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Cathal Ó Searcaigh is a modern Irish language poet. His work has been widely translated, anthologised and studied. "His confident internationalism", according to Theo Dorgan,[1] has channelled "new modes, new possibilities, into the writing of Irish language poetry in our time".

Cathal Ó Searcaigh
At home in Mín a' Leá
At home in Mín a' Leá
Born (1956-07-12) 12 July 1956 (age 63)
Gort an Choirce (Gortahork), County Donegal, Ireland

From 1975 onwards he has produced poetry, plays, and travelogues. His early poetry deals with place, tongue and tradition, with his late work showing a broader scope. His work includes homoerotic love poems. Jody Allen Randolph[2] remarks "his breaking down of stereotypes and new deployment of gendered themes opened a new space in which to consider alternate sexualities within a contemporary Irish context."

The critic John McDonagh argues that "Ó Searcaigh occupies many of the spaces that stand in opposition to the traditionally dominant markers of Irish identity". In his anthology[3] McDonagh goes on to say "Ó Searcaigh's homoerotic poems are explicit, relishing in a sensuality that for many years rarely found explicit expression in Irish literature."


Cathal Ó Searcaigh was born and reared on a small hill-farm at the foot of An tEaragal (Mount Errigal) in the Donegal Gaeltacht. He was educated locally at Caiseal na gCorr National School and then at Gairmscoil Ghort a' Choirce. He describes his childhood in a remote Irish-speaking community in his memoir Light on Distant Hills.[4]

The first poems that engaged his attention were those of Rabbie Burns, read to him by his father. Tom Walsh, his English teacher at the Gairmscoil in Gortahork, encouraged him to write.

Personal lifeEdit

In the early 1970s he worked as a barman in London. Later he attended the NIHE (National Institute for Higher Education) in Limerick where he did European Studies for two years (1973–75) and followed that with one year at Maynooth University (1977–78) where he did Celtic Studies.

During the years 1978-81 he worked in Dublin with RTÉ television presenting Aisling Gheal, an arts and music programme directed by musician Tony MacMahon. From the early 1980s has earned his living as a full-time writer and poet.

In the spring of 1995 he was elected a member of Aosdána.[5]

His work has been translated into numerous languages – French[6], German[7] [8] [9] [10], Italian[11], Breton[12], Catalan, Polish[13], Danish[14], Serbo-Croat, Romanian[15], Slovene[16] [17] [18], Russian, Swedish, Japanese, and Nepali[19].

Travels & controversyEdit


He visited Nepal for the first time in 1996. His Seal i Neipeal[20] has been described as a vivid, insightful account of that country, its people and their culture. It is generally regarded as one of the major prose works written in Irish in the first decade of the 21st century.[21]

Since the mid 1990s he has sponsored the education of many young people in Nepal.[citation needed]

Fairytale of KathmanduEdit

In February 2007 a film documentary (Fairytale of Kathmandu, by Neasa Ní Chianáin) queried his relationships with some of the young men he helped, focusing on power imbalance and financial accountability. At the time it caused a controversy. In February 2009 Ó Searcaigh was interviewed in English by Dermod Moore for Hot Press.[22]

Other literary activitiesEdit

Cathal Ó Searcaigh has donated his archives, an extensive library of books and a valuable art collection to the Irish State. The Donegal Library Service administers this donation at present. His house in Mín a' Leá at the foot of Mount Errigal[23] is often the venue for literary and musical evenings hosted by the poet himself.

By the hearth in Mín a' Leá

Along with poet and literary critic Chris Agee he edits Irish Pages, a literary journal.

"Creativity for me arises out of my deep attachment to this place, out of a reverential affection for its people", he says in his memoir Light on Distant Hills.[24] "My poems are devotional in the sense that they are prayerful celebrations of place, tongue and tradition. My work has become known because of its connectedness with this place. I have become a collector of its oral traditions, an archivist of its memories and its myths, a guardian of its Gaelic. This is, I suppose, a political act, acknowledging the local, recording and registering what is past or passing."

Colm Tóibín wrote in the Times Literary Supplement: "There is a section of landscape in Donegal in the north of Ireland near Falcarragh, overlooking Tory Island, which has been utterly transformed by the poetry of Cathal Ó Searcaigh."

