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Terence Winch




Terence Winch, September, 2022. Photo by Tom Goodwin

Terence Winch, originally from New York City, now lives in the Washington, DC, area. In the early '70s, he was one of DC's "Mass Transit" poets and was closely associated with the New York writers connected with the Poetry Project at St. Mark's Church in lower Manhattan.

Winch, the son of Irish immigrants, has also been part of Irish-American cultural life, both as musician and writer. Some of his poetry and other writing takes its subject matter from his upbringing in a Bronx immigrant neighborhood.

"We get this world from no other writer---this last glimpse of the culture of twentieth-century Irish immigrants in America as their first-generation American-born children witnessed it. ...The totality of his work makes for so compelling an Irish mural as to merit George O'Brien's judgment that Winch is 'the voice of Irish America.' There is in that voice traces of the tenacious love of life that...characterized Irish life prior to the famine---the elan that the world hears at the heart of Irish music." ---New World Irish: Notes on One Hundred Years of Lives and Letters in American Culture by Jack Morgan (Macmillan, 2011)

Terence Winch joins the Pitt Poetry Series with his new collection of poems, That Ship Has Sailed, set for February 2023. His previous book is a YA novel called Seeing-Eye Boy, a story that takes place in the Irish immigrant world of mid 20th-century New York. His poetry books, The Known Universe (Hanging Loose Press, 2018) and This Way Out (Hanging Loose, 2014), include work of recent years. In 2013, Salmon Poetry, based in county Clare, Ireland, published Lit from Below, a collection of 10-line poems that are more marked by the influence of Language poetry than any of Winch's other work. His 2011 collection, Falling Out of Bed in a Room with No Floor, includes recent work along with some of Winch's best-known poems from earlier chapbooks, while Boy Drinkers is a series of mostly narrative poems that center around religion and Winch's New York brand of Irish-Catholicism. That Special Place: New World Irish Stories is a collection of non-fiction stories that come primarily out of his experiences playing traditional Irish music with Celtic Thunder, a band he started with his brother Jesse in 1977. Many of the songs he wrote for Celtic Thunder recount the story of New York's Irish community: with "When New York Was Irish," "Saints (Hard New York Days)," and "The Irish Riviera" the best-known of them. Celtic Thunder's second album, The Light of Other Days, won the prestigious INDIE award for Best Celtic Album in 1988, and in 1992 Irish America magazine named Winch one of "The Top 100 Irish Americans."

Terence Winch's most recent music project is a CD called This Day Too: Music from Irish America (Celtic Thunder Music/Free Dirt Records, 2017). The album highlights new songs and tunes by Terence Winch and others, and features Michael Winch, Jesse Winch, and a host of great musicians from the Washington DC Irish music community.

Terence Winch's earlier music project is a CD that collects his best-known Irish compositions from his days with the original Celtic Thunder on one disk: When New York Was Irish: Songs & Tunes by Terence Winch (Celtic Thunder Music, 2007).

Winch has published eight books of poems, two story collections, and a young adult novel:

Seeing-Eye Boy
(fiction/ Four Windows Press, 2020)

The Known Universe
(poetry/ Hanging Loose Press, 2018)

This Way Out
(poetry/ Hanging Loose Press, 2014)

Lit from Below
(poetry/ Salmon Poetry, Ireland, 2013)

Falling Out of Bed in a Room with No Floor
(poetry/ Hanging Loose Press, 2011)

Boy Drinkers
(poetry/ Hanging Loose Press, 2007)

That Special Place: New World Irish Stories
(non-fiction stories/Hanging Loose, 2004),

The Drift of Things
(poetry/ The Figures, 2001).

The Great Indoors
(poetry/ Story Line Press, 1995), Columbia Book Award winner

(short stories/ Story Line, 1989).

Irish Musicians/American Friends
(poetry/ Coffee House Press, 1985), American Book Award winner

(For information on how to order books and recordings by Terence Winch, click on CONTACT, above)

His work is included in more than 50 anthologies, including The Oxford Book of American Poetry and five Best American Poetry collections. His poems are also to be found in Poetry 180: A Turning Back to Poetry (Random House); The Book of Irish American Poetry from the 18th Century to the Present (Notre Dame); Saints of Hysteria: A Half-Century of Collaborative American Poetry (Soft Skull); Great American Prose Poems: From Poe to the Present (Scribner's); Poetry Daily: 366 Poems from the World's Most Popular Poetry Website (Sourcebooks); and From Totems to Hip-Hop: A Multicultural Anthology of Poetry Across the Americas (Thunder's Mouth).

His work has appeared in The Paris Review, Pleiades, The New Republic, American Poetry Review, Conduit, Shiny, Verse, Western Humanities Review, Agni, The World, Hanging Loose, The Southern Review, New Hibernia Review, The New York Quarterly, et al.

Winch's poems have also appeared in numerous on-line journals, including Slope, The Cortland Review, The Innisfree Poetry Journal, TheBeltway Quarterly, Glimpse, The Cafe Review, and Poetry Daily, and have been featured many times on "The Writer's Almanac" radio program and on NPR's "All Things Considered." He has interviewed many leading Irish writers for the cable TV series The Writing Life, and was himself the subject of an interview with Roland Flint for the series in 1998. (For the entry on TW by the late James Liddy, see The Encyclopedia of the Irish in America, published by the University of Notre Dame Press.)

Terence Winch is a regular contributor to the Best American Poetry blog---check out the BAP blog for his posts about a wide range of subjects. TW has also written for The Washington Post, The Washingtonian, The Village Voice, The Wilson Quarterly, The Dictionary of Irish Literature, The Oxford Companion to American Poetry, and other books and publications.

In addition to an American Book Award and the Columbia Book Award, Terence Winch has also received a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in poetry, as well as grants from the DC Commission on the Arts & Humanities, the Maryland State Arts Council, and the Fund for Poetry. He is also the winner of a Gertrude Stein Award for Innovative Writing. In May of 2014, he was graduate commencement speaker at Madison Square Garden for his alma mater, Iona College, at which event he was awarded an honorary doctorate.

Terence Winch worked for the Smithsonian Institution for 24 years, for most of that time as Head of Publications at the National Museum of the American Indian. He also worked as senior editor and acting Chief of Publications at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. During his time at the Smithsonian, he produced more than 60 books and catalogues and five sound recordings of music and spoken arts. In the mid 1970s, he was artist-in-residence at the Corcoran College of Art, and the Corcoran's first writing teacher. During the 2009 academic year, he was poet-in-residence for the Howard County (Maryland) high schools. From 2009-12, Winch was a Councilor with the Maryland State Arts Council, by appointment of Gov. Martin O'Malley. At the end of 2016, Terence Winch's literary/music archive was acquired by Boston College.

"Reading Terence Winch's work, I'm reminded not only that he is a poet I've imitated and consciously tried to learn from, since I first read his poems some 25 years ago, but also that he is one of my favorite contemporary poets. No one is as cleverly topical, as contemporary in his voice, no one is as fresh in his language and observations, no one is funnier." ---Roland Flint, 1998.