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Brendan Kennelly (born 1936) is an Irish poet and novelist.[4] Now retired from teaching, he was Professor of Modern Literature at Trinity College, Dublin until 2005. Since his retirement he has been titled "Professor Emeritus" by Trinity College. He is father to one daughter, Doodle Kennelly [1][3] and is also grandfather to Doodle's three daughters: Meg, Hannah and Grace.

Brendan Kennelly
Born1936 (age 82–83)
Ballylongford, County Kerry
OccupationWriter, professor, translator
Alma materTrinity College, Dublin
Leeds University
SubjectOliver Cromwell, riman mythology
Notable works"Poetry My Arse"
"Book of Judas"
"Cromwell" "Begin" "Poem from a three year old" [1]
Notable awardsIrish PEN Award
SpouseDivorced from Margaret O'Brien, Poet and Professor of English at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.[2]
ChildrenDaughter, Doodle Kennelly[1][3]
RelativesThree granddaughters. Meg, Hannah and Grace.


Early lifeEdit

Kennelly was born in Ballylongford, County Kerry, on 17 April 1936 and was educated at the inter-denominational St. Ita's College, Tarbert, County Kerry, and at Trinity College, where he edited Icarus. Kennelly graduated from Trinity and wrote his PhD thesis there. He also studied at Leeds University. Brendan was married to Margaret (Peggy) O'Brien for 18 years, Peggy was Brendan's colleague in the English Department at Trinity College. They lived together in Sandymount, Dublin, with daughter Doodle for 12 years before separating. Brendan and Peggy remain friends and Peggy is now remarried. Peggy is a published poet and Professor of English at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.[2]


Kennelly's poetry can be scabrous, down-to-earth and colloquial. He avoids intellectual pretension and literary posturing, and his attitude to poetic language could be summed up in the title of one of his epic poems, "Poetry my Arse". Another long (400-page) epic poem, "The Book of Judas", published in 1991, topped the Irish best-seller list.

A prolific and fluent writer, he has more than fifty books of poetry to his credit, including My Dark Fathers (1964), Collection One: Getting Up Early (1966), Good Souls to Survive (1967), Dream of a Black Fox (1968), Love Cry (1972), The Voices (1973), Shelley in Dublin (1974), A Kind of Trust (1975), Islandman (1977), A Small Light (1979) and The House That Jack Didn't Build (1982).

Kennelly has edited several other anthologies, including "Between Innocence and Peace: Favourite Poems of Ireland" (1993), "Ireland's Women: Writings Past and Present, with Katie Donovan and A. Norman Jeffares" (1994), and "Dublines," with Katie Donovan (1995).

He has also written two novels, "The Crooked Cross" (1963) and "The Florentines" (1967), and three plays in a Greek Trilogy, Antigone, Medea and The Trojan Women.

Kennelly is an Irish language (Gaelic) speaker, and has translated Irish poems in "A Drinking Cup" (1970) and "Mary" (Dublin 1987). A selection of his collected translations was published as "Love of Ireland: Poems from the Irish" (1989).


Language is important in Kennelly's work – in particular the vernacular of the small and isolated communities in North Kerry where he grew up, and of the Dublin streets and pubs where he became both roamer and raconteur for many years. Kennelly's language is also grounded in the Irish-language poetic tradition, oral and written, which can be both satirical and salacious in its approach to human follies.

Regarding the oral tradition, Kennelly is a great reciter of verse with tremendous command and the rare ability to recall extended poems by memory, both his own work and others, and recite them on call verbatim.

Kennelly has commented on his own use of language: "Poetry is an attempt to cut through the effects of deadening familiarity and repeated, mechanical usage in order to unleash that profound vitality, to reveal that inner sparkle. In the beginning was the Word. In the end will be the Word ... language is a human miracle always in danger of drowning in a sea of familiarity."

Awards and honoursEdit

List of worksEdit

  • Cast a Cold Eye (1959) with Rudi Holzapfel
  • The Rain, the Moon (1961) with Rudi Holzapfel
  • The Dark About Our Loves (1962) Rudi Holzapfel
  • Green Townlands (1963). Rudi Holzapfel
  • Let Fall No Burning Leaf (1963)
  • The Crooked Cross (1963) novel
  • My Dark Fathers (1964)
  • Up and at It (1965)
  • Collection One: Getting Up Early (1966)
  • Good Souls to Survive (1967)
  • The Florentines (1967) novel
  • Dream of a Black Fox (1968)
  • Selected Poems (1969)
  • A Drinking Cup, Poems from the Irish (1970)
  • The Penguin Book of Irish Verse (1970, 1981) editor
  • Bread (1971)
  • Love Cry (1972)
  • Salvation, The Stranger (1972)
  • The Voices (1973)
  • Shelley in Dublin (1974)
  • A Kind of Trust (1975)
  • New and Selected Poems (1976)
  • The Boats Are Home (Gallery Press, 1980)
  • Moloney Up and At It (Mercier Press, 1984)
  • Cromwell (Beaver Row Press, 1983; Bloodaxe Books, 1987)
  • Mary, from the Irish of Muireadach Albanach Ó Dálaigh (Aisling Press, 1987)
  • Landmarks of Irish Drama (Methuen, 1988)
  • Love of Ireland: Poems from the Irish (Mercier Press, 1989) [anthology]
  • A Time for Voices: Selected Poems 1960–1990 (Bloodaxe Books, 1990)
  • Euripides' Medea (Bloodaxe Books, 1991)
  • The Book of Judas (Bloodaxe Books, 1991)
  • Breathing Spaces: Early Poems (Bloodaxe Books, 1992)
  • Euripides' The Trojan Women (Bloodaxe Books, 1993)
  • Journey into Joy: Selected Prose, ed. Åke Persson (Bloodaxe Books, 1994)
  • Between Innocence and Peace: Favourite Poems of Ireland (Mercier Press, 1994) [anthology]
  • Poetry My Arse (Bloodaxe Books, 1995)
  • Dublines, with Katie Donovan (Bloodaxe Books, 1996) [anthology]
  • Sophocles' Antigone: a new version (Bloodaxe Books, 1996)
  • Lorca: Blood Wedding (Bloodaxe Books, 1996)
  • The Man Made of Rain (Bloodaxe Books, 1998)
  • The Singing Tree (Abbey Press, 1998)
  • Begin (Bloodaxe Books, 1999)
  • Glimpses (Bloodaxe Books, 2001)
  • The Little Book of Judas (Bloodaxe Books, 2002)
  • Martial Art (Bloodaxe Books, 2003) [versions of Martial]
  • Familiar Strangers: New & Selected Poems (Bloodaxe Books, 2004)
  • Now (Bloodaxe Books, 2006)
  • When Then Is Now: Three Greek Tragedies (Bloodaxe Books, 2006) [versions of Sophocles' Antigone and Euripides' Medea and The Trojan Women]
  • Reservoir Voices (Bloodaxe Books, 2009)
  • The Essential Brendan Kennelly: Selected Poems (Bloodaxe Books, UK & Ireland, 2011, Wake Forest University Press, USA, 2011)
  • Guff (Bloodaxe Books, 2013)


  1. ^ a b c "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 19 November 2007. Retrieved 2014-12-14.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  2. ^ a b
  3. ^ a b
  4. ^ McDonagh, John (15 July 2004). Brendan Kennelly: a host of ghosts. Liffey Press. ISBN 978-1-904148-44-9. Retrieved 21 April 2011.

External linksEdit