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Sean O'Brien Andrew Crumey Gillian Allnutt Tony Harrison Julia Darling
  Anne Stevenson    

Sean O'Brien

The winner of The Northern Rock Foundation Writer's Award 2007 is poet Sean O'Brien, although perhaps describing him simply as a poet doesn't really express the full extent of his talents.

Sean was born in London in 1952 and grew up in Hull. He was educated at Selwyn College, Cambridge, and has a prolific and wide-ranging literary career as a poet, critic, playwright, broadcaster, anthologist, short story writer, editor and academic. He has lived in Newcastle since 1990 and is currently Professor of Creative Writing at Newcastle University, a position he intends to retain.

Remarkably, his five collections of poetry to date have all won awards, with
Ghost Train (1995) and Downriver (2001), earning him the Forward Prize for Best Collection. No one had ever won this award twice before.

He went on to win a third Forward Prize when his single poem,
Fantasia on a Theme of James Wright, was honoured in 2006. The judges, chaired by John Burnside, called it as close as it is possible to come to a perfect poem. The poem will be featured in a new collection, The Drowned Book, which is due to be published by Picador in autumn 2007.

Seans poetry has also been recognised by the Eric Gregory Award (1979), the EM Forster Award (1983) and Cholmondeley Award (1988).

His most recent work of poetry is a new verse version of Dante's
Inferno, the first volume of which was published by Picador in October 2006. He plans to start work on translating the second volume of The Divine Comedy in 2007.

Sean is delighted to have won the 2007 Northern Rock Foundation Writers Award and said: I am very pleased and very surprised to have been recognised in this way. I have been lucky enough to win several awards in the past for my work but this is certainly the most generous prize Ive won.

It will give me the freedom to clear the decks with some of the work I do, particularly some of the teaching and journalism, so that I can concentrate fully on writing.

I have quite a few projects that Id like to tackle, including several large works. Im hoping to work on some fiction, particularly my first novel, a new play, some new poems and I want to continue translating Dantes
Divine Comedy.

I wont be giving up my role at Newcastle University but I do plan to give up much of the other freelance work I have been doing in recent years. Its fair to say that Ive been getting steadily more productive over the last decade and I aim to continue that trend. Youre a long time dead, so its best to just get on with it.

In recent years I have become very interested in narrative; its not a pre-eminent concern when you are writing poetry. But I feel more confident in tackling narrative now and I have a novel planned out. Ive been working on various short stories over the past few years and feel ready to have a go at a larger work.