Contents and Arrangement Expanded View

Collection Overview

McCarthy, Thomas, 1954-
Thomas McCarthy Papers
Manuscripts Division
Permanent URL:
1899-2019 (mostly 1968-2019)
51 boxes
Storage Note:
  • Firestone Library (scamss): Boxes B-001404 to B-001453, P-000140


Consists of writings, diaries, correspondence, organizational records, clippings, and other personal papers of Irish poet Thomas McCarthy, including drafts of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction works from the 1970s through the 2010s; extensive diaries and notebooks on personal and literary topics; files related to his work with Cork 2005, the Triskel Arts Centre, and other cultural and arts organizations in Ireland; transcriptions and recordings of interviews and events; and teaching materials.

Collection Description & Creator Information

Scope and Contents

The collection consists of Thomas McCarthy's writings, personal and literary diaries, correspondence, records from work with various arts and cultural heritage organizations, clippings and printed materials, transcriptions and recordings of interviews and events, and files related to creative writing instruction. Materials span from McCarthy's years as a student in the early 1970s through the close of the 2010s; they document his career as a poet, novelist, nonfiction writer, and editor, and to a lesser extent his work as an arts administrator, teacher, and librarian.

McCarthy's writings include handwritten and typescript drafts, proofs, galleys, and cover designs for his published works organized by book, as well as chronological poetry notebooks in which he composed early drafts and recorded notes from his research. The writings are accompanied by copious source materials, including clippings, documents, photographs, and memorabilia, which reflect his use of Irish history and politics as content and background for his work. In addition to McCarthy's poetry, fiction, and nonfiction books, there are draft materials related to film and play treatments, reviews and short essays, as well as a small number of writings by others for projects he supported. The collection also contains an extensive series of personal and literary diaries spanning five decades, which contain McCarthy's reflections on his life, as well as his commentary on contemporary politics, literature, and other topics. His correspondence also documents both professional and personal matters and includes correspondence with a number of Irish poets and writers, including Seamus Heaney, Molly Keane, Thomas Kinsella, Desmond O'Grady, Dennis O'Driscoll, Theo Dorgan, and dozens of others.

The collection also includes records McCarthy kept from his work with various arts and cultural heritage organizations, including Cork 2005, where he was the assistant director on a project to manage Cork's designation as a European Capital of Culture, and the Triskel Arts Centre in Cork, where he was the director from 1997 to 2003. There are also files on his role as a literary editor for Stet, Poetry Ireland, and Cork Review; projects related to Cork City Libraries; and his membership in Aosdána, an Irish association of artists. Other materials documenting McCarthy's professional career include recordings, transcripts, and publicity materials for interviews and events and a small number of teaching materials from creative writing workshops he taught. There is also a group of clippings, scrapbooks, printed materials, and other items that McCarthy collected documenting his own career, as well as Irish literature, history, and politics more broadly. These materials include additional research for his writings along with some personal photographs and papers.

Collection Creator Biography:

McCarthy, Thomas, 1954-

Thomas McCarthy is an Irish poet, novelist, literary critic, and librarian whose writings engage with themes of love, family, memory, and 20th century Irish politics. McCarthy was born in Cappoquin, a small town in County Waterford, Ireland, in 1954. He was educated at University College Cork in the 1970s, where he studied with John Montague (1929-2016) and became part of a movement of young poets that included Gregory O'Donoghue, Sean Dunne, William Wall, Maurice Riordan, Gerry Murphy, Greg Delanty, and Theo Dorgan.

