Care, company, community have been fundamental concerns of Peter Fallon’s writing in and about the world, care for people and place, for planet earth and the poetry of earth, for the values espoused in Virgil’s Georgics which he has translated…and the seriousness of that caretaking has developed over the years to a point where the artistic and the moral have converged.
Peter Fallon was born in Germany in 1951 and grew up on his uncle's farm near Kells in County Meath. He is an Honours Graduate of Trinity College, Dublin, where he has been Writer Fellow and Visiting Writer in the English Department.
At the age of eighteen he founded The Gallery Press which has published more than four hundred books of poems and plays by Ireland’s finest established and emerging authors and which is recognized internationally as the country’s pre-eminent literary publishing house. Among the writers it publishes are Derek Mahon, John Montague, Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill, Ciaran Carson, Medbh McGuckian, John Banville, Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin and Michael Hartnett and it has fostered a new generation of Irish poets such as Vona Groarke, Peter Sirr, Conor O’Callaghan, Kerry Hardie and Alan Gillis.
The Press regularly publishes books by Paul Muldoon and Seamus Heaney. It publishes the plays and stories of Brian Friel. The Gallery Press’s early accomplishment was recognized by a Better Ireland Award in 1991.
Peter Fallon has given more than 200 readings at universities and colleges in the US — including Harvard, Yale and Princeton, the University of California at Berkeley, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Emory University. He has read in a dozen countries — in Europe (France, the Czech Republic, England, Scotland and Wales), Canada (the Harbourfront Festival) and Japan. He read at the inaugural International Writers’ Conference, Ottawa, and the first Dublin Writers’ Festival. Recently he has read at the Beall Poetry Festival (Waco, Texas), the Aldeburgh Festival (England), and the Kenyon Review Literary Festival (Ohio, 2011). He has conducted workshops at The Irish Writers’ Centre, Cúirt (The International Writers’ Festival, Galway) and the Yeats International Summer School. In 1990 he edited, with Derek Mahon, the best-selling anthology The Penguin Book of Contemporary Irish Poetry. He is one of the youngest contributors to The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing: 550 A.D. to the present.
His own collections of poems include The Speaking Stones (1978), Winter Work (1983), The News and Weather (1987) and Eye to Eye (1992). His selected poems, News of the World, was published in the US by Wake Forest University Press in 1993. An expanded edition, News of the World: Selected and New Poems, was published in Ireland in 1998, included in the Irish Times’ ‘Books of the Year’, and reprinted twice. His poems have been translated into French, German, Irish and Japanese and volumes of Selected Poems have been published in Romanian and Hungarian.
Tarry Flynn (based on a novel by Patrick Kavanagh) received its first professional production in the US and was published in 2004. The Georgics of Virgil, a Poetry Book Society Recommended Translation, appeared in 2004. A revised edition has been issued by Oxford University Press (Oxford/New York) in its World’s Classics Series.
Peter Fallon received the 1993 O’Shaughnessy Poetry Award from the Irish American Cultural Institute whose citation read: Peter Fallon’s poetry has continued to flourish and deepen despite the extraordinary demands of his career as a publisher. The late poems of his most recent collection, Eye to Eye, are the finest he has written. When the history of Irish poetry in the late twentieth century comes to be written, the name of Peter Fallon is sure to turn up everywhere.
On 2 July 1995, The Abbey Theatre in Dublin, Ireland’s National Theatre, was filled to celebrate twenty-five years of Fallon’s publishing enterprise, The Gallery Press. Readings were introduced by Seamus Heaney. In her opening address, the President of Ireland, Mary Robinson, enthused: ‘The Gallery Press has spent the last twenty-five years contributing towards bringing Irish poets and writers of plays and fiction to a wider world culture. I warmly salute the enormous contribution Peter Fallon has made to the diverse and challenging voices in Ireland.’
