Máire Mhac an tSaoi was a profound and influential voice in Irish language poetry. She was endlessly talented, turning her hand to so many forms of writing, from translation to criticism to her own original work. Her poetry, and indeed her rich, trailblazing life, have inspired new generations of poets and thinkers. She published her first collection of poetry, Margadh na Saoire, in 1956 and went on to publish four more, as well as works of translation, a novella, scholarly work, and her autobiography The Same Age as the State. Among her many awards was the O'Shaughnessy Prize. Máire Mhac an tSaoi was one of Ireland's most important and invigorating Irish-language poets. Her proudly independent spirit and sharp wit, added to her formidable lyric gifts, created an unforgettable and often revolutionary body of work where the lives of women and female sexuality were a frequent focus. She was profoundly influenced by the time she spent as a child in the West Kerry Gaeltacht of Dún Chaoin and the language she internalised there shaped her vocation as a poet.
Brendan Kennelly's popular, witty and warm poetry spoke to Irish people across the country. His love of language and literature was infectious. While best known as a poet, his work spanned many literature genres and he was especially renowned for his long poems Cromwell and The Book of Judas. His stage adaptations of Blood Wedding, Medea and Antigone were widely produced and were much admired. In his work as a professor and teacher, he encouraged the talents of new writers and he will be fondly remembered for his long association with Trinity College. He had a prolific career, publishing 30 books, including two novels.
Arts Council Chair Professor Kevin Rafter commented:
“Both writers leave behind a tremendous legacy, both in their work on the page, and in the lives they lived. Máire Mhac an tSaoi was one of our leading writers in the Irish language and she made an immense contribution to the firmament of Irish poetry. Brendan Kennelly impacted on the lives of thousands of people through his work and his teaching and he made literature a valuable part of daily life. I am fortunate in having met both Maire and Brendan, who were not just great intellects but also wonderful company”.
The Arts Council sends its condolences to the families and friends of both poets.
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