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

2 thoughts on “Dennis O’Driscoll

  1. The frailty you noticed, Mike, might well have been death growing inside him. Who among us knows the secrets of a relative stranger, till those secrets find final voice? And how many of us share such secrets except with our most intimate friends? A moving poem, even though I thought a few words could be profitably dropped. What was that poem of James McAuley’s as he knew death was coming? Something like

    I have been tested and found fit to join the underground.

    Always sad news when a poet dies. I was sad when Stephen Lawrence died, even though he was a bastard to me. Very sad, even before I heard how he died. Then I felt sadder.

  2. Thanks Murray. Hope you are keeping well yourself, and will be back at Friendly Street in 2013. I know what you mean about possibly a few superfluous words in the poem. I think when you hear him read it however, it flows much better (as should most poems when read by the author). Here is Dennis reading it:

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