Sam Gardiner was born in Portadown, County Armagh, in 1936. He attended Portadown College and his working life was spent in architecture and began in Lurgan where he was apprenticed to architect Jackson Blakely in 1954. His early studies of architecture and geology on day-release were followed by ten years with a Belfast practice working in many parts of Ireland under many conditions, including living in a hut in a sea of mud at St Vincent’s Hospital, Dublin.
He moved to London in 1969 during The Troubles (his colleagues and friends were both Catholic and Protestant) and continued in architecture, with occasional bouts of spare-time freelance journalism and reviewing, until 1978 when he was grant-aided by the Arts Council of Great Britain for producing three consecutive issues of The Poet’s Yearbook. But when Mrs Thatcher threatened to severely reduce all arts council funding he took refuge in architecture and remained there until his retirement in 1993.
1993 was the year his poem ‘Protestant Windows’ won the £3,000 first prize in the National Poetry Competition followed by smaller but useful amounts (from £50 to £250) in seven different competitions. ‘Protestant Windows’ gave its name to Gardiner’s debut collection published by Lagan Press in 2000, which has been fully reprinted and republished ten years later.
In 2002 Gardiner received an Arts Council of England Writer’s Award of £7,000 which helped him carry on with a second collection, The Night Ships, published by Lagan Press in 2007. His third collection, The Morning After, was published by Lagan Press in 2010, and both books have attracted considerable critical acclaim including favourable reviews in The Times Literary Supplement – ‘These poems embody the dance of the intellect among words and ideas.
Graceful, humane and witty, they deserve a wide readership.’ and The Guardian – ‘Everyone should read these marvellous poems.’
Commentators have noted the influence of Thomas Hardy, Philip Larkin and Douglas Dunn in his poetry, and these he freely admits but would add Jonathan Swift and Derek Mahon and much poetry written, sometimes anonymously, in the centuries between.
New poems by Gardiner continue to appear regularly in leading literary magazines and occasional pamphlets come from sundry sources, such as a 30-page pamphlet The Picture Never Taken from Smith/Doorstop Books and De Nooit Gemaakte Foto from Wagner & Santen, Amsterdam, a 17-page pamphlet of Gardiner’s poems translated into Dutch. He is an active member of local poetry groups and has conducted workshops for the local authority.
At present Gardiner lives in Grimsby on the North Sea coast. He is married to a psychiatric nurse, has a daughter and two granddaughters living in England and a son and grandson in Ireland.