Dennis O’Driscoll

1954 –

Dennis O’Driscoll was born on January 1, 1954, in Mullaun Townland near Thurles in County Tipperary, Ireland. He attended Christian Brothers Secondary (CBS) School in Thurles and studied law at University College Dublin and the Institute of Public Administration in Dublin. Both of O’Driscoll’s parents died when he was twenty, leaving him to care for his five siblings.

O’Driscoll was the author of nine books of poetry and three chapbooks, including Dear Life (Anvil Poetry Press, 2012), republished by Copper Canyon Press in 2013; Reality Check (Copper Canyon Press, 2008); New and Selected Poems (Anvil Poetry Press, 2004), which received the Poetry Book Society’s Special Commendation; Weather Permitting (Anvil Poetry Press, 1999); Quality Time (Anvil Poetry Press, 1997); Long Story Short (Anvil Poetry Press, 1993); Hidden Extras (Anvil Poetry Press, 1987); and his début, Kist (The Dolmen Press, 1982). Other works are A Michael Hamburger Reader (Anvil Poetry Press, 2014), a collection of works from the poet, translator, and critic, Michael Hamburger, with whom O’Driscoll was friends; The Outnumbered Poet: Critical Essays and Autobiographical Prose (Gallery Books, 2013); Stepping Stones: Interviews with Seamus Heaney (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2008); and Troubled Thoughts, Majestic Dreams (Gallery Press, 2001). O’Driscoll edited Quote Poet Unquote: Contemporary Quotations on Poets and Poetry (Copper Canyon Press, 2008) and the Bloodaxe Book of Poetry Quotations (Bloodaxe, 2006). 

O’Driscoll received numerous accolades during his career, including the E. M. Forster Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the 1999 Lannan Literary Award for Poetry, the O’Shaughnessy Award for Poetry from the Center for Irish Studies in Minnesota, and an honorary doctorate in literature from University College Dublin, awarded to him in 2009. 

O’Driscoll began working as a civil servant in Dublin at age sixteen, appointed to Revenue Commissioners, where he remained for forty years. Much of O’Driscoll’s poetry is about life as an office worker. In addition to his work as a poet, essayist, and editor, O’Driscoll frequently penned reviews for the Times Literary Supplement and the London Review of Books. For Poetry Ireland Review, he had the regular column, Pickings and Choosings.  

O’Driscoll died suddenly on December 24, 2012, at age fifty-eight.