Robert Herbert McClean

Poetry - Shortlisted 2019

Robert Herbert McClean is an Irish writer and audio-visual artist who discovered his ambition to be a poet at 17 when he first read the works of Arthur Rimbaud, going on to develop an idiosyncratic style that imbibes his poetic and artistic practice to this day.

During his Poetics PhD at Liverpool University, McClean began focussing on writing in a way that was contrary to the dominant, traditional modes made famous by the poets of the Ulster Renaissance. He contextualised this work as ‘a contemporary rendition of Menippean satire, albeit skewed by cultural inundations of the information age.’

McClean describes his first ‘idiosyncratic poetics’ as beginning with Pangs! (Test Centre, 2015), a collection with influence coming from a wide range of ideas such as ‘philosophical invention over plot’ in Flann O’Brien’s novel At Swim-two-birds and ‘eccentric appropriation of the inappropriate’ in John Waters’ 1972 film Pink Flamingos.

McClean’s second collection, Songs for Ireland Redux (2018) is conceptual, building on smaller scale experiments using methods of appropriation. A recent commission saw him combine Songs for Ireland Redux with video art and electronic compositions to create a ‘gesamtkunstwerk’, premiering at Poetry London’s Autumn Readings earlier this November.