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Dennis O'Driscoll, Poet and Critic

Dennis O'Driscoll

Dennis O’Driscoll, who died in Naas, Co. Kildare, on Christmas Eve aged 58, made his name as a poet and critic while working at the Revenue Commissioners in Dublin, where he specialised in “death duties, stamp duties and customs”.

He was the author of nine books of poetry, three pamphlets and a collection of essays and reviews. He contributed poetry, reviews and criticism to a wide range of Irish and international publications and his great friend and collaborator, Seamus Heaney, said that he gave poetry a “good name”.

Born in Thurles, Co Tipperary, in 1954, he came from a family steeped in the arts. He attended Thurles CBS and, after joining the Civil Service at 16, continued his education at University College Dublin, where he studied law, and the Institute of Public Administration. He described Civil Servants as "a cautious, conscientious bunch on the whole, well-intentioned, middle of the road . . . family men in anoraks and belted raincoats." and explained the difference between job and vocation as:  “In the Civil Service you are assigned a grade. You know your status. Whereas with poetry, you never retire and you never really know your grade – it will be assigned posthumously.”

O'Driscoll was very much influenced by the eastern European poets, such as Czeslaw Milosz and Zbigniew Herbert, but nominated Bertolt Brecht as his poet of the century in 1999. He was always available to young writers, and his advice to aspiring poets was: “Poetry is a form of play. Play is a diversion from work. All play and no work will make Jack a dull poet.”

May he rest in the Peace of the Lord.