Ash Keys

Ash Keys

New Selected Poems


Published to coincide with his 85th birthday, Ash Keys looks back on the extraordinary career of the last surviving member of the triumvirate of poets that rose out of 1960s Belfast

'A master in an old, great tradition' THE TIMES

'A keeper of the artistic estate, a custodian of griefs and wonders' SEAMUS HEANEY

The title of Michael Longley’s New Selected Poems is taken from his poem ‘Ash Keys’. The wing-shaped, wind-borne seeds of the ash-tree might be an image for poems in search of their readers. This selection, based on thirteen individual collections, represents Longley’s unusual range as a lyric poet.

It shows how his themes, genres and forms have evolved and interlaced since the 1960s. Love, violence, the natural world, art, psychodrama, family, the Great War, the Homeric past and Northern Ireland’s troubled present cohabit in these pages – as do depth, wit and beauty. Longley’s poems of the west of Ireland, which pivot on Carrigskeewaun, his ‘soul landscape’, have also made him a pioneer of ‘eco-poetry’.

In 2022 Longley was awarded the Feltrinelli Prize for poetry, a major international prize. Announcing the award, the Accademia dei Lincei in Rome stressed ‘the contemporary relevance of his themes and their cultural implications’, and said: ‘Longley is an extraordinary poet of landscape, particularly of the Irish West, which he observes with the delicate and passionate attention of an ecologist, and a tragic singer of Ireland and its dramatic history. But he has also addressed the seduction, conquest, and fascination of love, as well as the shock of war in all ages, the tragedy of the Holocaust and of the gulags, and the themes of loss, grief and pity.’


  • Michael Longley is a lyric poet with perfect pitch. His formal elegance seems effortless... A master in an old, great tradition

About the author

Michael Longley

Michael Longley’s thirteen collections have received many awards, among them the Whitbread Prize, the T.S. Eliot Prize, the Hawthornden Prize, the Irish Times Poetry Prize and the Griffin International Prize. His Collected Poems was published in 2006, and Sidelines: Selected Prose in 2017. In 2001 he received the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry, and in 2003 the Wilfred Owen Award. He was appointed CBE in 2010, and from 2007 to 2010 was Ireland Professor of Poetry. In 2017 he received the PEN Pinter Prize, and in 2018 the inaugural Yakamochi Medal. In 2015 he was made a Freeman of the City of Belfast, where he and his wife the critic Edna Longley live and work. In 2022 he was awarded the prestigious Feltrinelli International Poetry Prize for a lifetime’s achievement.
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