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Chris McCully

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  • Chris McCully was born in Bradford, Yorkshire in 1958. He worked as a full-time academic, specialising in the history of the English language and on English sound-structure as well as on verse and verse-form, at the University of Manchester (1985-2003) before deciding to spend more time on writing. From 2003-13 he worked part-time at various universities in the Netherlands (Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam; Rijksuniversiteit Groningen) while working on a number of different books for, among others, Carcanet, Cambridge University Press and The Medlar Press. His Selected Poems appeared from Carcanet in 2012, when he also gave the John Rylands Poetry Reading in Manchester with Michael Schmidt. Chris retains strong links with Manchester and with Carcanet: he remains chairman and co-director of the Modern Literary Archives programme at the John Rylands University Library. In 2013 Chris and his wife relocate to Colchester and the University of Essex, where Chris has accepted a part-time position in the Department of Literature, Film and Theatre Studies and where Monika will become a Professor of Applied Linguistics in the department of the same name. Chris’s most recent prose work is a book on Irish sea-trout fishing (Medlar, to appear, 2013). He is also undertaking a series of new poems about the Serengeti and its wildlife, is beginning a new, metrical translation of Beowulf and is busy writing a new set of essays which will in turn comprise From the Last Sane Places on Earth, a book about travel, dislocation and writing (forthcoming from Carcanet).
    Chris McCully has published five collections of poetry with Carcanet (Time Signatures, 1993; Not Only I, 1996; The Country of Perhaps, 2003; Polder, 2007 and Selected Poems, 2012) as well as a selection of translations from Old English (Old English Poems and Riddles, 2008), the best-selling Fly-fishing: A Book of Words (1992) and the edited collection of essays The Poet's Voice and Craft (1994).

    In 2003 Chris McCully left the University of Manchester, where he worked for 20 years, in order to live and work in Amsterdam and to develop his writing career. In 2004 he published a memoir on alcoholism, Goodbye, Mr. Wonderful (London: Jessica Kingsley), and (with Sharon Hilles) a textbook on the history of Old and early Middle English language, The Earliest English (London: Pearson Education). A title for Cambridge University Press, The Sound Structure of English appeared in 2009 and a further co-edited volume, Analysing Older English, in 2011. Over the same period Chris published a number of titles on angling and the natural world: representative are Fishing and Pike Lures (Medlar Press, 2009) and Outside (Two Ravens Press, 2011). Like his poetry, his angling essays have over three decades appeared in several anthologies or edited collections of new work – and continue to do so.

    Chris is well-known as an angling essayist and journalist, with articles and essays appearing regularly in Trout and Salmon and Waterlog. His articles and photographs have appeared in many angling publications around the world, though sometimes his angling work generates writing of an entirely different kind: in 2004, for example, Chris undertook an arduous commissioned trip to Greenland, where he slept alone in the Arctic desert, caught specimen Arctic charr - and re-read Beowulf. That experience was the spur to complete Old English Poems and Riddles... and also underlies Chris’s new metrical translation of Beowulf (in progress). His elegy for fly-fishing, The Other Side of the Stream (UK Angling Book of the Year, 1998), was in 2004 reprinted for the first time in a US edition. In 2013 he publishes a major study of Irish sea-trout fishing (Nomads of the Tides, with Ken Whelan, Medlar Press), a work that necessitated many Irish visits in the period 2007-12. In 2013 he also began an extensive series of new poems focussing on the Serengeti (Kenya and Tanzania) and meanwhile is working on another set of essays and book chapters which will go to make up From the Last Sane Places on Earth, a book about travel, dislocation and writing (Carcanet, forthcoming 2017). Meanwhile, Chris is not neglecting his formal interests in verse and verseform: beginning with a review article on ‘Counting, closure and prosody’ (2013) Chris will over the period 2013-16 put together a set of reflections and critical queries about English verse-form, provisional title The Fretted Muse.

    Chris is one of the directors of the Modern Literary Archives programme in the John Rylands University Library of Manchester, and is also Honorary Senior Research Fellow in the Faculty of Arts, University of Manchester. He is married to Monika Schmid and in 2013 Chris and Monika will relocate to Colchester and the University of Essex. When not working and writing, Chris enjoys gardening, working with his two Labradors, dear arthritic Tess and young Paddy Too – and of course, he goes fishing.
    Praise for Chris McCully '€˜McCully gets the life of words, their swing and weight, resonance and cadence. The poems spark with great lines and phrases...'
    Literary Review
    'this is a singular collection from a singular voice in English poetry, and I highly commend it.'
    Phillip Quinlan, Angle
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