Awards and honoursEdit

  • 1996: Elected to Aosdána
  • 2000: Awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Celtic Studies from the National University of Ireland
  • 2000: Awarded the Irish Times Literature Prize for Ag Tnúth Leis an tSolas, poems 1975-2000
  • 2007: The Ireland Fund Literary Award for his significant contribution to Irish literature.
  • 2013: He has won many Oireachtas literary awards since the beginning of his literary career, the most recent being the primary prize for a poetry collection with Aimsir Ársa in 2013 and again with An Bhé Ghlas in 2015
  • His poems have been on the Leaving Certificate Irish language curriculum for many years. His work is studied extensively at university level in Ireland and abroad

Selected publicationsEdit


  • 1975: Miontraigéide Chathrach agus Dánta Eile, Cló Uí Chuirreáin
  • 1978: Tuirlingt (with Gabriel Rosenstock and photographer Bill Doyle) Carbad, Dublin
  • 1983: Súile Shuibhne: with photographs by Rachael Giese, (a Poetry Ireland choice for 1983) Coiscéim, Dublin
  • 1987: Suibhne, (nominated for the Irish Book Awards) Coiscéim
  • 1991: An Bealach 'na Bhaile, Cló Iar-Chonnacht, Indreabhán, Co Galway
  • 1996: Na Buachaillí Bána, Cló Iar-Chonnacht, Indreabhán
  • 1999: Fiacha an tSolais
  • 2000: Ag Tnúth leis an tSolas, 1975-2000, Cló Iar-Chonnacht, Indreabhán
  • 2002: Caiseal na gCorr (with photographs by Jan Voster) Cló Iar-Chonnacht, Indreabhán
  • 2004: Winter Lights, (collaborative haiku booklet with Nepalese Haiku Poet Janak Sapkota), Cló Ceardlann na gCnoc, Co Donegal
  • 2005: Na hAingle ó Xanadú, Arlen House, Galway
  • 2006: Gúrú i gClúidíní (artwork by Ian Joyce) Cló Iar-Chonnacht, Indreabhán
  • 2011: An tAm Marfach ina Mairimid (artwork by Ian Joyce) Arlen House, Galway
  • 2013: Aimsir Ársa (artwork by Ian Joyce) Arlen House, Galway
  • 2014: Na Saighneáin (artwork by Ian Joyce) Arlen House, Galway
  • 2015: An Bhé Ghlas, Leabhar Breac, Indreabhán
  • 2018: Teanga na gCorr, Arlen House, Dublin

Bilingual poetry editionsEdit

  • 1993: Homecoming / An Bealach 'na Bhaile (edited by Gabriel Fitzmaurice), Cló Iar-Chonnacht : winner of the Seán Ó Riordáin Prize for Poetry 1993, this book has been a bestseller and has gone into many editions
  • 1997: Out in the Open: edited and translated by Frank Sewell, Cló Iar-Chonnacht, Indreabhán : this collection was nominated for the Aristeon European Prize for Poetry 1998
  • 2006: By the Hearth in Mín a' Leá: translations by Seamus Heaney and Frank Sewell, Arc Publications : The Poetry Society (UK) Translation Choice for 2006
  • 2015: An Fear Glas / The Green man, with artwork by Pauline Bewick (translations by Paddy Pushe, Gabriel Rosenstock and Frank Sewell) Arlen House, Galway
  • 2016: Out of the Wilderness (translations by Gabriel Rosenstock) The Onslaught Press, Oxford

Prose works in IrishEdit

  • 2004: Seal i Neipeal (travel writing), Cló Iar-Chonnacht, Indreabhán : winner of the Piaras Béaslaí Prize for Prose in the Oireachtas 2004
  • 2011: Pianó Mhín na bPreachán (novella) Cló Iar-Chonnacht, Indreabhán
  • 2017: Lugh na Bua / The Deliverer: Cathal ó Searcaigh, Seán Ó Gaoithín, Seán Fitzgerald: The Onslaught Press, Oxford
  • 2018: Teach an Gheafta (novel) Leabhar Breac, Indreabhán ISBN 978-1-909907-90-4


