Dennis O’Driscoll

Dennis O’Driscoll

It was a shock to hear of the death of Dennis O’Driscoll on December 26th. Dennis was only 58 years old. He came out to Adelaide earlier this year, and was a big hit at Writers’ Week. He did look a bit frail, but was in great humour. He read a range of poems, from sad to ‘laugh out loud’. I’d say he was my favourite of all the poets who read at Writers’ Week this year.

Dennis was a renowned critic as well as a poet. His interviews with Seamus Heaney are regarded as the nearest thing to a biography of Heaney. He was from Thurles, County Tipperary, Ireland.

In Adelaide, Dennis read this poem, which in some ways, might have been prescient:


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 cortege
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 milkbottles 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
copyright Dennis O'Driscoll

The Catechism of Sporting Cliché

I lived in Dublin in the late 70s. My first residence was sharing a basement flat in Avoca Terrace, Blackrock (down the steps behind the hedge on the right above).

I discovered that the great Irish comic writer Brian O’Nolan aka Myles na Gcopaleen, aka Flann O’Brien, had lived in the same building, in a flat next door and above mine (up the steps on the left). It was whilst living in Avoca Terrace that Flann started writing his Cruiskeen Lawn (transliterated from the Irish crúiscín lán, “full/brimming small-jug”) column for the Irish times, a column which ran from 1940 until his death in 1966.

O’Nolan was, in my opinion, ahead of his time, in terms of the absurdity of his humour. Many of his ideas would not have been out of place in Monty Python, which came along after his death.

Amongst O’Nolan’s Cruiskeen Lawn column was his Catechism of Cliché, which mocked the banality of much public speech. For example:

Is a man ever hurt in a motor crash?
No. He sustains an injury.
Does such a man ever die of his injuries?
No. He succumbs to them.
From what sort of time does a custom date?
Time immemorial.
To what serious things does an epidemic sometimes attain?

The sporting arena (there’s another cliché), is redolent with such material, so here’s my contribution in the style of Myles:

The Catechism of Sporting Cliché

How will you approach the rest of the season?

We’ll take it one game at a time

Where will the team take it?

We’ll take it to the next level.

Which end of the season is this?

It’s the business end of the season

How good was that kick?

It was centimetre perfect

Is the game over yet?

It’s not over ‘til the fat lady sings

What’s the score?

Have a look at the scoreboard

How much effort will you put into the next game?


How much respect did you show the winning team?

We showed them too much respect

Who is in control of your destiny?

We’re in control of our own destiny.

How do you feel after that win?

It hasn’t sunk in yet

How many halves are there in a game?

It’s a game of two halves.

How big is your ask?

It’s a big ask.

How right is he?

He’s  exactly right.

Who has ownership of this game?

It’s anyone’s game.

How good was that match?

It was a great advertisement for the game

How good do you feel right now?

I feel over the moon.

How bad do you feel right now?

I’m as sick as a parrot

How hard is your next game against the team that hasn’t won in half a century?

There are no easy games

Is the game amusing?

It’s a funny old game

Brian O’Nolan