Michael Smith

Picture of Author Michael Smith
Photo by Niall Hartnett. Reproduced by permission of the photographer.

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About the author

Michael Smith is a poet who has given a lifetime of service to the art of poetry both in English and Spanish. He has been described as a classical modernist, a poet of modern life. Born in Dublin in 1942, Michael Smith was the founder of New Writers' Press in 1967 and has been responsible for the publication of over 100 books and magazines. He was keen to promote the modernist tradition in Irish poetry, publishing the work of Thomas MacGreevy, Brian Coffey, Denis Devlin, Anthony Cronin and Michael Hartnett, among others. He was founder and editor of the influential literary magazine The Lace Curtain.

From 1984 to 1989 he was a member of the Irish Arts Council and is a member of Aosdána. He has translated into English and published some of the most difficult and exhilarating poets in Spanish, including Federico García Lorca, Pablo Neruda, Miguel Hernández (Unceasing Lightning as well as his Prison Poems) and the two great Spanish masters of the baroque, Francisco de Quevedo and Luis de Góngora. He has also translated Gerardo Diego's Manual de espumas, a Selected Poems of José Hierro and selections of the poems of Juan Jiménez and Luis Cernuda, among others. For Shearsman he has translated in three volumes the poetry of the great 20th century Peruvian poet, César Vallejo, Trilce, Complete Later Poems 1923-1938 and The Black Heralds (2005–2007), in which he collaborated with the Peruvian scholar, Valentino Gianuzzi, thus bringing all of Vallejo's poetry into English — these volumes have recently been republished by Shearsman in a single volume of almost 800 pages, now being considered as the definitive version in English. There is also a Selected Poems of Vallejo, drawn from the complete survey. His translations (with Luis Ingelmo) of the Selected Poems of Rosalía de Castro and of the Collected Poems / Rimas of Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer were also published by Shearsman Books in 2007/8; with Luis Ingelmo, he has also translated the Complete Poems of Claudio Rodríguez and (with Beatriz White) a Selected Poems of Juan Antonio Villacañas, (Shearsman 2008 & 2009). Awaiting publication are: Nostalgia for Death by the Mexican poet Villaurrutia and Froth: A Manual by Gerardo Diego. His translation of Miguel Hernández's Cancionero y romancero de ausencia was punished in the United States in 2008 by Parlor Press. He has also co-translated a Selected Poems of Elsa Cross and Verónica Volkow, among others.

In 2001, He was the first Irish recipient of the European Academy Medal for distinguished work in the translation of poetry in Spanish, awarded by the European Academy of Poetry. He was the first Writer-in-Residence at University College Dublin. Among his most recent books are Collected Poems (Shearsman, 2009) and Prayers for the Dead and other poems (Shearsman, 2014).

Four of his translations of poems by Rosalía de Castro were published in the Norton Anthology of World Literature in 2013. He has contributed a number of translations to The Whole Island: Six Decades of Cuban Poetry edited by Mark Weiss (University of California Press, 2009). In 2012 Shearsman published a new version of his translation, with Luis Ingelmo, of Cantes Flamencos / Flamenco Songs. 

Michael Smith's poetry has been translated into Spanish, Polish, French and German, and has appeared in numerous magazines, both in Ireland and abroad, as well as in many important anthologies of contemporary Irish poetry, including The Penguin Book of Contemporary Irish Poetry, edited by Derek Mahon and Peter Fallon, and Contemporary Irish Poetry, edited by Anthony Bradley (University of California Press, 1980, 1988). He also edited three issues of Poetry Ireland Review. For many years he was a regular literary reviewer and features writer for The Irish Times.

We are sorry to report that Michael Smith died on 16 November 2014. He will be missed.

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