Damian Smyth’s six full collections focus on a handful of streets in his home town of Downpatrick in Northern Ireland, where he was born in 1962.
His first collection, Downpatrick Races (Lagan Press), appeared in 2000. A stage play, Soldiers of the Queen, following the fortunes of family members from the Boer War to the Troubles in Northern Ireland, played the Belfast Festival at Queen’s in 2002 and was published the following year. His second collection, The Down Recorder – an epic poem drawing on news stories in the local newspaper over 150 years – appeared in 2004. Both Lamentations, a sequence of 70 brief elegies, and Market Street, appeared in 2010. He has edited and introduced Joseph Tomelty: Collected Plays (2011), Martin Lynch: Three Plays (1996) and John Hewitt: Two Plays (2000), all reflecting a commitment to the regional ethos in Ulster. A poetry pamphlet, Apparitions: A Hurricane, appeared from Templar Poetry in 2013; Mesopotamia appeared from the same publisher in May 2014. His sixth collection, English Street, appeared in June 2018. His seventh, Irish Street, is due in 2021.
Anthologies in which his work is represented include The New North: Contemporary Poetry from Northern Ireland (Winston-Salem, Wake Forest University Press, 2008), The Watchful Heart (Galway, Salmon Publishing, 2009), The Ulster Anthology (Belfast, Blackstaff Press, 2006), The Blackbird’s Nest (Belfast, Blackstaff Press/QUB, 2006) and in Pleiades, Volume 35, Number 2, Summer 2014. Happily, there is a longer and even more impressive list of anthologies in which his work is not represented.
He is Head of Literature & Drama at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.
Homepage cover image: detail from Struell Wells, Downpatrick
The banshee my father heard,
Or almost heard, sang
From another age a chord
Less like the plainsong
His tenor might replicate;
More, he said, a scream,
Such as would rightly complete