Sean O'Brien Archive

Scope and Content

Consists of manuscript and typescript drafts of Sean O'Brien's published and unpublished work, as well as articles and press cuttings relating to his work. Also includes O'Brien's personal notebooks from 1970 onwards, correspondence from and to O'Brien in both a personal and professional context, and miscellenous material relating to his cultural roles and activities including jobs, residencies and fellowships.

Administrative / Biographical History

Sean O'Brien was born on 19 December 1952 in London, and is a British poet, critic and playwright. He grew up in Hull, and was educated at Selwyn College, University of Cambridge.

Sean O'Brien's book of essays on contemporary poetry, The Deregulated Muse (Bloodaxe), was published in 1998, as was his anthology The Firebox: Poetry in Britain and Ireland after 1945 (Picador). Cousin Coat: Selected Poems 1976–2001 (Picador) was published in 2002. Sean O'Brien's new verse version of Dante's Inferno was published by Picador in October 2006. His six collections of poetry to date have all won awards, including the Eric Gregory Award (1979), the Somerset Maugham Award (1984), the Cholmondeley Award (1988), the Forward Poetry Prize (2001 and 2007) and the T. S. Eliot Prize (2007). In 2007 he won the Northern Rock Foundation Writer's Award, Forward Prize for Best Collection and the T. S. Eliot Prize for The Drowned Book (Picador, 2007). This was the first time a poet had been awarded the Forward and the Eliot prizes in the same year. In 2006, he was appointed Professor of Creative Writing at Newcastle University, and was previously Professor of Poetry at Sheffield Hallam University. He is a Vice-President of the Poetry Society. He was co-founder of the literary magazine The Printer's Devil and contributes reviews to newspapers and magazines including The Sunday Times and The Times Literary Supplement and is a regular broadcaster on radio. His writing for television includes "Cousin Coat", a poem-film in Wordworks (Tyne Tees Television, 1991); "Cantona", a poem-film in On the Line (BBC2, 1994); Strong Language, a 45-minute poem-film (Channel 4, 1997) and The Poet Who Left the Page, a profile of Simon Armitage (BBC4, 2002). Other significant work includes a radio adaptation for BBC Radio 4 of We by Yevgeny Zamyatin.

As of 2017, he is the Weidenfeld Visiting Professor at St. Anne's College, Oxford.

Access Information

Access restrictions apply to parts of this collection in accordance with the United Kingdom's Data Protection Act 1998 and Freedom of Information Act 2000. See individual items for further details on where these restrictions apply.
Access is open to bona fide researchers; appointment in advance and proof of identity required. Please see for further details.

Archivist's Note

This catalogue was created by Rachel Hill, Literary Archivist at Newcastle University Special Collections in 2017.

Separated Material

Correspondence relating to Sean O'Brien can be found in the Robert Westall Collection held at Seven Stories Centre for Children's Books, Newcastle. A description of the material can be found at the following link


Further accruals to this collection are expected.