Michael O'Neill was born in Aldershot in 1953 and moved to Liverpool in 1960. He read English at Exeter College, Oxford. Since 1979 he has lectured in English at Durham University, where he is a Professor of English and currently an Assistant Director of the Centre for Poetry and Poetics. He co-founded and co-edited Poetry Durham from 1982 to 1994. His recent critical books include, as co-author (with Michael D. Hurley), Poetic Form: An Introduction (Cambridge University Press, 2012).
He received an Eric Gregory Award in 1983 for his poetry and a Cholmondeley Award for Poets in 1990. His most recent collections of poems are The Stripped Bed (Collins Harvill, 1990), Wheel (Arc, 2008), Gangs of Shadow (Arc, 2014), and Return of the Gift (Arc, 2018).
He is married and has two children.