broadcaster of literary programs on both radio and television, as a presenter of “Poetry Now” on Irish radio, and as the host of the book program “Imprint” on the Irish national television station.

Mary O’Malley – 2009

In 2009, Irish poet Mary O’Malley of County Galway received the 13th annual Lawrence O’Shaughnessy Award for Irish Poetry from the University of St. Thomas Center for Irish Studies. O’Malley was born in Connemara and educated at University College, Galway. Her poems have been translated into several languages. She travels and lectures widely in Europe and the U.S., and lives in the Moycullen Gaeltacht, County Galway. To celebrate the award, Mary O’Malley read from her work at the John Roach Center for the Liberal Arts on the University of St. Thomas’ Saint Paul campus.

Pat Boran – 2008

The winner of the 12th annual award, Pat Boran is a poet, fiction writer, publisher and radio broadcaster. He was born in Portlaoise in 1963 and currently lives in Dublin. He has published four collections of poetry: The Unwound Clock (1990), which won the Patrick Kavanagh Poetry Award, Familiar Things (1993), The Shape of Water (1996) and As the Hand, the Glove (2001). His New and Selected Poems was first published by Salt Publishing, UK, in 2005 and reissued by Dedalus in 2007. In addition to poetry, he has published a collection of short stories, Strange Bedfellows (1991) and a fiction title for children, All the Way from China (1999) which was shortlisted for the Bisto Book of the Year Award. His non-fiction works include the popular writers’ handbook The Portable Creative Writing Workshop (1999), reissued in a revised and expanded edition in 2005, and A Short History of Dublin (2000).

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, and Seán Lysaght.