The Library Pays Tribute to our Friend and one of Ireland’s great poets Brendan Kennelly

It is with deep sadness that we have learned of the death of our friend and one of lreland’s major poets, Brendan Kennelly.

Brendan Kennelly was a poet, a professor, a public figure, cultural commentator, and a mentor to many.  Throughout his life on the Trinity campus he was also a great friend to the Library of Trinity College Dublin.

Trinity College Dublin honoured his immense contribution to Irish life with a celebratory online event on his 85th birthday in April of this year. The Brendan Kennelly Literary Archive was also launched on the occasion of the event. With the appointment of an archivist in the Library in the Spring to oversee the cataloguing of the poet’s papers, this unique collection will be made available to students and scholars.

The celebratory event which was organised at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, during our last lockdown, featured a read message from the President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins along with selected poems recited by celebrated singer, Bono, poet, Paula Meehan and Trinity student Lily O’Byrne. We were especially honoured that Brendan himself attended online from Kerry where he spent his final years. The event also prompted members of the public to contribute further items to this constantly expanding archive.

The Brendan Kennelly Literary Archive reflects all of the facets of Brendan Kennelly’s life. His work, with roots in early twentieth-century rural traditions, developed to give a voice to the marginalised urban dweller, as well as difficult historical characters such as Judas and Oliver Cromwell. The poet’s own private life has often involved struggle and triumph, both of which he has shared freely and publicly, giving encouragement to many in their own personal struggles. Professor Kennelly’s teaching influenced generations of scholars, teachers, parents, and citizens and he has always been unfailingly encouraging to younger poets, from Paula Meehan to Leanne O’Sullivan. The collection contains literary drafts, lectures, research materials, reviews, workshop material, works by others, theatrical ephemera, personal material, photographs, memorabilia, and a great quantity of correspondence

The Library’s online exhibition ‘Forever Begin’ draws from the archive and provides wonderful insight into the poet’s life and immense contribution to Irish literary and cultural life over many decades.  

Ní bheidh a leithéid ann arís.