Northern Irish poet, born in Belfast. He is noted for his low-key, socially committed but politically uncommitted verse; and his ability to reflect the spirit of his times in his own emotional experience earned him an appreciative public. He made his debut with Blind Fireworks (1929) and developed a polished ease of expression, reflecting his classical training, as in the autobiographical and topical Autumn Journal (1939). Later works include the play The Dark Tower (1947), written for radio (he was employed by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) features department 1941–61); a verse translation of Goethe's Faust (1949); and the collections Springboard (1944) and Solstices (1961). Collected Poems (1966) was revised in 1979 and Selected Plays appeared in 1993. He also made a verse translation of Agamemnon by Ancient Greek dramatist Aeschylus (1936).
MacNeice was educated at Marlborough school and Merton College, Oxford, where his contemporaries included W H Auden, Stephen Spender, and Cecil Day-Lewis, poets with whom he was often associated during the 1930s. He lectured in classics at Birmingham University and Bedford College, University of London, before becoming lecturer in English at Cornell University in the USA. Returning to Britain for service during World War II, he joined the BBC as a feature writer and producer.
Other volumes of poetry include The Last Ditch (1940), Plant and Phantom (1941), Holes in the Sky (1948), Ten Burnt Offerings (1952), Autumn Sequel (1954), Visitations (1957), and Eighty-five Poems (1959). He also published a play, Out of the Picture (1937); a study of the poetry of Irish writer W B Yeats (1941); and a children's book, The Sixpence that Rolled Away (1956).
MacNeice, (Frederick) Louis