Newcastle Centre for the Literary Arts

Associates Profile

Emeritus Professor Sean O'Brien

Professor of Creative Writing



Sean O’Brien is a poet, critic, playwright, translator  anthologist, broadcaster, novelist and editor. He grew up in Hull and now lives in Newcastle upon Tyne. He has published ten collections of poetry to date, most recently It Says Here (2020) and including The Drowned Book (2007), which was awarded both the Forward and TS Eliot prizes. His Collected Poems was published in 2012. A Chinese and English parallel text edition of new and selected poems, The River Road, was published in Beijing in 2014. Two selections of his work have been published in Serbia.

His book of essays on contemporary poetry, The Deregulated Muse, was published in 1998, as was his acclaimed anthology The Firebox: Poetry in Britain and Ireland after 1945. His Newcastle Bloodaxe Poetry lectures were published as Journey to the Interior: Ideas of England in Contemporary Poetry (2012). He has edited a selection from Andrew Marvell (2011) and, with Don Paterson, The Rest on the Flight: Selected Poems of Peter Porter (2010), and Train Songs: Poetry of the Railways (2013).

His collection of short stories, The Silence Room, appeared in 2008 and his novel, Afterlife, in 2009. A second novel, Once Again Assembled Here, was published in 2016 and his second collection of short stories, Quartier Perdu, in 2019. He has translated Dante's Inferno, the poems of Corsino Fortes and the collected poems of Abai Kunanbaiuly, the national poet of Kazakhstan. His verse plays include The Birds, Laughter When We're Dead, and Keepers of the Flame. His translation of Tirso de Molina's Spanish Golden Age comedy Don Gil of the Green Breeches was staged in Bath in 2013, and in London and Coventry in 2014, and his verse translation of Lope de Vega's The Sicilian Courtesan was staged in 2019.

He has written for the Guardian, The Independent and the Times Literary Supplement. Radio work includes versions of Zamyatin's We, Greene's The Ministry of Fear and a Radio 4 documentary on Ted Lewis, the author of Get Carter

His long poem and documentary By the Tide of Humber (BBC Radio 4, 2017) was the first BBC radio programme to mark Hull's year as City of Culture.

In 2017 has Weidenfeld Visiting Professor of Comparative European Literature at St. Anne's College, Oxford.

In 2018 his ninth collection of poems, Europa, was shortlisted for the TS Eliot prize.

He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. 

Previous Positions

Lecturer and then Professor of Poetry at Sheffield Hallam University (1998-2006)

Honours and Awards

2016 - The Golden Key of Smederevo

2015 - Roehampton Poetry Prize, jointly (The Beautiful Librarians)

2015 -  European Lyric Award, Banja Luka

2012 - Shortlisted for Griffin International  Poetry Award, the TS Eliot, Forward and Costa Poetry Prizes (November)

2009 - Novi Sad International Writer's Award 

2007 - TS Eliot Prize (The Drowned Book

2007 - Forward Prize for best collection (The Drowned Book)

2007 - Northern Rock Writer's Award 

2006 - Forward Poetry Prize (Best Single Poem - 'Fantasia on a Theme of James Wright')

2001 – Forward Prize for Best Collection (Downriver)

2001 – Northern Writer of the Year (Northern Arts; administered by New Writing North)

1995 - Forward Prize for Best Collection (Ghost Train)

1993 - E M Forster Award (American Academy of Arts and Letters)

1992 - Arts Council Writer’s Bursary

1988 - Cholmondeley Award

1984 - Somerset Maugham Award

1979 - Gregory Award