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Thomas Kinsella (1928 - 2021)

Thursday, 23 Dec 2021

No Text CarcanetPress is saddened to announce the death of poet Thomas Kinsella on Wednesday 22nd December 2021. 

ThomasKinsella, b. 1928, is one of the central poets of independent Ireland, and hadbeen a crucial figure in Carcanet’s list. His poetry is as notable forits fruitful relationship to Modernist predecessors as for its innovative andtransformational effect on Irish poetry. His early work was distinctivefor its adaptation of Auden’s formal skills to Irish subject matter, whichbrought him to the attention of an international audience, including DonaldDavie, then teaching in Dublin, where Kinsella worked as a civil servant.

Kinsella’sstyle would change as he began work on a ground-breaking and influentialtranslation of the Irish epic, the Táin, work he completed in the US,initially on a career break, before he took up a permanent post at TempleUniversity in Philadelphia. His poetry, influenced by his immersion in epicpoetry and by American Modernist poetry, shifted decisively in the 1970s withthe publication of a series of Peppercanister pamphlets, later collected asindividual volumes by Oxford U.P., and then taken over by Carcanet when webegan to publish his work, initially with his prose book, The Dual Tradition(1995) and then his Collected Poems (2001). That book showed theextraordinary trajectory of his writing life, which earned him many awards andhonours, including an honorary Doctor of Letters from Trinity College, Dublin,and the freedom of the City of Dublin in 2007.

The richnessof his distinctive methods is plentifully evident in his final collection, LatePoems (2013), a book which revisits now-classic earlier poems, as when“Elderly Craftsman at his Bench” remembers his earlier “Worker in Mirror at hisBench”: “a soft arm reaching towards me / out of nowhere, / the fingers closingand opening.” Dwelling on this image, Kinsella writes:

I believe nowthat this is an appeal

from seriousefforts, like my own, reaching

unfulfilled fromsomewhere in the past,

and have learnedto put my work to one side;

to relax; tothink my way back

into the depthsbeyond their origin,

and to appeal totheir source to call them back.

Tell them thereis no peace here.

And comfort themon their return.

This restores aserviceable calm,

So that I canattend to my work again.

Hoping therewill be a like thoughtfulness

For me and myconcerns when the time comes.

To mark the 50th anniversary of its publication, anew edition of Butcher’s Dozen, overseen by Thomas Kinsella in recentmonths, will be available in January 2022.

Our thoughts and prayers are with Thomas's family and friends.

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