One of Ireland’s most respected critics of poetry, Dennis was born on January 1st 1954, here in Thurles Co Tipperary, son to James and Catherine O’Driscoll. He was educated by the Christian Brothers before going on to study Law at University College, Dublin, (1972-75.)
For many years Dennis was employed by the Irish Revenue Commissioners, specializing in “death duties, stamp duties, and customs.” In his memoir entitled, ‘Sing for the Taxman,’ Dennis stated, “I have always regarded myself as a civil servant rather than a ‘poet’ or ‘artist’ – words I would find embarrassing and presumptuous to ascribe to myself.”
I first ran across Dennis in late 2007, when he & I were both invited to contribute to the installation of the then new Revenue Museum in Dublin Castle. Alas, for me, it was not to be, however a poem by Dennis entitled, ‘At The Revenue Museum,’ would later be printed in a program for the opening ceremony and same poem now hangs proudly as an exhibit within the museum building itself.
During his lifetime Dennis published, in all, some nine books of poetry, three ‘Chap-books,’ (pocket-sized booklets) and a collection of Essays and Reviews. He also edited and compiled contemporary quotations on poets and poetry and indeed published a book of interviews with poet Seamus Heaney.
His poetry publications included Kist (1982), Hidden Extras (1987), Long Story Short (1993), Quality Time (1997), Weather Permitting (1999), which was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation and shortlisted for the Irish Times Poetry Prize 2001, Exemplary Damages (2002), Reality Check (2008), short listed for the Irish Times/Poetry Now Prize, and most recently Dear Life (2012). His New and Selected Poems (2004) was a Poetry Book Society Special Commendation.
His three Chap-books were The Bottom Line (1994), 50 O’Clock (2005) and All the Living (2008).
His awards included a Lannan Literary Award, the E.M. Forster Award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the O’Shaughnessy Award for Poetry from the Centre for Irish Studies in Minnesota, and the Argosy Irish Non-Fiction Book of th0e Year Award. He was also awarded an honorary doctorate in literature by University College, Dublin in 2009.
Dennis was also an advisor to Agenda magazine, a contributing editor of Harvard Review, a member of Aosdána, the Irish Academy of Artists, and an Honorary Member of the Royal Hibernian Academy.
Someone – By Dennis O’Driscoll
someone is dressing up for death today, a change of skirt or tie
eating a final feast of buttered sliced pan, tea
scarcely having noticed the erection that was his last
shaving his face to marble for the icy laying out
spraying with deodorant her coarse armpit grass
someone today is leaving home on business
saluting, terminally, the neighbours who will join in the cortège
someone is paring his nails for the last time, a precious moment
someone’s waist will not be marked with elastic in the future
someone is putting out milk bottles for a day that will not come
someone’s fresh breath is about to be taken clean away
someone is writing a cheque that will be rejected as ‘drawer deceased’
someone is circling posthumous dates on a calendar
someone is listening to an irrelevant weather forecast
someone is making rash promises to friends
someone’s coffin is being sanded, laminated, shined
who feels this morning quite as well as ever
someone if asked would find nothing remarkable in today’s date
perfume and goodbyes her final will and testament
someone today is seeing the world for the last time
as innocently as he had seen it first
Dennis died suddenly, at Naas General Hospital, now sadly missed by his loving wife Julie (O’Callaghan), brothers Proinsias, Seamus and Declan and sisters Marie and Eithne, nieces, nephews and all family members.
Go ndéana Dia trócaire ar a anam dílis.