James Simmons

Scope and Content

Consists of letters and proofs relating to the published poetry works of James Simmons.

Administrative / Biographical History

He was born into a middle-class Protestant family in Derry in 1933 and attended Campbell College in Belfast before moving to the University of Leeds to read for a degree in English. He married Laura Stinson and returned to Northern Ireland to teach at Friends' School Lisburn for five years. His final foreign excursion was a position at Ahmadu Bello University in Nigeria, where he worked for three years. During this time they had five children: Rachel, Sarah, Adam, Helen and Penelope. He returned to Northern Ireland in 1968, accepting a position at the recently-opened New University of Ulster in Coleraine, where he remained until his retirement in 1984.

During the early '70s - the bloodiest times of all in NI - he was the inspiration and leading light for The Resistance Cabaret, a satirical revue combining song, poetry and political comment on 'the troubles' and life in general, written and performed by Simmons and some of his students. Arguably, Simmons - whose passion for poetry was equalled only by his yearning to make it accessible to all the people - felt most at home in this setting, connecting with an audience that was moved to talk back.

Near the end of his teaching career at the University of Ulster, Simmons and his first wife Laura divorced. He married Imelda Foley[citation needed], the sister of Derry poet and fiction writer Michael Foley, and had one child, Anna. After this marriage to Imelda ended, he had a son Ben with his third wife, fellow-poet Janice Fitzpatrick. Simmons and Fitzpatrick started The Poets' House, initially in Islandmagee in County Antrim, later in Falcarragh in County Donegal.

Related Material


Other archival material for James Simmons can be found at the "University of Texas at Austin: Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center Library, Ulster University Library and Hull History Centre (Hull University Archives).