McCarthy's published collections of poetry include The First Convention (Dolmen Press, 1978), The Sorrow Garden (Anvil Press 1981), The Non-Aligned Storyteller (Anvil, 1984), Seven Winters in Paris (Anvil Press, 1989), Lost Province (Anvil Press, 1996), Mr. Dineen's Careful Parade (Anvil Press 1999), Merchant Prince (Anvil Press, 2005), The Last Geraldine Officer (Anvil Press, 2009), Pandemonium (Carcanet Press, 2016), and Prophecy (Carcanet Press, 2019). He has also published two novels, Without Power (Poolbeg Press, 1991) and Asya and Christine (Poolbeg Press, 1992); and two works of non-fiction, Gardens of Remembrance (New Island Books, 1996) and Out of the Ashes (Cork City Libraries, 2006). His work has also been published in numerous journals in both Ireland and abroad, and his poems have been featured in dozens of anthologies of Irish poetry, including The Penguin Book of Contemporary Irish Poetry (Penguin, 1991) and An Anthology of Irish Poetry (Harvard University Press, 2013), among others.

McCarthy has been actively involved the Irish poetry community for much of his career, including as a member of Aosdána, the Irish assembly of writers and artists, and as an editor of Poetry Ireland Review (1984-1985) and The Cork Review (1993, 1999-2000). His poetry has garnered the Patrick Kavanagh Award (1977), the Alice Hunt Bartlett Prize (1981), the Ireland Funds Annual Literary Award (1984), and the O'Shaughnessy Prize for Poetry (1991). McCarthy has also been an Honorary Fellow of the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa (1978-1979) and Poet-in-Residence at the American Conference on Irish Studies (University of St. Thomas, Minnesota, 2018).

In addition to working for many years as a librarian at Cork City Libraries beginning in 1978, McCarthy has also taught poetry and literature as Humphrey Professor of English at Macalester College in Minnesota from 1994-1995, and led poetry workshops at the Arvon Foundation (Lumb Bank), Listowel Writers' Week, Molly Keane House, and Portlaoise Prison (Provisional IRA Wing). He also served for three years as the assistant director of Cork 2005, the company responsible for managing Cork's designation as a European Capital of Culture.

In 1982, McCarthy married writer and educator Catherine Coakley, with whom he has two children.

Collection History


Purchased from Kenny's Bookshop & Art Gallery in 2019 (AM 2020-33).


During 2019 processing, two folders containing student records were discarded, and printed books were separated and transferred to the library's general collections. No other materials were removed from the collection beyond routine appraisal practices.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Kelly Bolding in November-December 2019, with assistance from Alia Wood '20. Finding aid written by Kelly Bolding in November-December 2019.

Portions of the collection were cleaned for mold during 2019 processing. Folders that were cleaned are marked with blue labels.

Access & Use

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research, with the exception of several files related to Aosdána which have been temporarily restricted at the request of the collection creator.

Conditions Governing Use

Single copies may be made for research purposes. To cite or publish quotations that fall within Fair Use, as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission is required. For instances beyond Fair Use, it is the responsibility of the researcher to determine whether any permissions related to copyright, privacy, publicity, or any other rights are necessary for their intended use of the Library's materials, and to obtain all required permissions from any existing rights holders, if they have not already done so. Princeton University Library's Special Collections does not charge any permission or use fees for the publication of images of materials from our collections, nor does it require researchers to obtain its permission for said use. The department does request that its collections be properly cited and images credited. More detailed information can be found on the Copyright, Credit and Citations Guidelines page on our website. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us through the Ask Us! form.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

For preservation reasons, original analog and digital media may not be read or played back in the reading room. Users may visually inspect physical media but may not remove it from its enclosure. All analog audiovisual media must be digitized to preservation-quality standards prior to use. Audiovisual digitization requests are processed by an approved third-party vendor. Please note, the transfer time required can be as little as several weeks to as long as several months and there may be financial costs associated with the process. Requests should be directed through the Ask Us Form.

Credit this material:

Thomas McCarthy Papers; Manuscripts Division, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

Permanent URL:
Firestone Library
One Washington Road
Princeton, NJ 08544, USA
(609) 258-3184
Storage Note:
  • Firestone Library (scamss): Boxes B-001404 to B-001453, P-000140