Ciaran Carson, Versatile Belfast Poet, Is Dead at 70


“I can’t say why the forms in which I write have changed so radically over the years,” he told the Wake Forest University Press in 2010, “but it seems we should adopt new methods for new situations. The situation demands the form.”

His exploratory nature also infused a wide variety of prose works. There was the mosaic-like “Shamrock Tea” (2001), which, as The Guardian put it, “claims to be a novel but might equally be filed under History, Philosophy, Art, or Myth and Religion.” There was the idiosyncratic memoir “The Star Factory” (1997), which The Chicago Tribune called “a positive, loving, even celebratory evocation, the work of a man determined to live an ordinary urban life, and to clear in it a place for the imagination.” There was “Last Night’s Fun,” his meditation on traditional Irish music, each chapter bearing the title of a beloved song.

“He leaves such a wide body of work that people will have their own favourites, including the magnificent ‘Belfast Confetti,’” The president of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, said in a statement. “Representing Belfast in all its variety, the memoirs and books, such as ‘The Star Factory’, revealed a deep love of place.”

Ciaran Gerard Carson was born on Oct. 9, 1948, in Belfast. His father, William, was a postman, and his mother, Mary (Maggin) Carson, worked in linen mills. The family was Roman Catholic and bilingual, speaking the Irish language at home, and Mr. Carson grew up with an appreciation of words, their origins, their sounds.

“I used to lull myself to sleep with language,” he wrote in “The Star Factory,” “mentally repeating, for example, the word capall, the Irish for horse, which seemed to me more onomatopoeically equine than its English counterpart; gradually, its trochaic foot would summon up a ghostly echo of ‘cobble,’ till, wavering between languages, I would allow my disembodied self to drift out the window and glide through the silent dark gas-lit streets above the mussel-coloured cobblestones.”

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