‘He was Ireland’s most popular poet’

ONE of the nation’s best-loved poets, Brendan Kennelly, has passed away aged 85 in his native Kerry.

he former Professor of Modern Literature at Trinity College Dublin died this afternoon surrounded by family, to the deep sadness of so many who revered him for his literary talent, wisdom, humour and warm character.

Professor Emeritus at Trinity College Dublin since he retired in 2005, he had moved home to his native north Kerry in recent years, living in a retirement home not far from the historic village of his birth, Ballylongford.

Indeed, like Bryan MacMahon and John B Keane before him, North Kerry shaped his literary sensibilities to a great degree, the character of its people and their rich dialect infusing Kennelly’s many and much-lauded collections.

He was, in the words of friend and fellow North Kerry native poet Gabriel Fitzmaurice, ‘Ireland’s most popular poet’.

“He was Ireland’s most popular poet, a very fine poet. ‘Popular’ might seem to diminish his worth but it should not. He was both hugely popular and a great poet, and he was a dear friend to many young poets when we started out, including myself,” Mr Fitzmaurice told The Kerryman.

“He was a great encourager and, by all accounts, a fine Professor in Trinity College, where his lectures used to be packed by people who weren’t part of the faculty.

“He was deeply charming and charmed a nation through his appearances on The Late Late Show, but behind the charm there was a depth and understanding of the Irish people and psyche, which manifested itself in his poetry. 

“I’m glad to have called him a friend and used to visit him regularly prior to the pandemic at the retirement home he lived in, where it was always a pleasure to meet him, even in his declining years. He remained as sharp as ever and could quote reams of poetry and still loved to sing. The song from John B Keane’s Sive was one of his favourites.”

Mr Fitzmaurice said it had come as a source of great comfort to Mr Kennelly to have moved home in his later years.

His death comes little more than half a year after his beloved daughter, Doodle, died aged just 51 at her Dublin home. It was a tragedy that hit him very hard.

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