Eithne Strong, poet and novelist, dies aged 76


The poet, Ms Eithne Strong, has died at her home in Monkstown, Co Dublin. Born Eithne O'Connell in Glensharrold, west Limerick, in 1923, she married a psychoanalyst, Mr Rupert Strong, in 1943. They had nine children, the youngest of whom, born with a mental handicap, required permanent care.

She published her first collection Songs of Living in 1961 (with an introductory tribute from Padraic Colum); followed by Sarah in Passing; Flesh-The Greatest Sin (the female equivalent of Patrick Kavanagh's Great Hunger); and most recently, Nobel (1988). She published four collections of poetry in Irish, as well as short stories and two novels, Degrees of Kindred and The Love Riddle. Spatial Nosing, her new and selected poems, appeared in 1993. She gained a degree from Trinity College when in her 40s and was elected to Aosdana in 1996.

She worked briefly in the Civil Service, as a journalist and reviewer, and as a teacher. She travelled widely in both Europe and the US, giving readings from her work, and was an enthusiastic supporter of other writers. Asked once how she found the time to write, teach and rear nine children, Ms Strong replied: "I stole it from life. I always left something undone."

Her writing style, like herself, was frank, unsentimental and witty, shot through with a generous and worldly-wise forgiveness.

The Poetry Ireland director, Mr Theo Dorgan, paid tribute to her "radical sensibility" which highlighted "the rights of women and minorities".

The American critic, Ms Patricia Boyle Haberstroh, noted Ms Strong's "sharp eye for uncovering human pretensions".