Macdara Woods, Irish Poet

Author Macdara Woods was born in 1942 and is married to Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin; they have a son, Niall. With Leland Bardwell and Pearse Hutchinson, they are founder editors of the literary review Cyphers. He has published ten books of poems, translated from a number of languages and edited The Kilkenny Anthology. He has travelled widely, but now lives mostly in Dublin. He is a member of Aosdána, the Irish Arts Council's affiliation recognising outstanding contribution to the arts in Ireland.

Macdara Woods has published a number of collections:
Decimal D. Sec Drinks in a Bar in Marrakesh (1970),
Early Morning Matins (1973),
Stopping the Lights in Ranelagh (1987),
The Hanged Man was not Surrendering (1989),
Notes from the Countries of Blood-Red Flowers (1994).
With Orla Woods he translated The King of the Dead and Other Libyan Tales,
by Redwan Abushwesha (London, Martin Brian & O'Keeffe. 1977)
His first Selected Poems appeared in 1996.

In recent years there has been a steady flow of new work in different media, including several translations into Italian:


Biglietto Di Sola Andata (trans. Rita Castigli, foreword by Paul Cahill, MobyDick, Faenza, 1998)

Pesaro Ai Miei Piedi (trans. Rita Castigli, foreword by Paul Cahill, Volumnia, Perugia, 1999)

Knowledge In The Blood: New and Selected Poems (Dedalus, Dublin, 2000)

The Nightingale Water (Dedalus, Dublin, 2001)


Text, Context, Co-Text & Co-Co-Text (Figs, track 17) with composer John Wolfe Brennan. (Creative Works Records, Lucerne 1994)

Elvengamello (A Map Of Valentine track 8) with the Italian group, Militia. (Materiali Sonori, Rome 1997)

dublin fifteen, Poems of the City (two poems included) (Dublin Writers Centre 1997)

Pesaro Ai Miei Piedi 46 minute CD, text spoken by the author, music by the Italian group, Militia. (Materiali Sonori, Rome 1999)


Winter Fire and Snow (with composer/songwriter Brendan Graham, version of the poem, Fire and Snow and Carnevale, Acorn Publishing, 1994) First recording by Anuna, 1994. Released in some half a dozen recordings, both sides of the Atlantic, by, among others, Anuna, Katie McMahon, Eimear Quinn, Benita Hill.

Critical comments on Macdara Woods's work

Paul Durcan:
The publication of Stopping the Lights in Ranelagh is an event of the first importance, drawing our attention to an outstanding poet whose talent, perseverance and courage have always been the envy of his followers and admirers.

Fortnight (Belfast):
One of the most individual voices in Irish poetry, if not an easy one. He writes like no one living.

Thomas McCarthy, Poetry Ireland Review:
He teases out the myths that bind families, he interrogates childhood and faces disappointment. The whole poem boils down to one marvellous metaphor.

James Liddy in Poetry Ireland Review wrote of the Selected Poems:
This poetry has run counter to the grain. It is lush, surreal, linguistically rhetorical. This is not a domesticated poetry, the kitchen doesn't unravel its somnolent marvels here nor do family memories overcrowd the page ...The sixties section retains the charm of that decade of elaborate chimeras, the post-World War II global aesthetics, and poems like 'To be Pinned on the Cathedral Door' and 'Cauchemar is a White Horse' retain original heat.

Books Ireland called Woods 'one of the most original poetic voices of Ireland over a third of a century'; the Irish Times found 'a poet whose vision had crystallised and matured with a sureness of style, form and tone of voice... public issues were mediated through a more personal and even domestic prism of light.'

Reviewing his two latest collections, Bernard O'Donoghue wrote in The Irish Times (7 April 2001):

MACDARA WOODS has been an absorbing and relatively unplaceable presence in Irish writing since the 1970s, because the internationalising tendency of his poems to push the boundaries of Irish poetry outwards was always balanced by a rooted use of Irish language and tradition.
These two new books offer variations on this balance: Knowledge in the Blood adds nearly fifty pages of new poems to those available to the 1996 Selected, and is accompanied by the powerful new sequence, The Nightingale Water, which centres on the harrowing events surrounding the poet's mother's strokes and death.
One of Woods's most striking capacities has been to write the long poem, a form traditionally thought impossible in the modern age of confessional lyric. Reading these books together now, the most substantial earlier long poems, such as 'Above Pesaro, June 1993', read like an apprenticeship that has reached mastery in The Nightingale Water.

[...] Woods's poems have always been absorbing in their twists and turns. But this steadily pursued sequence seems much his strongest achievement to date.

Knowledge In The Blood: New and Selected Poems (216pp, 7.95)

and The Nightingale Water
(92pp, 6.95) are available from
Dedalus Press,
24 The Heath, Cypress Downs,
Templeogue, Dublin 6W, Ireland.

Macdara Woods may be contacted at
Cyphers, 3 Selskar Terrace, Ranelagh, Dublin 6, Ireland

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