In 2010 The Gallery Press’s fortieth anniversary was celebrated by readings, special events and publications at the Dublin Book Festival, Poetry Now, Cúirt, the Yeats Summer School and Glucksman Ireland House/NYU. RTE, Ireland’s national radio, marked the occasion with an hour-long Arts Show special. The Dubin Writers’ Festival culminated in a gala reading at the Abbey Theatre in June. Seamus Heaney introduced the poets who read. Bill Whelan composed and premièred settings for a number of poems including Peter Fallon’s ‘The Woman of the House’ which has since been presented, sung by Julie Feeney, at the National Concert Hall and, with the National Concert Orchestra, broadcast on RTE.
Peter Fallon has been Poet in Residence at Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts and, in the Spring of 2000, he was the inaugural Heimbold Professor of Irish Studies at Villanova University, PA, which conferred on him an Honorary Doctorate. He is a member of Aosdána, the association which elects and ‘honours artists who have made an outstanding contribution to the arts in Ireland’. In 2009 he received an Alumni Award and, the following year, was appointed Adjunct Professor in the School of English of Trinity College, Dublin.
He lives in Loughcrew in County Meath where he farmed from many years.
Peter Fallon's Poetry
'Peter Fallon's poetry has become very tough and alive, like a just-cut holly stick. Snappy and weighty. Very strong, sharp savour — and where do you find that these days.'
'I have the greatest liking for Peter Fallon's poetry. It does not filter the world of the small farm for some urban reader; rather it takes him there. It does so without sentimentality, giving us for instance the brute weariness of farm work (Country Music) as well as the triumph of work well done (The Old Masters). On the whole, Fallon's words move artfully within the lexicon of the rural town; their poetry is in the rightness of naming and describing, the exact ear for the beat and savor of country speech, the honest tuning of the poet's feeling toward his chosen place.'
‘News of the World suggests that it is time to celebrate Peter Fallon not only as a poet of Ireland’s heartland but also to place him in the first rank of poets of his generation.’
‘His own work is often centered in Oldcastle, County Meath, where he lives; he is a perceptive observer of and participant in its rural activities, minding sheep, dipping, lambing, roofing, making hay, mowing, attending the mart, being part of the community. He has an eye for natural objects – the beauty of chestnut, oak, whitethorn, laurel, ash. Delighting in the landscape and its creatures, he also writes with understanding and compassion about the superstitions and misfortunes that affect a small community. No one else has borne witness with such fidelity
and grace to the everyday life of this rural place and no one else reproduces its sayings and dry wit with such immediacy . . . Fallon’s poetry has a deceptive simplicity and accessibility even as it affirms the values of endurance, survival and communal life.’
He chose a place, lived its life and out of quotidian engagement became the kind of poet he is. Living in a rural community, he wrote about place and people but what fundamentally excites his imagination is the beauty of the natural world… In a larger pattern the poems which are set in the Oldcastle/Loughcrew region transcend its status as a quiet backwater. Out of limited possibilities Fallon creates, records and celebrates local activities and people. The rhythm, of the work and of the words not only brings the region alive, they bring them into an aesthetic that is both distancing and immediate…One thing offsets another, what destroys is replaced by what endures. Once again the music of the lines, their inner rhythm affirms what the conclusion confirms… The poem (‘Meeting in Maine’) is magnificent in its rapt intensity and respect. ‘The Heart’s Home’ is another poem of total, heartfelt celebration of nature, as part of the ease and wonder of love; it gathers a multiplicity of object that he would celebrate . . .
'His poetry, like Patrick Kavanagh’s, derives its significance not by subsuming the sweep of large-scale events, but by slowly teasing quiet universal truths out of the quotidian . . . ‘Caesarean’, in which efforts to deliver the lambs of a dying ewe end in a mournful silence that nonetheless activates the grave and tender voice of the poet (and) reveals the essence of Fallon’s art by lingering on the sacrifices that ‘clear the way’ for hope, but also for a reconciliation with its loss. Whether he is writing about something as familiar as his own farm or — as in his translation of Virgil’s Georgics — as distant as classical antiquity, it is this kind of tenderness towards sacrifice and careful attention to the minutiae of experience — both physical and emotional — that distinguish Fallon’s poetry.'