Tuesday 12 December 2017

Pearse Hutchinson

A distinguished bilingual writer whose translations also uncovered new poetic worlds, writes Michael McLoughlin

The death has taken place in Dublin of Pearse Hutchinson, one of Ireland's most original and distinguished poets in both English and Irish. He was also known as a pioneering broadcaster and translator, who used his immense skills as a linguist to introduce readers to poetry from many European languages.

Pearse Hutchinson was born in Glasgow in 1927. He was proud of his Scottish background. Both his parents were of Irish stock, and had been active supporters of Sinn Fein. His father, a printer, had been interned in Frongoch from 1919 to 1921 and his mother, a friend of Countess Markiewicz, ran a Sinn Fein shop selling prison handicrafts.

When de Valera came to power in 1932, Pearse's mother wrote to him and he arranged for the Hutchinsons to find employment in Ireland in the new state bodies. Pearse moved to Dublin and would be the last pupil enrolled in Padraig Pearse's school St Enda's, later attending Synge Street CBS. After a brief period in UCD he would spend much of the next two decades abroad, mainly in Spain. He was particularly drawn to the then oppressed minority languages like Galician and Catalan. He was to translate many poets from Catalan, in particular Salvador Espriu. His interest in Spain and Catalan poetry would greatly influence succeeding generations of Irish poets.

His first collection of poetry, Tongue Without Hands was published by Dolmen in 1963, and in 1968 he published a collection in Irish, Faoistin Bachach.

After his return to Ireland in 1967 he continued to publish poetry and translations in both English and Irish. After spending three years in Leeds University as a Gregory Fellow, he returned to Ireland and participated fully in Dublin's literary and bohemian scene, centred round McDaid's and the readings in Synott's pub. In 1975, along with his friends Eilean ni Chuilleanain, Leland Bardwell and Macdara Woods, he co-founded Cyphers, which now, after more than 70 issues, is the Republic's longest-running poetry magazine.

He was active as a journalist and broadcaster, and in 1977 and 1978 made the radio programme Oro Domhnaigh, a revolutionary mixture of music, poetry and folklore which for many listeners was an introduction to new poetic worlds.

He was invited to join the newly created Aosdana in 1981, something which he credits with saving his life, as it gave him some financial security for the first time. His Collected Poems were published by Gallery Press in 2002. This was followed by Done into English (2003), which brought together his translations from over a dozen languages.

It was only in recent years that the scale of his achievement received proper recognition, with a symposium devoted to his work in TCD in 2007, and the publication last year of Reading Pearse Hutchinson: From Findrum to Fisterra, a collection of 15 essays on his work edited by Philip Coleman and Maria Johnson. This was a source of great gratification to him.

Pearse had many friends all over the world, and spent hours on the telephone maintaining a global network. His gift for friendship was evidenced from the love and care with which his many friends surrounded him during his recent illnesses.

In aistriuchan Ghaeilge de chuid Hutchinson ar Sandro Penna, nochtann se a chroi fein -- 'laghdaigh mo phiain, a oiche alainn. Ceas ma's ga me, ach bronn orm neart.' Is mor againn toradh a pheine agus a nirt.

Ar dheis De go raibh a anam.

Sunday Independent

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