Birthplace: Belfast, Northern Ireland
Noted for what one critic has called the “hypnotic oddness” of her verse, Medbh (pronounced Maeve) McGuckian belongs to the generation of Northern Irish poets who followed in the wake of the Nobel Prize-winning Seamus Heaney. Heaney, in fact, was McGuckian's teacher at Queen's College, Belfast. The third of six children born to a Catholic schoolmaster and his artistic wife, McGuckian had decided to be a poet by the time she arrived at Queen's College, where she now teaches creative writing. She makes no bones about the difficulty of her work, acknowledging, “My words are traps/through which you pick your way.” Despite the political volatility of her environment, McGuckian's verse is primarily concerned with the mystery of womanhood—her gender, from an early age, having given her a more pronounced sense of inferiority than her Catholic identity in a predominantly Protestant environment. Her poetry collections include On Ballycastle Beach (1988), Captain Lavender (1994), and Drawing Ballerinas (2001). She has been awarded the Cheltenham Award, the Alice Hunt Bartlett Prize, and in 1986 she became the first woman writer-in-residence at Queen's University. In 1977, she married John McGuckian.