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For All We Know by Ciaran Carson

For All We Know

Literary Fiction   All Shortlists and Winners   Poetry   
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Shortlisted for the Costa Poetry Award 2008.

Costa Book Awards 2008 Judges' comment:
"The voices in this film noir poem - confident, seductive and hypnotic - draw the reader into a tragic, complex and dream-like love story."


For All We Know by Ciaran Carson

Shortly after a man and a woman meet for the first time in a second-hand clothes shop in Belfast, a bomb goes off. It is some time in the 1970s. They become lovers. For All We Know is their story, told in the recent past: a meditation on love, place, memory, loss and language, how people know each other, misunderstand each other, or translate each other, not to mention the events and circumstances which are beyond their control.

Gesturing towards a conventional sonnet sequence – the poems consist of fourteen lines, or multiples thereof, in lines of fourteen syllables – Ciaran Carson’s novelistic book also references film noir, Cold War thriller, fairy story, and the art of the fugue. In its uncanny music, repercussions and reprises, its mysterious unfolding of what happened or what might have been in Paris and Dresden (or was it Berlin?), For All We Know is a sequence of poems like nothing you’ve ever read before.

About the Author

Ciaran Carson

Ciaran Carson was born in 1948 in Belfast, where he lives. He worked in the Arts Council of Northern Ireland from 1975 to 1998, with responsibility for Traditional Music, and, more latterly, Literature.

In October 2003 he was appointed Professor of Poetry and Director of the Seamus Heaney Centre at Queen's University, Belfast.

He is the author of eleven collections of poems, including The Irish for No, Belfast Confetti, The Twelfth of Never, First Language, Opera Et Cetera, Breaking News, For All We Know (Poetry Book Society Choice; shortlisted for next year's T S Eliot prize) and Collected Poems (2008). His translations include The Alexandrine Plan, The Midnight Court, The Inferno of Dante Aligheri and The Táin.

In recent years he has written four prose books: Last Night's Fun, a book about traditional music; The Star Factory, a memoir of Belfast; Fishing for Amber: A Long Story; and Shamrock Tea, a novel, which was longlisted for the Booker Prize. He has won several literary awards, including the Irish Times Irish Literature Prize and the T.S. Eliot Prize. His translation of Dante's Inferno (2002) was awarded the Oxford Weidenfeld Translation Prize, and in 2003 he was made an honorary member of the Irish Translators' and Interpreters' Association. Breaking News was awarded the 2003 Forward Prize.

Photograph © Manus Carson & The Gallery Press

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Book Info

Publication date

1st March 2008


Ciaran Carson

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The Gallery Press




Literary Fiction
All Shortlists and Winners



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