Dr Cherry Smyth BA, MA, PhD

Associate Professor in Creative & Critical Writing

Cherry Smyth is an Irish writer, living in London.  Her first two poetry collections, When the Lights Go Up, 2001 and One Wanted Thing, 2006 were published by Lagan Press.  Her third collection, Test, Orange, 2012, and fourth, Famished, 2019 were published by Pindrop Press.  Her debut novel, Hold Still, Holland Park Press, appeared in 2013. It looks at the imagined life of Joanna Hiffernan, an Irish woman who was the stunning, red-haired muse for painters, James Whistler and Gustave Courbet, and witnessed the birth of 19th century modernism.

Famished, a book-length poem,examines the causes and legacy of the Irish Famine, 1845-52,tours as a performance in collaboration with vocalist Lauren Kinsella and composer Ed Bennett. It was well received at the Dublin Literary Festival, the Belfast Book Festival and the Liverpool Irish Festival.

If the River is Hidden, co-authored with Craig Jordan-Baker, Epoque Press, 2022, is a poetry-prose collaboration, that considers themes of memory, identity and ecology through a pilgrimage along the River Bann, from Slieve Muck to the Valley of the Stones at the Barmouth.  It is touring currently as a performance with music. It featured in Poetry International at the Southbank Arts Centre & the Skibbereen Arts Festival in 2023. ‘Smyth and Jordan-Baker remedy such disregard (for the River Bann) in this innovative, deeply imagined and delicately wrought book.’ Neil Hegarty, the Irish Times, December 17, 2022

If the River is Hidden was launched as an audio book by Spiracle Books, June 2023

Recent work was published in:

Romance Options, eds. Leanne Quinn & Joseph Woods, 2022 (Dublin: Dedalus Press, 2022)

Impossible Archetypes, Issue 11 https://impossiblearchetype.wordpress.com/11-2/

Queering the Green: Post-2000 Queer Irish Poetry, ed. Paul Maddern (Belfast: Lifeboat Press, 2021)

‘Wrack’ for Ambiguities, September, 2021,commissioned by Poetry Ireland, Centre Culturel Irlandais and Quotidian - Word on the Street Limited, supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland #ambiguities soundcloud.com/user-815416158

Cherry was nominated as a Fellow for the Royal Society of Literature in 2022 and is also a Hawthornden Fellow. She also writes for Art Monthly and other visual art magazines.

Responsibilities within the university

  • Lecturer in Poetry for Writing Poetry & Prose
  • Lecturer & Module Leader for Advanced Poetry
  • Co-ordinator of the Royal Literary Fellow
  • Member of the LGBTQI+ Staff Community


    • Royal Literary Fellow, 2016-18
    • Arts Council Award, 2018
    • Northern Irish Arts Council Award, 2018
    • Northern Irish Arts Council Award, 2022
    • Commended in the National Poetry Competition, 2012
    • Winner of the Raymond Williams Publishing Prize, 2003


Cherry was nominated as a Fellow for the Royal Society of Literature in 2022 and is also a Hawthornden Fellow.  She is a member of the Society of Authors.

She was the Guest Editor of MAGMA Issue 54, Winter, 2012; Poetry Editor of BRAND Literary Magazine, 2005-10; and Editor of A STRONG VOICE IN A SMALL SPACE: Writings From Women on the Inside, Cherry Picking Press, 2002 (Winner of the Raymond Williams Publishing Prize, 2003)

Research / Scholarly interests

My concerns have centred around issue of identity, both cultural and sexual, with an interest in how traces of trauma are held in the body, or in the body of the landscape. I primarily use free verse and while the poetry collection, Test, Orange, revolves around four long poetic sequences, including a sonnet sequence, Famished is a book-length poem with a more extensive range of forms and registers, including the prose poem, nursery rhyme, polyvocal lyric, lists and historical quotations.  Famished is the first poetry collection to examine the Irish Famine and link it to contemporary geo-politics of food insecurity and current maritime migrations through an interplay of documentary material and imagined lyrical voices.   The longer, more evocative poems, describing the conditions of starvation, provide a sonorous lament around which the historical evidence creates a dissonant tension and points to questions of accountability.

My poetic practice in indebted to the Irish poetry tradition, in particular to the work of Seamus Heaney, Louis McNeice, Padraic Fiacc, Sinead Morrissey and Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, but also draws significantly on a range of international influences such as Paul Celan, Agha Shahid Ali, Wislawa Szymborska, Louise Glück, Anne Carson, Natalie Diaz and Claudia Rankine.

My interest in ekphrasis shapes my novel Hold Still, which examines the life of the Irish muse Jo Hiffernan, through eight paintings in which she posed for James Whistler and Gustave Courbet.  It focuses on themes of self-determination and autonomy for the female protagonist and imagines her claiming an artistic career of her own.

