James Simmons (1933 - 2001) was a poet, literary critic and songwriter from Northern Ireland.
He was born into a middle-class Protestant family in Derry/Londonderry in 1933 and attended Campbell College in Belfast before moving to the University of Leeds to read for a degree in English. He then returned to Northern Ireland to teach at Friends' School Lisburn for five years before going to the new Ahmadu Bello University in Nigeria where he stayed for three years. This time he returned to Northern Ireland for good. He took up a position at the New University of Ulster in Coleraine which had just opened. He remained there from 1968 to 1984 when he took early retirement. He and his wife American poet Janice Fitzpatrick Simmons then established an independent poetry school, The Poets' House, initially in Islandmagee in County Antrim and subsequently in Falcarragh in County Donegal.
When Simmons returned to Northern Ireland he took part in meetings of The Belfast Group. This was a group of poets who met regularly in Belfast to discuss their work. The group included Seamus Heaney and Michael Longley. In 1968 Simmons established The Honest Ulsterman a literary journal that ran for about thirty years. Members of the group frequently published in the journal.
Simmons also began publishing his own poetry. These were distinguished by their emotional intensity and their attention to local and family issues.
He won several prizes for his poetry including the Gregory and Cholmondeley Awards.
He also wrote a critical biography of Sean O'Casey (London: Macmillan).
Throughout his career Simmons wrote and performed songs about various contemporary issues. He produced four collections of his own songs.
* Ballad of a Marriage (1966)
* Late but in Earnest (London: Bodley Head; 1967)
* Ten Poems (1969)
* In the Wilderness (London: Bodley Head; 1969)
* No Ties (1970)
* Energy to Burn (London: Bodley Head; 1971)
* The Long Summer Still to Come (Belfast: Blackstaff Press; 1973)
* West Strand Visions (Belfast: Blackstaff Press; 1974)
* Judy Garland and the Cold War (Belfast: Blackstaff Press; 1976)
* Constantly Singing (Belfast: Blackstaff Press; 1980)
* From the Irish (Belfast: Blackstaff Press; 1985)
* Poems, 1956-1986 ([Introduction by Edna Longley] Dublin, The Gallery/UK, Bloodaxe 1986)
* Sex, Rectitude and Loneliness (Belfast: Lapwing Press; 1993)
* Mainstream (Galway: Salmon Poetry; 1995);
* The Company of Children (Galway: Salmon Poetry; 1999)