Desmond O’Grady

Born in Limerick in 1935, Desmond O’Grady received his M.A. and Ph.D. from Harvard University. He has lived abroad in Paris, Rome, Cairo and Alexandria.

His collected poems, The Road Taken, was compiled from more than a dozen books from 1956 to 1996. He has published numerous translations, which are compiled as Trawling Tradition: 1954-1994, and include works from Welsh, Greek and Arabic; he also translated the selected poems of C. P. Cavafy (1999). He has published extracts from his personal literary memoirs.

In 2001, on the 400th anniversary of the Battle of Kinsale, he completed a long poem commemorating the event, which was set to music by Pat Crowley and published in 2002. He is currently working on the second part of his collection of poems, The Wandering Celt. He lives in Kinsale, Co. Cork.

His publications number twenty three collections of his own poems, including the Road Taken: Poems 1956-1996 and The Wandering Celt, and twelve collections of translated poetry, among them Trawling Traditions: Translations 1954-1994, Selected Poems of C.P. Cavafy, The Song of Songs and, in 2005, Kurdish Poems of Love and Liberty, in addition to prose memoirs of his literary acquaintances and friends. The publication of On My Way in 2006 marked the 50th anniversary of his first published collection, Chords and Orchestrations.

He was the 2004 recipient of the Patrick and Katherine Kavanagh Fellowship.

26 August 2014
Today, Aosdána mourns the passing of Desmond O’Grady, an internationally recognised writer of distinction, and a noted translator from the Arabic. A member of Aosdána since its inception in 1981, Desmond was a gifted poet and the best of company, and will be sadly missed.

Aosdána extends its sincere sympathy to Desmond’s daughter, Deirdre, his family and friends.

Statement his publisher, Peter Fallon:
Desmond O’Grady

‘Purpose’ was a fitting title for one of the outstanding poems in a manuscript Desmond submitted to me in the summer of 1977 which became the book, Sing Me Creation. (‘I looked face to face at my future…’) Its surefootedness grew from a true commitment he’d already shown to his art, an art that embraced, via Pound and through his own experience and translations, the culture of classical and modern languages.

He was the Wandering Celt, the Limerick Rake, and his roguish ways illuminated gatherings in four corners of the world – including Paris, Rome, Cambridge, Mass., Egypt, Naousa and Kinsale. His is a poetry of uncommon range. In a Foreword to The Headgear of the Tribe: Selected Poems (1979) I wrote of his work’s ‘rare clarity and integrity…’ a thematic construction aspiring to the “wholeness, harmony and radiance” which Joyce advocated. Because his work is personal and large, because he celebrates mankind and life and knows the “triumph of trying”, the effects of Desmond O’Grady’s poetry are enlightening and sustentative.’

‘I saw my life and I walked out to it,
as a seaman walks out alone at night from
his house down to the port with his bundled
belongings, and sails into the dark.’

As our own tribe takes a battering, his singular devotion and achievement should be valued. May he rest in peace.

Peter Fallon, 26 August, 2014

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