Tributes paid at poet's funeral


Many of the State’s foremost poets, writers and artists led by President Michael D Higgins have attended the funeral in Naas, Co Kildare of the poet Dennis O’Driscoll.

In a personal and professional tribute, Ireland’s Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney said he “knew more than most” the value of Mr O’Driscoll’s friendship. He said he had collaborated with the late poet over many years on a book “that needed to get written, but might not have got written” without Mr O’Driscoll’s input.

Mr Heaney praised Mr O’Driscoll’s “courage and rectitude” and said his poetry “gave the art a good name”. He also invoked words used by WH Auden to commemorate TS  Eliot, saying: “So long as you were in his presence you felt it was impossible to say or do anything base”.

Welcoming the mourners, Salesian priest and fellow poet Hugh O’Donnell noted that President Higgins had been a personal friend of Mr O’Driscoll.

O’Driscoll, he added, had had a special fondness for Gregorian chant, and he led the congregation in singing Kyrie Eleison.

While the funeral would feature beautiful words, music and singing, he said “no amount of words or singing can take away the sadness or the loss” caused by O’Driscoll’s sudden death. He told the congregation the late poet’s widow, the poet Julie O’Callaghan, did not want a joyous ceremony, but wanted to reflect the sense of shock and loss felt by their extended family and friends.

O’Callaghan read from This World by Polish Poet Czeslaw Milosz:  “It appears it was only a misunderstanding. The dead will wake up, not comprehending/Till everything that happened has unhappened”. O’Callaghan said she was “overcome with gratitude and love”.

She thanked the surgical team in Naas hospital “for fighting for Dennis”, and poet Gerry Smyth, Fr O’Donnell, the O’Driscoll family, Heaney and “all the poetry family” for help in making the funeral a fitting tribute.

“Denis was wise, kind, eloquent, magnificient, hilarious and heartbreaking,” she said

In addition to O’Callaghan, the principal mourners were O’Driscoll’s brothers Proinsias, Seamus and Declan, and sisters Marie and Eithne, and members of O’Callaghan’s family led by her sister Katie, who had travelled from the US.

Prayers were led by O’Driscoll’s nephews and nieces, including Dr Macdara Ó Drisceoil, Cóilín Ó Drisceoil, Enya Ó Drisceoil, Eve Corbett and Lottie O’Driscoll.

A responsorial psalm, Deus Meus, was sung by Ciarán Ó Gealbháin, while later Áine Uí Cheallaigh sang Liam O Raghallaigh.

Among the congregation were many notable figures from the literary and artistic community, including poets Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill, Rita Ann Higgins, Michael Coady, Tony Curtis, Gerald Dawe and Mary O’Donnell, and artists Patrick Scott and Imogen Stuart. The writer Anne Enright and RTÉ presenter Joe Duffy attended, as did Northern poets Michael Longley, Ciaran Carson and Frank Ormsby.

O’Driscoll, who was born in Thurles, Co Tipperary in 1954, died after a short illness on Christmas Eve.

His works included nine books of poetry and a collection of essays and reviews.

He also edited and compiled quotations about poets and poetry, and was the holder of numerous literary awards.

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