Liam Ó Muirthile was born in Cork city in 1950, the first of nine children. He attended Clochar na Toirbhirte, Scoil Chríost Rí and Coláiste Chríost Rí. He has spent time in the Corca Dhuibhne Gaeltacht since he was in secondary school. Liam then went to UCC on a City Corporation scholarship. He spent a year in France during this time and went on to get a BA in French and Irish. Seán Ó Ríordáin and Seán Ó Riada were very influential in UCC at this time and Seán Ó Tuama was Professor of Irish. Michael Davitt, Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill and Gabriel Rosenstock were contemporary students of Irish and they launched the acclaimed poetry publication Innti.
In 1972 Liam left Cork and made his way to Dublin. After a brief stint in Gael-Linn he moved on to RTÉ. He was a full-time member of the news-staff from 1973 to 1991, working on radio and television. He left RTÉ in 1991 to devote his time to creative writing in Irish, working as a full-time writer and freelance journalist. He contributed a weekly column to The Irish Times from 1989 to 2003. Rogha alt, a selection of his columns first published in The Irish Times between 1989 and 2003, was published in 2014.
His first collection of poetry, Tine chnámh (1984) won the Ó Riordáin Prize at the Oireachtas. He was presented with the Irish-American Cultural Foundation Prize (1984), the Butler Award (1996), the Arts Council Prize (2001) and Gradam Chló Iar-Chonnacht (2000) for his poetry collection Walking time and other poems. His collection Sanas (Cois Life, 2007) includes a CD of the Ó Muirthile reading his poems.
An fuíoll feá – rogha dánta / Wood Cuttings – New and Selected Poems, a bilingual poetry collection, was published by Cois Life in February of 2013. The poems were primarily translated to English by Gabriel Rosenstock but there are also translations by Greg Delanty, Ciaran Carson, Peter Sirr, Bernard O’Donoghue, Caoimhín Mac Giolla Leith, Dermot Bolger, Phillip Casey, Con Daly, Eoghan Ó hAnluain and Paul Muldoon. A bilingual CD is included featuring new poems read by Liam Ó Muirthile and Gabriel Rosenstock.
Amharclann de hÍde produced his play Tine chnámh in Dublin in 1993, Fear an tae was produced in the Andrews Lane Theatre in 1995 and Liodán na habhann in 2000. He wrote the play An crann (unpublished) for a group of actors from Cúil Aodha and Baile Bhúirne while writer in residence in the Múscraí Gaeltacht in 2008. The play won many awards when performed at the Féile Náisiúnta Drámaíochta in the same year.
His novel Ar bhruach na laoi won the major fiction award in the Oireachtas (1995). Sceon na mara (Cois Life, 2010), is a detective novel set on the east coast of Ireland. An colm bán (Cois Life, 2014), a literary novel set in Paris, won a 2013 Oireachtas prize. His last novel, Aois fir (Cois Life), was published in September 2015.
In the autumn of 2015, Ó Muirthile walked the Camino Française, a total of 770 km, across the Pyrenees from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port to Santiago de Compostela. He journeyed alone, carried a backpack and stayed in the pilgrim hostels along the route. In Oilithreach pinn he shares with us his thoughts on the landscape and the people whom he met on his pen pilgrimage and personal journey. Camino de Santiago: Dánta, poems, poemas is a collection of reflective poems composed by Ó Muirthile as he walked the Camino with poems appearing in four languages: Irish and English versions provided by the poet himself, with Spanish and Galician translations by Carmen Rodríguez Alonso.
His translations of poems by Arthur Rimbaud were published posthumously in the series File ar Fhile (Cois Life, 2019). He died in Dublin on 18 May 2018.
Updated May 2019
Dánta Arthur Rimbaud (Cois Life, 2019)
Camino de Santiago: dánta, poems, poemas (Cois Life, 2018)
An fuíoll feá: rogha dánta/Wood cuttings: new and selected poems (Cois Life, 2013)
Sanas (Cois Life, 2007)
Walking time agus dánta eile (Cló Iar Chonnachta, 2000)
Dialann bóthair (Gallery Press, 1992)
Tine chnámh (Sáirséal Ó Marcaigh, 1984)
Fear an tae (Cois Life, 1999)
Liodán na habhann (Cois Life, 1999)
Aois fir (Cois Life, 2015)
An colm bán: la blanche colombe (Cois Life, 2014)
Sceon na mara (Cois Life, 2010)
Gaothán (Cois Life, 2000)
Ar bhruach na Laoi (Comhar, 1995)
Oilithreach pinn (Cois Life, 2017)
Rogha alt (Cois Life, 2014)
Ar an bpeann (Cois Life, 2006)
Sister Elizabeth ag eitilt (Cois Life, 2005)
An peann coitianta 2 (1992–1997), (Cois Life, 1997)
An peann coitianta (Comhar, 1991)
Dánta déanta (Cois Life, 2006) i gcomhar le leanaí Mhúscraí
An seileitleán agus véarsaí seilí eilí (Cois Life, 2004)
A sample track from the full CD available with copies of the printed book: An fuíoll feá: Rogha dánta / Wood cuttings: New and selected poems.
A sample track from the full CD available with copies of the printed book: Sanas. The recording was made in association with Iarla Ó Lionaird.
A sample of the full audiobook available on two CDs with copies of the printed book: Gaothán.