Journalist with keen sense of humour and champion of his father’s poetry

‘Most attentive and conscientious of proofreaders’

Dardis Clarke and Elisa Marie Robinson at the opening of the Absolut Classics exhibition in the Rubicon Gallery, St Stephens Green, Dublin in 2001

Dardis Clarke and Elisa Marie Robinson at the opening of the Absolut Classics exhibition in the Rubicon Gallery, St Stephens Green, Dublin in 2001

 

Dardis Clarke, who has died aged 73, was a former chairman of Poetry Ireland, life member of the National Union of Journalists and champion of his father Austin Clarke’s poetry.

Director of Poetry Ireland Joseph Woods said Clarke was a “unique pillar of the Dublin poetry community” and “bohemian in . . . outlook”.

Former managing editor of The Irish TimesGerard Smyth said that as the “most attentive and most conscientious of proofreaders” Clarke was “well aware of the truth in Oscar Wilde ’s remark that ‘a poet can survive anything but a misprint’ ”.

Former Siptu general president Des Geraghty paid tribute to a “kind and helpful colleague” and “loyal friend”.

Dardis Clarke was born in Dublin in 1939, was the youngest of three sons of Austin Clarke and his wife Norah (née Walker) and grew up in Templeogue. After completing his education at the High School he embarked on a career in journalism.


Poetry and literature
As publications officer of the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union in the 1970s he was responsible for the union’s monthly paper Liberty . He subsequently worked at the European Parliament ’s Dublin office, rising daily before dawn to trawl through Irish newspapers for EU-related stories which he then forwarded to Brussels.

He contributed articles to this newspaper on poetry and other literary matters. His 1982 article on poet and Abbey Theatre manger FR Higgins is particularly noteworthy for its biographical detective work.

Immensely proud of his father’s place in the canon of Irish poetry, he was ever vigilant in defending the poet’s copyright. He edited Austin Clarke Remembered (1996), with an introduction by Seamus Heaney and contributions by Brendan Kennelly, Derek Mahon and John Montague, among others.

He also edited Austin Clarke Collected Poems which was published in 2008. Critic Maurice Harmon welcomed the book for bringing the poet’s work before readers “in all its range and variety, its strength and humanity”.

Clarke did much to arrange the acquisition by Poetry Ireland of his father’s extensive library. He proof-read every issue of Poetry Ireland Review and never missed a poetry reading staged by the organisation.


Sense of humour
He also supported other readings, including the series organised by John McNamee at the Bank of Ireland arts centre before it was closed.

He was one of the trustees of the Great Book of Ireland, recently acquired by University College Cork.

He was known for his mischievous sense of humour. A shareholder in the Irish Press, he attended the 1985 agm, which followed a lengthy closure of the titles, and at which losses of £3.4 million were announced.

He asked whether if, after the board’s “brief flirtation with the private sector”, it had decided to “return to nepotism”.

In October 2011 he sent a letter to Taoiseach Enda Kenny, enclosing a €5 note and offering odds of 10-1 against the Fine Gael candidate Gay Mitchell winning the presidential election.

The wager was not taken up and the money returned by post with the suggestion that the bet could be laid elsewhere.

For many years Clarke’s daily routine included a vigorous swim in the ESB pool at Ringsend. He enjoyed the company of friends connected to the media and advertising who regularly met for lunch in hostelries such as O’Donoghue’s, Doheny and Nesbitt’s and the Baggot Inn.

Like his father he dressed exclusively in black, and with his dark bushy beard was often mistaken for Barney McKenna of the Dubliners.

His other publications are The Story of the People’s College (1986), with Ruaidhrí Roberts, and Frederick Robert Higgins: The 39 Poems (1992).

He is survived by his daughter Aoife, grandson Adam, brother Aidan, nieces and nephews.