  • 2005: Oíche Dhrochghealaí: a verse drama based on the story of Salome, Coiscéim, Dublin
  • 2006: Mairimid Leis na Mistéirí: three short plays, Arlen House, Galway

Writing in EnglishEdit

  • 2009: Light on Distant Hills, a Memoir, Simon & Schuster, London
  • 2014: Soul Space: a book of spiritual wisdom (written under the pseudonym Charles Agnes) Evertype, Westport
  • 2018: The View from the Glen: Selected Prose in English, The Onslaught Press, Oxford


  • 1994: Tulach Beaglaoich: Inné agus Inniu / Tulach Begley: Past and Present, Glór na nGael, Fál Carragh

As editorEdit

  • 1997: An Chéad Chló: a selection of the work of new Irish language poets, Cló Iar-Chonnacht, Indreabhán
  • 2013: The Other Tongues: an Introduction to Writing in Irish, Scots Gaelic and Scots in Ulster and Scotland, Irish Pages, Belfast
  • 2013: Margadh na Míol i Valparaiso / The Flea Market in Valparaiso: Selected Poems of Gabriel Rosenstock (selected and introduced by Cathal Ó Searcaigh), Cló Iar-Chonnacht, Indreabhán
  • 2014: An tAmharc Deireannach / The Last Look: the Selected Poems of Colette Ní Ghallchóir (selected and introduced by Cathal Ó Searcaigh), Arlen House, Galway

Collaborations: MusicEdit

  • 2005: Tearmann (A sequence of Ó Searcaigh poems put to music by Neil Martin and performed by the poet himself with the West Ocean String Quartet), live performance, Cliften Arts Festival
  • 2009: Oileán na Marbh (Song cycle with composer Neil Martin, sung by Maighread Ní Dhomhnaill and accompanied by the West Ocean Quartet) Ae Fond Kiss, West Ocean Records
  • 2012: Síle an tSléibhe (opera monodrama with composer Derek Ball, sung by Elizabeth Hilliard with chamber group and electroacoustic sound) live performances at the Back Loft (La Catedral theatre) Dublin in Sept 2012, and the Contemporary Music Centre, Dublin in Jan 2013
  • 2013: Rhapsody na gCrann (words by Cathal Ó Searcaigh, music by Ciarán and Pól Brennan, sung by Clannad) Clannad Nádúr Arc Music

Cathal has also collaborated with Altan, Brian Kennedy, Diana Cannon and many other well-known musicians.

Collaborations: ArtEdit

  • 2003: Trasnú, a collaboration with artist Maria Simonds Gooding which included an exhibition, public forum and book (published by An Gailearaí, Gaoth Dobhair)
  • 2004: Luxury of a Skylight, collaboration with artist Janet Mullarney: a limited boxed edition, numbered and signed, with poems and drawings. Published by Edizioni Canopo, Prato, Italy
  • 2005: Dialann / Diary, a collaboration with artist Barbara Lea and book-maker Paulette Myres-Rich, a limited boxed edition, numbered and signed. Published by Traffic Street Press, St Paul, Minnesota
  • 2012: The Green Man, A portfolio of 10 lithographs created and printed by Aoife McGarrigle at Cló Ceardlann na gCnoc, Co Donegal, with 10 poems by Cathal Ó Searcaigh: a limited boxed edition, numbered and signed
  • 2004: The View from Bealtaine, based on Cór Úr, a much anthologised poem by Ó Searcaigh, designed and printed by Barbara Tetenbaum at Cló Ceardlann na gCnoc, Co Donegal. Limited edition, numbered and signed

Books about his poetryEdit

  • 2000: Modern Irish Poetry: A New Alhambra, Frank Sewell, Oxford University Press
  • 2002: On the side of Light: Critical essays on the poetry of Cathal Ó Searcaigh, edited by James Doan & Frank Sewell, Arlen House, Galway
  • 2005: Na Buachaillí Dána: Cathal Ó Searcaigh, Gabriel Rosenstock by Pádraig de Paor, An Clóchomhar, Dublin

