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'Generous, witty, gentleman' poet O'Driscoll dies at 58

THE arts world has been paying tribute to poet, critic and civil servant Dennis O'Driscoll, who has died at the age of 58.

Arts Council chairwoman Pat Moylan called him "astute and insightful" and said he would be "deeply missed"; while RTE broadcaster Joe Duffy, who had the poet on his radio show last week, said he was a "generous, caring and witty man".

Mr O'Driscoll, originally from Thurles, Co Tipperary, but living in Naas, Co Kildare, was rushed to hospital after becoming ill on Christmas Eve. He died shortly afterwards.

Friends of the poet, who worked for the Revenue Commissioners for 40 years, said he appeared to have been sick for some time, but that the nature of his illness wasn't known.

Mr O'Driscoll published several volumes of his own poetry, including the recently released 'Dear Life'. He is also well known as the author of 'Stepping Stones', his collection of interviews with Seamus Heaney.

Poetry Ireland director Joe Woods called Mr O'Driscoll "an absolute giant" as a poet and critic and said his book on Heaney has become the "definitive biography" of the Nobel Prize winner.

"He was one of these people who wore two hats equally well, as a significant poet of his own generation and as a major, major critic," said Mr Woods.

As news spread of his death, tributes began to pour on to Twitter.

Abbey Theatre director Senator Fiach MacConghail posted extracts from Mr O'Driscoll's poem 'Synopsis', including the lines "Life passes at a breakneck rate, brisk as text messages, time only for the executive summary".

Irish novelist Belinda McKeon called him "a scholar, a gentleman, a character, a friend" while British poet David Morley wrote a "fine poet and great critic".

"Dennis O'Driscoll's poetry was always astute and insightful, often witty and sometimes melancholic. He was a tremendous supporter of other poets, particularly the younger generation, and held an encyclopaedic knowledge of Irish poetry and literature," said Ms Moylan.

Mr O'Driscoll is survived by his wife and fellow poet Julie O'Callaghan.

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