Duhig is known as a modern balladeer, using folklore and medieval stories to satirise the contemporary scene. His poetry spans interpretations of medieval myths to verses on the humble string vest. Duhig has a keen metrical ear, often harnessing Irish songs, hymns, ballads and old French metre to a modern subject. His poetry is frequently funny, and Duhig is not averse to slipping in an anachronistic gag here and there, nor in using rhyme that jogs happily alongside dark subject-matter. His style is much like one of his characters, King Fauvel – a ‘man-stroke-horse-stroke-king’ – at once formal and traditional, at other times jesting, bawdy, sometimes verging on slapstick. Critics site his long-running ability to take on form, only to debunk it in bolshy rhyme and colloquial phrasing, noting that he hop-scotches through politics and poetics, refusing to settle on one form or opinion.
Ian Duhig is of Irish parentage but was born in London. He is the eighth of eleven children, and described scenes where his mother would recite verse by heart to the large congregated group of children. Duhig eschewed university and left school at 16, taking on casual jobs. He then spent fifteen years working with people in homeless shelters and drug-addiction centres in England and Northern Ireland before becoming a full-time writer. He often encouraged the people he worked with to use poetry as a means of coping with their problems.
He is currently a teacher of creative writing and lives in Leeds.
Ian’s debut collection of poetry was shortlisted for the Whitbread Poetry Award and the Forward Poetry Prize. He has won the National Poetry Competition twice, one of only two winners to do so. The first winning poem was ‘Nineteen Hundred and Nineteen’ in 1987, which addresses Lenin, Freud (“grow a beard, you think you're Moses”) and finally WB Yeats, to whom the title alludes. In 2001 he won the National Poetry Competition again with the enigmatic poem ‘The Lammas Hireling’ which also won the Forward Best Poem Prize. The Lammas Hireling, his fourth major collection, was widely hailed as his best collection so far and won a Poetry Book Society recommendation. Ian has also received an Arts Council Writers’ Award and a Cholmondeley Award. Carol Ann Duffy, the current UK Poet Laureate, called him “The most original poet of his generation.”
Ian Duhig’s next collection is forthcoming from Picador this September, provisionally entitled Jericho's Shanty.
The Bradford Count, Bloodaxe, Newcastle, 1991
The Mersey Goldfish, Bloodaxe, Newcastle, 1995
Nominies, Bloodaxe, Newcastle, 1998
The Lammas Hireling, Picador, London, 2003
The Speed of Dark, Picador, London, 2007
Ian Duhig has also written libretti and musical adaptions, including Le Roman de Fauvel and Ludus Danielis.
Duhig won the 1987 National Poetry Competition with his poem Nineteen hundred and Nineteen
Duhig won the Competition again in 2001 with his poem, The Lammas Hireling
A critical perspective
Hear Duhig read his poetry at The Poetry Archive
An interview with Ian Duhig at The Poetry Library
The Guardian interviews Duhig
Duhig’s publisher, Picador