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The Lawrence O’Shaughnessy Award for Poetry was established at the University of St. Thomas in 1997 to honour outstanding Irish poets. The prize honours both the literary achievement of the poet and their contribution to the community of writers in Ireland. Previous recipients of the award include celebrated Irish writers such as, Paula Meehan (2015), Dermot Bolger (2021) and Jessica Traynor (2023).

We are proud to announce that the recipient of the 2024 Lawrence O’Shaughnessy Award for Poetry is Ulster University alumnus, Gerald Dawe. Gerald is the 28th recipient of the Lawrence O’Shaughnessy Prize for Poetry and will be celebrated at a reception at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota on 12 May, 2024.

Gerald was born in Belfast in 1952 and lives in County Dublin. He is Professor of English and Fellow Emeritus of Trinity College Dublin where he was the founder director of the Trinity Oscar Wilde Centre for Irish Writing. Throughout his writing career, Gerald has fostered the careers of many Irish writers, poets and scholars as teacher and editor and helped to set the tone for a resurgence in Irish literary and cultural criticism through his important journal ‘Krino’ in the 1990s.

His many poetry collections include ‘The Morning Train’,Lake Geneva’, ‘Points West’, ‘Mickey Finn's Air’,The Last Peacock’ and ‘Another Time: Poems 1978-2023’ described by Stephen Sexton in The Irish Times as ‘quietly brilliant’. Other books include the highly regarded ‘In Another World: Van Morrison and Belfast’ (the first part of his Northern Chronicles trilogy), ‘Politic Words: Women Writing/Writing History’ and ‘Balancing Acts: Conversations with Gerald Dawe on a life in poetry’.

We spoke to Gerald earlier this month to congratulate him on reaching this impressive milestone. Reflecting on his early beginnings, Gerald told us,

My first real poems were published when I was a student of English and Philosophy at Ulster University in the early 1970s. We had great lecturers such as Walter Allen and  Bridget O'Toole who had high standards while at the same time encouraging me and others to pursue writing lives, even when such an option seemed like a fantasy!

Friendships I made back then were very influential in my own later development as a poet. Aodán Mac Póilin, for one, opened the door on Irish culture and writing, of which I was largely ignorant. And I met established writers at UU too, including Derek Mahon, Thomas Kinsella, John Montague and Louis Simpson, the American poet, which was inspirational. James Simmons was on the English faculty and brought a very different kind of energy to making poetry. It was all a great mix. I didn't know it at the time, but those years set me up for a writing life in the academy.

Throughout his illustrious career, Gerald has sustained a deep connection with Ulster University. As key contributor and as a friend, Gerald has always welcomed the continued presence and influence of Ulster University in his life and work.

Gerald Dawe is one of the most accomplished literary alumni that Ulster University has produced. A gifted poet, critic and memoirist, he has enjoyed a distinguished academic career teaching at Galway and latterly at Trinity College Dublin. He has published over twenty volumes of poetry and criticism and is internationally recognised as a major talent in Irish letters. Gerald has kept strong links with Ulster and is currently working with English on a travelling and online exhibition of his work which will tour Europe, the United States and Asia in the coming years.

Frank Ferguson, Research Director of English Language and Literature, School of Arts & Humanities, Ulster University.