Critical essays on the work of Cathal Ó Searcaigh – a selectionEdit

  • 1993: A Going Back to Sources, Michael Longley reviews "Homecoming / An Bealach 'na Bhaile", Poetry Ireland Review 39
  • 1996: Cathal Ó Searcaigh: a Negotiation with Place, Community and Tradition, Gréagóir Ó Dúill, Poetry Ireland Review 48
  • 1997: Wrestling with Angels, Sean Lysaght reviews "Out in the Open" Poetry Ireland Review 55
  • 1997: The Indelible mark of Cain: Sexual Dissonance in the Poetry of Cathal Ó Searcaigh, Lillis Ó Laoire in "Sex, Nation and Dissent in Irish Writing", editor Eibhear Walsh, Cork University Press
  • 2000: Irish Writing in the Twentieth Century: A Reader, David Pierce, Cork University Press
  • 2000: Cathal Ó Searcaigh and Aspects of Translation, Nobuaki Tochigi: Éire-Ireland (Spring/Summer 2000) Vol.35
  • 2000: Ag Tabhairt Teanga don Tost, Lillis Ó Laoire, Réamhrá, Ag Tnúth leis an tSolas: Cló Iar-Chonnacht, Indreabhán, Co Galway[25]
  • 2003: Between Two Languages, Frank Sewell, The Cambridge Companion to Contemporary Irish Poetry, editor Matthew Campbell: Cambridge University Press
  • 2005: Trén bFearann Breac, a discussion of Ó Searcaigh's poetry, Máirín Nic Eoin, Cois Life, Dublin
  • 2007: "For Isaac Rosenberg": Geoffrey Hill, Michael Longley, Cathal O'Searcaigh, an essay by Tara Christie in The Oxford Handbook of British and Irish War Poetry, edited by Tim Kendall, Oxford Handbooks, ISBN 9780199282661
  • 2008: The Given Note – Traditional Music and Modern Irish Poetry, Seán Crossan: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, Newcastle upon Tyne
  • 2009: Préamhachas an Ultachais i bhfilíocht Chathail Uí Shearcaigh, A J Hughes, Filí agus Filíocht: Éigse Cholm Cille, Doire
  • 2010: Cathal Ó Searcaigh: a critical essay in "Scríbhneoirí faoi Chaibidil, editor Alan Titley", Cois Life, Dublin
  • 2010: Cathal Ó Searcaigh, a critical essay by Caitríona Ní Chléirchín in "Filíocht Chomhaimseartha na Gaeilge", editor Ríona Ní Fhrighil, Cois Life, Dublin
  • 2015: A Major Voice, review of "Aimsir Ársa" and "An Bhé Ghlas" by Paddy Bushe, Poetry Ireland Review 117

Anthologies in which he is representedEdit

Ó Searcaigh's work has been much anthologised. He is one of the few Irish language poets to be included in all the major anthologies of modern poetry from Ireland. The following is only a sample selection.

