His collections of poetry include Hail! Madam Jazz: New and Selected Poems (Bloodaxe Books, 1992), A Fragile City (Bloodaxe Books, 1995), Our Double Time (Bloodaxe Books, 1998) Poems 1975-1995 – Hail! Madam Jazz: New and Selected Poems (Bloodaxe Books, 1999), The Gossamer Wall (Bloodaxe Books and Time Being Books 2002), Love Life (Bloodaxe Books, 2005) and Globe (Bloodaxe Books, 2007).
He has been a lecturer at Trinity College Dublin and a professor at the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies. Among his many academic works are Learning Irish (Yale University Press 1988) and Modern Irish (Cambridge University Press 1989). He was a member of the Arts Council (1988- 1993), and of the Advisory Committee on Cultural Relations (1989 - 1997), a founder member of Aosdána. He was the founding chairman of ILE (Ireland Literature Exchange).