Thomas McCarthy was born and raised at Cappoquin Co. Waterford. He began to publish poems while still an undergraduate and won awards at an early age, including the Patrick Kavanagh Award when he was just 24. Two years later he was selected for the International Writers Programme in Iowa. He has spent practically all his working life as a librarian in Cork City, except for occasional sabbaticals which have sometimes taken him teaching in America and three years as assistant director of Cork 2005 – the company responsible for managing Cork’s designation as European Capital of Culture. He has published eight collections of poetry and two novels.
Considered by Dennis O’Driscoll to be, along with Paul Muldoon, the most important Irish poet of his generation, McCarthy is a poet primarily concerned with politics and family. His work’s importance lies in its unremitting and detailed examination of the Republic’s failures and successes as an independent state. Described by Eavan Boland as the first poet born into the Republic to write about it critically, McCarthy has done so from the perspective of a family dedicated and loyal to the state’s most successful and powerful political party: Fianna Fáil. But his poems are not eulogies to the party or apologies for its policies; they are more like an exploration of the party as an object of loyalty and devotion (like a lover objectified) with all the potential such an object has for empowerment and betrayal. In McCarthy’s two latest books prose figures prominently. In Merchant Prince, a prose novella is bookended by two sequences of poems, all of which are interrelated. His latest book The Last Geraldine Officer features a sequence of prose-poems consisting of the campaign diary of an Irishman serving as an officer in the British army of the Second World War.
Thomas McCarthy was a guest at the 41st Poetry International Festival. He was first published on PIW in 2007.
The First Convention, Dolmen Press, Dublin, 1978
The Sorrow Garden, Anvil Press, London, 1981
The Non-Aligned Storyteller, Anvil Press, London, 1984
Seven Winters in Paris, Anvil Press, London, 1989
The Lost Province, Anvil Press, London, 1996
Mr Dineen’s Careful Parade – New and Selected Poems, Anvil Press, London, 1999
Merchant Prince, Anvil Press, London, 2005
The Last Geraldine Officer, Anvil Press, London, 2010
Without Power, Poolbeg Press, Dublin, 1990
Asya and Christine, Poolbeg Press, Dublin, 1993
The Garden of Remembrances, New Island Books, Dublin, 1998
The Poetry of Thomas McCarthy by August Kleinzahler
A Review of McCarthy’s latest book Last Geraldine Officer
McCarthy’s poem ‘The Non-Aligned Storyteller’'
Earlier published version of ‘Dying Synagogue . . .’
Thomas McCarthy essay “Why I Write”
Interview and readings by McCarthy at Podcasts.ie