Michael Longley: Belfast poet wins €250,000 Feltrinelli Poetry Prize

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    Michael Longley, a poet from Belfast, has received a €250,000 (£216,000) European cultural award. At a ceremony in November, Longley will accept the Feltrinelli International Prize for Poetry. Former winners of the award include John Ashbery, Eugenio Montale, and WH Auden.

    Longley was born in 1939, and at the age of 30, he released No Continuing City, his debut book of poetry. From 2007 to 2010, he served as Ireland’s professor of poetry.

    Italy’s Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei bestows the prize once every five years in each discipline, on a national and international level.

    The highly current nature of his ideas and the cultural implications they have, as well as the extremely high level of stylistic brilliance of his work, are why Mr. Longley won, according to the Accademia dei Lincei.

    The Belfast native’s parents, both Londoners who emigrated to Northern Ireland prior to the birth of their son, were both World War One veterans from England.

    He and his twin brother were born on July 27, 1939, in Lower Crescent, a neighbourhood off University Road in Belfast, only weeks before World War Two broke out.

    Both the Royal Belfast Academical Institution and Trinity College in Dublin, where Longley later studied classics, had an impact on his career.

    When he “fell in love very strongly” with a girl from a local school, Methodist College, he began his writing career in his early teens.

    But as he aged, the critics grew kinder, and Longley rose to prominence as one of Northern Ireland’s most popular poets.

    The Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry, the TS Eliot Prize, and the Whitbread Poetry Award are all displayed in his trophy case.

    He was given the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry in 2001, as well as the Wilfred Owen Award in 2003.

    In 2010, he was appointed a CBE. For his contributions to literary and cultural life in Belfast, where he and his wife, the critic Edna Longley, reside and work, he was given the freedom of the city in 2015.