Francis O’Hare was born in Newry, Co. Down, in 1970. His early childhood in the countryside of south Down made a strong impression on him, instilling in the child-poet an abiding sense of a landscape that is older than time and populated by many ghosts.
He grew up and received his early education in Newry before attending Queen’s University, Belfast, where he studied English at undergraduate and post-graduate level. Whilst at Queen’s, he attended the writing group conducted by the poet, Carol Rumens, and made an important friendship with the poet, Frank Sewell. During this time he also attained a strong impression of the city of Belfast that has informed his work.
O’Hare was initially attracted to poetry by the examples of Yeats and Kavanagh and Keats and Owen, to whom he was introduced by his ‘master’ at primary school, Padraic O’Donnell, and a Christian Brother at the Abbey Grammar in Newry, Brother Colman. From these poets he gleaned a sense of poetry being something both earthy and earthly and at the same time magical and otherworldly. It is a sense that has stayed with him.
Whilst in Belfast, O’Hare’s reading encompassed much more poetry, from Homer to Heaney, Muldoon to Mayakovsky, Auden to Armitage, early Irish lyrics to late T.S. Eliot, Frank O’Hara to Ted Hughes. He relished the drunkenness of his various readings and realised the sober truth that whilst poetry is a spirit that can take on innumerable forms and formulations, it invariably arises out of a lack, a longing, a wonder, a wound in the poet who receives the whisper in his or her ear from the muse, the land, the age, the ghost in the machine or whatever critics want to call it.
During this time, the poet also discovered ‘this crazy little thing called love’.
Another source of O’Hare’s inspiration has always been the world of ‘popular culture’, whether that be music, movies, TV, internet or magazines – they all form part of ‘the mix’ of his world-view and poetry. Artists like Lennon, Dylan, Van Morrison and Woody Allen are as important to him as James Joyce, Allen Ginsberg or Jesse James.
O’Hare shared a joint volume of poetry, Outside the Walls, (An Clochan Press, Belfast) with Frank Sewell in 1997. His first publication with Lagan Press was in the Poetry Introductions series in 2004. His first full collection, Falling into An O, was published by Lagan Press in 2007. In 2009 he published a sequence of sonnets in pamphlet form with Lagan Press.
The sequence was entitled Alphaville, after the film of that name by Jean Luc Godard. He published his second collection, Somewhere Else, with Lagan Press in 2011. In the same year, he also published a collection in America, with Evening Street Press, Ohio, entitled Home and Other Elsewheres.