Michael Longley (b. 1939, Belfast) wrote his first poem over sixty years ago, at the age of 16, ‘in order to impress a girlfriend’. His poetry has continued to impress and to move: his honours include the Whitbread Poetry Award, the Hawthornden Prize, the T. S. Eliot Prize, the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry and, most recently, the PEN Pinter Prize. He accepted a CBE in 2010. His friend, the late Seamus Heaney, described him as ‘a custodian of griefs and wonders’.
Longley, who cites the works of Edward Thomas and W B Yeats as his Desert Island books, demonstrates in his latest collection a luminous and engaged sparseness of style. He writes, ‘I think my work has become simpler as I have grown older … writing a poem is a journey into the unknown. If you look after the words, the poem should look after itself. If you look after the poems, the book should eventually materialise. It is an intuitive process. Poetry is a mystery’. Invested in nature and morality, Angel Hill finds a beautiful ground for that mystery.
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