Poet, essayist, and librettist Jessica Traynor was born in Dublin in 1984. One of her earliest literary influences was her grandmother; the first Irish woman to graduate from London’s Central School of Speech and Drama, she kept a wide library of theater and performance books that included poetry. Although late to start reading, Traynor consumed books voraciously as soon as she learned how, and she began writing poetry as a teen. She studied English and history at Trinity College before earning her MA in Creative Writing from University College Dublin in 2008.
In 2014, Traynor published her debut collection, Liffey Swim (Dedalus Press). Shortlisted for the Strong/Shine Award, it was also named one of the best poetry debuts of the past five years by Bustle.com in 2016. Her subsequent collection, The Quick (Dedalus), was an Irish Times poetry choice of 2019. She published the pamphlet A Place of Pointed Stones, commissioned by Offaly County Council, with The Salvage Press in 2021. Her most recent collection, Pit Lullabies (Bloodaxe Books, 2022), is a Poetry Book Society Recommendation.
Traynor’s honors include the Hennessy New Writer of the Year Award, the Listowel Poetry Prize, and both the Ireland Chair of Poetry Bursary and the Dublin City Council Literature Bursary. In 2016, Poetry Ireland named her one of the “Rising Generation” of poets. She has received commissions for poems from institutions such as BBC Radio 4, the Arts Council of Ireland, the Model Gallery Sligo, VISUAL Carlow, Dún Laoghaire–Rathdown County Council, and RTÉ’s The Poetry Programme. Her essays and interviews have appeared in The Dublin Review, Tolka, Banshee, Winter Papers, Sunday Miscellany 50, and We Are Dublin and have been listed for both the Deborah Rogers Foundation Award and Fitzcarraldo Editions Prize. Her poems have been translated into Czech, Hungarian, Irish, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, and Spanish, and her work was projected in Krakow, Prague, and Dunedin in 2014–2015 as part of the UNESCO City of Literature Program.
An inaugural Creative Fellow of UCD, Traynor is also its Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown Writer in Residence for 2021–2022. She has held further residencies with the Yeats Society, Sligo, and Carlow College. Her past roles include serving as Literary Manager of the Abbey Theatre and Deputy Museum Director of EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum. Traynor is currently poetry editor at Banshee
and reviews poetry for RTÉ’s Arena and for Poetry Ireland Review.
More Jessica Traynor
Text: Traynor's poem "Pit Lullaby" at The London Magazine
Video: Traynor reads her poem "A Modest Proposal"
Audio: Traynor reads her work on podcast Words Lightly Spoken
Photo by Matthew Thompson.