  • 1986: The Bright Wave / An Tonn Gheal, Raven Arts press
  • 1986: Filíocht Uladh, editor Gréagóir Ó Dúill: Coiscéim, Dublin
  • 1991: The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing: Volumes III and IV, edited by Seamus Deane, Field Day
  • 1995: Modern Irish Poetry: An Anthology, edited by Patrick Crotty, The Blackstaff Press, Belfast
  • 1996: Anthologie de la Poésie Irlandaise du XXe siecle, Éditions Verdier
  • 1997: Writing the Wind: The New Celtic Poetry, New Native Press, USA
  • 1998: The Oxford Book of Ireland, edited by Patricia Craig, Oxford University Press
  • 1998: Treasury of Irish Love, editor Gabriel Rosenstock: Hippocrene Books, New York
  • 1999: The Pilot Star Elegies, poetry and some translations, Sherod Santos, W W Norton, New York* 1999: Watching the River Flow – A century of Irish Poetry, edited by Theo Dorgan, Poetry Ireland
  • 2000: The Hip Flask: Short Poems from Ireland, edited by Frank Ormsby, Blackstaff Press, Belfast
  • 2000: Duanaire an Chéid, editor Gearóid Denver: Cló Iar-Chonnacht, Indreabhán, Co Galway
  • 2000: Fearann Pinn: Filíocht 1900-1990, editor Gréagóir Ó Dúill: Coiscéim, Dublin
  • 2001: Gaolta Gairide, editor Máirín Nic Eoin: Cois Life, Dublin
  • 2002: A Conversation Piece: Poetry and Art, editors Adrian Rice & Angela Reid: Abbey Press, Newry
  • 2002: 20th Century Irish Poems, selected by Michael Longley, Faber & Faber
  • 2003: The Blackbird's Nest: Poetry from Queen's University Belfast, editor Frank Ormsby: Blackstaff Press, Belfast
  • 2003: Modern Poets of Europe: a Selection, editors Patricia & William Oxley: Spiny Babbler
  • 2005: Lón Anama: Poems for Prayer from the Irish Tradition, editor Ciarán Mac Murchaidh: Cois Life, Dublin
  • 2006: The Ulster Anthology, editor Patricia Craig: The Blackstaff Press, Belfast
  • 2007: Our Shared Japan, editors Irene De Angelis & Joseph Woods: Dedalus Press, Dublin
  • 2008: The Essential Gabriel Fitzmaurice: Selected Poems and Translations: Mercier Press, Cork
  • 2008: Filíocht Ghrá na Gaeilge / Love Poems in Irish, editor Ciarán Mac Murchaidh: Cois Life, Dublin
  • 2008: The New North: Contemporary Poetry from Northern Ireland, Wake Forest Press, Winston-Salem, North Carolina
  • 2008: A Fine Statement: An Irish Poet's Anthology, edited by John McDonagh, Poolbeg Press, Dublin
  • 2010: The Penguin Book of Irish Poetry, edited by Patrick Crotty, Penguin Books
  • 2010: An Anthology of Modern Irish Poetry, edited by Wes Davies, The Belknap Press of Harvard University press, Cambridge, Massachusetts
  • 2011: Voices at the World's edge: Irish Poets on Skellig Michael, edited by Paddy Bushe, Dedalus Press, Dublin
  • 2011: The Willow's Whisper: Poetry from Ireland and Native America, editors Jill M O'Mahoney & Mícheál Ó hAodha: Cambridge Scholars, Newcastle upon Tyne
  • 2014: If Ever You Go: A Map of Dublin in Poetry, editors Pat Boran & Gerard Smyth: Dedalus Press, Dublin* 2016: Leabhar na hAthghabhála / Poems of Repossession, edited by Louis De Paor, Bloodaxe Books, Cló Iar-Chonnacht

Foreign language anthologiesEdit

  • 1996: Bollirà La Rugiada: Poesia irlandese contemporanea (Italian): Moby Dick, Faenza
  • 1998: Das Zweimaleins Des Steins Poesie Aus Irland, Edition die horen
  • 1999: Schönes Babylon (German), editor Gregor Laschen: DuMont Buchverlag, Köln
  • 2000: Vzdálené Tóny Naděje: Antologie Irské Poezie (The Distant Music of Hope) (Polish), Host, Brno
  • 2007: Amanairis (Slovene), editors Tina Mahkota & Gabriel Rosenstock: Antologie Vilenice, Ljubljana, 2007

Selected foreign editionsEdit

  • 1996: Le Chemin du Retour / Pilleadh an Deoraí, editor A J Hughes: La Barbacane Bonaguil, France
  • 1997: Distreiñ d'ar Gêr / An Bealach 'na Bhaile, editor A J Hughes: Skrid, Brittany
  • 1998: Drumul Spre Casa / Romanian Translations, editor Christian Tămaş: Editura Ars Longa, România
  • 2006: Kathmandu – Translations into Nepali, editor & translator Yuyutsu R D Sharma: Nirala Publications, New Delhi

Interviews with the poetEdit

  • 1997: Ón Taobh Istigh: Agallamh le Cathal Ó Searcaigh, Marion Kelly: Macalla, NUI Galway
  • 2002: In the Chair: Interviews with Poets from the North of Ireland edited by John Brown, Salmon Publishing, Co Clare
  • 2010: Close to the Next Moment: Interviews from a Changing Ireland edited by Jody Allen Randolph, Carcanet Press, Manchester


