Thomas Kinsella to receive Bob Hughes Lifetime Achievement Award at Irish Book Awards

90-year-old poet to join An Post Irish Book Awards’ hall of fame

Poet Thomas Kinsella pictured in the Mansion House, Dublin last May where his 90th birthday was honoured. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

Poet Thomas Kinsella pictured in the Mansion House, Dublin last May where his 90th birthday was honoured. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

 

Poet Thomas Kinsella is to receive this year’s Bob Hughes Lifetime Achievement Award at the An Post Irish Book Awards, it was announced today. The award will be presented at the annual awards dinner in the Clayton Hotel in Dublin on November 27th.

Kinsella, 90, will join the An Post Irish Book Awards’ hall of fame, which features John McGahern, John Montague, JP Donleavy, Paul Durcan, John Banville, Seamus Heaney, Maeve Binchy, Edna O’Brien, William Trevor and Eavan Boland.

Kinsella was born and educated in Inchicore in Dublin. In 1946, he entered University College Dublin to study science but later joined the civil service in the Department of Finance, studying at night, having switched subjects to humanities and arts. In 1952 his first book, The Starlit Eye, was published by Liam Miller’s Dolmen Press followed by several other collections. Originally regarded as a natural descendant of Auden and Larkin, Kinsella adopted a modernist approach to poetry after his move to the US in 1965, using language that permitted a deeper exploration of self and society.

Having turned his attention to the translation of early Irish texts, Kinsella produced two volumes which made a substantial impact; first, The Táin (Dolmen 1969), illustrated by Louis le Brocquy, and an anthology of Irish poetry, An Duanaire: 1600-1900, Poems of the Dispossessed (1981), translated by Kinsella and edited by Seán Ó Tuama. In 1972, he launched Peppercanister Press to publish his own work. Running to some 30 booklets, the Peppercanister project constitutes one of the great bodies of work in all of Irish poetry.

Sometimes regarded as a poet whose work intersects the mainstream of Irish poetry at a tangent, Kinsella is now recognised at home and abroad as one of the greats of his generation. In his 90th year, nearly four decades after his debut collection of poems, Kinsella said: “I’m happy to accept this Lifetime Achievement Award, in recognition of a career exceptional with the poetry of a lifetime, with the Tain, and the presentation of Ireland’s dual tradition – experiencing the loss of a language – in poetry.”

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