My most recent book, If the River is Hidden (Epoque Press, 2022) charts the journey of two writers from the source to the mouth of the Bann, Northern Ireland’s longest river. Through a dialogue of prose and poetry the history, landscape and divisions that have come to define the North are explored and challenged.

With backgrounds from each side of the sectarian divide, Craig Jordan-Baker and I explore our very different relationships with the North to uncover a sense of place and to reshape our own memories and expectations. During the journey, the Bann becomes a metaphor for longing, belonging and letting go of grief. The road north stands not only for the frequent inaccessibility of the river, but for the path of writing and friendship, which creates a flow that does not depend on water or a specific landscape.

In both form and content If the River is Hidden explores that hybrid third space beyond Republicanism and Unionism; the threat to the health of the river; and the joy carried by conversation sifted in a beautiful and rapidly changing environment.

Key funded projects

See Famished and If the River is Hidden above. Both were supported by the Northern Irish Arts Council. If the River is Hidden was also funded in part by the University of Greenwich Early Research Council, 2021.

Media activity

A conversation with Emer Lyons in Cardiff Review, Spring, 2020


Interview featured on Run-Riot


Interviewed on the Irish Cultural Centre’s Irish Arts Radio Show, broadcast on Portobello Radio, July 2023


Published a podcast with Art Fictions, featuring an interview with Mikhail Karikis, an outstanding multi-media artist.  We discussed the Korean novel Human Acts by Han Kang.

Apple -


Spotify -


Recent publications


Smyth, Cherry and , (2020), In conversation: Emer Lyons and Cherry Smyth. Cardiff University. In: , , , . Cardiff University, The Cardiff Review (March) (doi: https://www.cardiffreview.com/post/2020/03/30/in-conversation-emer-lyons-and-cherry-smyth/).

Smyth, Cherry and , (2019), To not die of history. In: , , , . , The Long Poem magazine, Autumn (22) (doi: http://longpoemmagazine.org.uk/issues/issue-twenty-two/).


Smyth, Cherry and , (2022), 'Lost Bees'. Diatribe Records. In: , , , . Diatribe Records, (First) (doi: https://diatribe.ie/product/lost-bees/).


Smyth, Cherry and , Jordan-Baker, Craig (2022), If the river is hidden. Epoque Press. In: , , , . Epoque Press, Brighton , 1 (1) (1st) . ISBN: 9781739188108 (doi: https://www.epoquepress.com/titles-if-the-river-is-hidden).

Smyth, Cherry and , (2019), Famished. Pindrop Press. In: , , , . Pindrop Press, Glasgow (1st) . ISBN: 9781999355920 (doi: http://www.cherrysmyth.com/famished.htm).

Book section

Smyth, Cherry and , (2022), Out of Dazzle. Dedalus. In: , , In: Leeanne Quinn, Joseph Woods (eds.), Romance Options: love poems for today. Dedalus, Dublin (1st) . ISBN: 9781915629012 (doi: https://www.dedaluspress.com/product/romance-options/) NB Item availability restricted.

Smyth, Cherry and , (2021), Selected poems for Irish Queer Poetry. Lifeboat Press. In: , , In: Paul Maddern (ed.), Queering the Green: Post-2002 Queer Irish Poetry. Lifeboat Press, Belfast (1st) . pp. 332-347 . ISBN: 9781916222830 (doi: https://lifeboatpress.com/) NB Item availability restricted.

Conference item

Smyth, Cherry and , (2019), Symposium: Uses of Lament: The Irish Famine and Legacies of Trauma. In: Uses of Lament: the Irish Famine & Legacies of Trauma, Thursday, 7 February 2019, Stephen Lawrence Gallery , . , (doi: http://www.cherrysmyth.com/famished-symposium.htm).


Smyth, Cherry and , (2022), 'If the river is hidden'. In: 'If the River is Hidden', 23rd September 2022, Flowerfield Arts Centre, Portstewart , . , (doi: )

Smyth, Cherry , Kinsella, Lauren, Bennett, Ed (2019), Famished, a performance with poetry, vocals and musical score, in collaboration with vocalist Lauren Kinsella and composer Ed Bennett. Pindrop Press. In: Famished, 7 February - 16 June 2019, Debuted at the Stephen Lawrence gallery, University of Greenwich (7 February 2019), culminating at the Belfast Literature Festival (16 June 2019) , . Pindrop Press, (doi: https://vimeo.com/337775695)


Smyth, Cherry and , (2020), 'Evensong' poem by Cherry Smyth, set to music by composer Laura Snowden and broadcast on BBC Radio 3. In: Blow Your Trumpets, July 7, 2019, St Pancras Church, London , . , (doi: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p07znjf3)