John Montague was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1929. At the age of four he was sent to live with his father's sisters at Garvaghey, Co. Tyrone, Northern Ireland. Since the early 1970s Cork has been his home, divided more lately with a home in Nice, France. Montague is well travelled. He was educated at St. Patrick's College, Armagh, University College Dublin and Yale. He was Paris correspondent for the Irish Times where he met his first wife, Madeleine, a French aristocrat.
His first book of poems Forms of Exile was published in 1958. He has gone on to publish a substantial body of poetry as well as two collections of short stories, an autobiographical novella and a book of memoirs entitled Company. He continues to write and publish substantial poetry in his seventies. In the 1970s, after the major success of The Rough Field, Montague was invited to teach at University College Cork by Professor and poet Sean Lucy. He settled in Grattan Hill (erstwhile residence of the British Novelist Thackery) with his second wife Evelyn (heroine of his poem sequence The Great Cloak) with whom he has had two daughters Oonagh (the actress) and Sibyl (the printmaker). His third wife is the New York novelist, Elizabeth Wassell. In 1998, Montague was the inaugural occupant of the Ireland Chair of Poetry. Montague has been credited with encouraging a whole generation of Munster poets who studied at UCC, amongst them: Maurice Riordan, Gregory O'Donoghue, Thomas McCarthy, Theo Dorgan, Gerry Murphy, Sean Dunne, Greg Delanty and Liz O'Donoghue.
Montague is one of the major Irish poets of the 20th Century. The American critic Harold Bloom includes Montague in his selection for The Canon. Montague's American instincts provide, along with those of Thomas Kinsella, an important counterweight to the more British influences of other major poets from Northern Ireland such as Seamus Heaney, Michael Longley and Derek Mahon.
Perhaps influenced by the likes of Williams's Paterson, Montague's oeuvre contains many extended sequences, a poetic stratagem devised also by his contemporary Richard Murphy and which subsequently was taken up by many an Irish poet from Seamus Heaney to Brendan Kennelly to Paul Durcan. Montague's example has encouraged a younger generation of Munster poets to be more cosmopolitan in their influences, drawing inspiration from European as well as American and British influences. he is one of the Anglophone world's most prolific and respected translators of contemporary French poetry. Some of his translations of Claude Esteban are available on the French pages of this website.
Collected Poems, Gallery, Oldcastle, 1995
A Drunken Sailor, Gallery, Oldcastle, 2004
Death of A Chieftain, McGibbon & Kee, London, 1964
The Lost Notebook, Mercier Press, Cork, 1987
A Love Present, Wolfhound Press, Dublin, 1999
Born in Brooklyn, White Pine Press, New York, 1991
Company, Duckworth, London, 2001
Faber Book Of Irish Verse, Faber, London, 1974
Bitter Harvest: An Anthology of Contemporary Irish Verse, Scribners, New York 1989
November, A Choice of Translations from Andre Frenaud (with Evelyn Robson), Dolmen Dublin, 1972
A Smile Between The Stones, translations from Sur La Dernière Lande by Claude Esteban, Agenda Editions, London, 2004
/>(Montague's page with poetry publisher)
/>(New York Writers' Institute Profile)
/>(more poems online)
/>(Munster Literature Centre Profile)