  1. ^ Dorgan, Theo (1996). Irish Poetry Since Kavanagh. Four Courts Press. ISBN 9781851822393.
  2. ^ Randolph, Jody Allen (2010). Close to the Next Moment: Interviews from a Changing Ireland. Carcanet Press. ISBN 9781847773166.
  3. ^ McDonagh, John (2008). A Fine Statement: An Irish Poet's Anthology. Poolbeg Press. ISBN 9781842233689.
  4. ^ O'Searcaigh, Cathal (2009). Light on Distant Hills: A Memoir. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 9781847370631.
  5. ^ "Cathal Ó Searcaigh". Aosdána.
  6. ^ French translation of Pilleadh an Deoraí: Le Chemin Du Retour Translated by various, Editor: A J Hughes, Publisher: La Barbacane, 1996. ISBN 2-900058-34-1
  7. ^ German translation in anthology: Schönes Babylon: Gedichte aus Europa, editor Gregor Laschen, Publisher DuMont Buchwerlog, Köln, 2009. ISBN 3-7701-4844-4
  8. ^ German translation in anthology: Das Zweimaleins Des Steins: Poesie aus Ireland, editor Gregor Laschen, Publisher Edition die horen, Bremerhauen, 1998. ISBN 3-89701-198-0
  9. ^ German translation in anthology: Irrlandt / Ireland / Irland, editor Jürgen Schneider, Publisher Druckhaus Galrev, 1993. ISBN 3-910161-30-8
  10. ^ German translation in anthology: Podium: Feste Feiern: Doppelheft 157/158, editor Nils Jensen, 2010. ISBN 978-3-902054-82-1
  11. ^ Italian translation in anthology: Bollira la Rugiada, Translated by Andrea Fabbri, Mario Giosa, Massimo Montevecchi, Publisher Mobydick, Faenza, 1996. ISBN 88-851-22-98-1
  12. ^ Breton translation of An Bealach 'na Bhaile: Distreiñ D'Ar Gêr Translated by Gwendal Denez, Art Hughes, Herve ar Bihan. Alan Botrel, Publisher: Skrid, 1997. ISBN 2-86863-101-0
  13. ^ Polish translation in anthology: Uzdálené Tóny Nadeje: The Distant Music of Hope, Antologie Irske Poezie, editors Ivana Bozdĕchová, Ondrey Pilny, Justin Quinn, Publisher: Host, Brno 2000. ISBN 80-86055-80-9
  14. ^ Danish translation in anthology: Den Blå Port No 43, 1998, editors Peter Adolphsen, Mette Moestrup, Publisher: Rhodos. ISBN 87-7245-7406
  15. ^ Romanian translation of An Bealach 'na Bhaile: Drumul Spre Casa Translated by Christian Tămas, Publisher: Editura Ars Longa. ISBN 973-9325-03-3
  16. ^ Slovene translation in anthology: Amanairis i Antologija Sodobne u Irščini, editors Tina Mahkota & Gabriel Rosenstock, Publisher Društuo slovenskih pisateljev, Ljubljana, 2007. ISBN 978-961-6547-12-3
  17. ^ Slovene translation in anthology: Čudovita Usta: sodobne Irske poezije, editor Mia Dintinjana, Publisher Društuo Apokalipsa, Ljubljana, 2007. ISBN 978-961-6644-15-0
  18. ^ Slovene translation in anthology: Moral Bi Spet Priti, Sodobna europska gyevska poezÿa, editor Brane Mozetiċ, Publisher Zalożba Shue Lambda/81, Ljubljana, 2009. ISBN 978-961-6751-21-6
  19. ^ Nepali translation of the poetry collection Kathmandu: Translated by Yuyutsu R D Sharma, Publisher: Nirala, Delhi, 2006. ISBN 81-8250-006-0
  20. ^ O'Searcaigh, Cathal (2004). Seal i Neipeal. Cló Iar-Chonnacht. ISBN 1902420608.
  21. ^ Titley, Alan (2010). Scríbhneoirí faoi Chaibidil. Cois Life. ISBN 978-1-901176-44-5.
  22. ^ Moore, Dermod. "The Case for the Defence". Hot Press. (subscription only)
  23. ^ "Journey to the Well: a Visit with Poet Cathal Ó Searcaigh", Radio Netherlands Archives, April 4, 2003
  24. ^ O'Searcaigh, Cathal (2009). Light on Distant Hills: A Memoir. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 9781847370631.
  25. ^ Preface starting at page 15, Ag Tnúth leis an tSolas