President Michael D. Higgins has led the tributes to the poet Dennis O’Driscoll who died suddenly on Christmas Eve at the age 58.
The career civil servant was rushed to hospital after being taken ill at his home in Naas, Co. Kildare. Higgins said O’Driscoll, a native of Thurles, Co. Tipperary, combined the delivery of poetry of the deepest insights and response to contemporary life with decades of committed public service to the state.
“In addition to his nine highly regarded volumes of poetry, Dennis O’Driscoll was the author of a number of works of valuable literary criticism, including his seminal ‘Stepping Stones’ based on his interviews with Seamus Heaney on his life and work,” the president said.
“Dennis O’Driscoll’s own work was recognized as of such quality that it merited inclusion in a number of the major poetry anthologies,” Higgins added.
Joe Woods, the director of Poetry Ireland, said he was an “absolute giant” as a poet and critic, adding that his book on the Nobel laureate Heaney was the “definitive biography.”
Belinda McKeon, the County Longford-born, New York-based novelist, described O’Driscoll as a “scholar, a gentleman, a character, a friend.”
O’Driscoll read at the November 2011 PoetryFest at the Irish Arts Center in New York, which was curated by McKeon as part of Imagine Ireland.
An Irish Times obituary commented: “For Dennis, poetry was to be found in the supermarket aisle and in the recycle bin. The middle-class blues of the new estate and the rituals of the office were among his preoccupations. He was a keen-eyed observer of life at its most fragile – its ‘last chill breath.'”
The piece quoted the American critic Adam Kirsch who once said that O’Driscoll was the “poet after Larkin who has made the most of his day job, both as a subject for verse and as part of his poetic identity.”