Forms of dissent in the work of James Simmons and Padraic Fiacc
: Poetry, politics, and publishing in Northern Ireland, 1960-1980

  • Tara McEvoy

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis examines forms of dissent in the work of James Simmons and Padraic Fiacc. It situates the two poets as important figures in the Northern Irish poetry scene of the 1960s and 1970s, and considers how their work deviates aesthetically from that of some of their better-known poetic contemporaries. I trace the lines of influence between Simmons, Fiacc, and peers such as Seamus Heaney, Derek Mahon, and Michael Longley, and, drawing also on a wide range of archival material, seek to offer new ways of reading early work by each of these poets.

Focussing on the period 1960-1980, I survey the publication histories of Simmons and Fiacc. Chapters on the poetry of each writer explore the politics of their reception, and posit formative influences on their work. I read an appeal for popularity—and the quest for a popular form—as central to the poetry of James Simmons. Turning to Padraic Fiacc, I argue that his poetry is informed by a recognition of language as contaminated by violence. Both poets, I suggest, see the distinction between 'art' and 'life' as porous, and both engage in a process of self-mythologization. In addition to analysing Simmons and Fiacc's own poetry, I consider their broader contributions to culture, specifically their respective editorships of the little magazine the Honest Ulsterman, and the anthology The Wearing of the Black. These publications mark attempts by the two writers to shape, rather than merely record, Northern Irish literary culture; I argue that both the magazine and the anthology merit critical reconsideration.
Date of AwardDec 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SponsorsUK AHRC Northern Bridge Doctoral Training Partnership
SupervisorFran Brearton (Supervisor) & Gail McConnell (Supervisor)


  • Irish literature
  • poetry
  • publication culture
  • periodicals
  • anthologies
  • textual studies
  • Irish poetry
  • Irish studies
  • politics
  • literary networks
  • cultural history
  • literary history

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