Pearse Hutchinson

1927-2014; b. Glasgow; son of Harry Hutchinson, a Scottish printer and Republican activist [Sinn Fén Treas., Glasgow] whose father was Irish [from Seville Place, Dublin - where the family was ‘flooded out’ when he was five], and Cathleen Sara, dg. of Donegal emigrants; his father was imprisoned in Frongoch and Mountjoy; took the Republican side in the Civil War; returned to Scotland where his mother was a teacher and took lodgers; his parents moved to Dublin with the assistance of Eamon de Valera in response to a letter from his mother [see note]; he was the last pupil to be enrolled in St Enda’s School before eventual closure of the school founded by Patrick Pearse; afterwards ed. at Synge St. Christian Brothers, and UCD for a year-and-a-half (Spanish, Italian);

contrib. to The Bell, 1945; travelled on holiday to Spain and Portugal, encountering the culture of Andulasia, 1950; he acted as translator for the International Labour Organisation, Geneva, 1951-53 (Irish, Catalan, Flemish, Calician, French & Italian); freelanced in Dublin; served as RTÉ theatre critic, 1957-61; settled in Barcelona, 1954-57, and returned 1961-67; presented Oró Domhnaigh on Radio Éireann, a weekly programme of Irish poetry, music and folklore; with Macdara Woods, Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, he fnd. and ed. the literary magazine Cyphers; awarded [Hubert] Butler Prize, 1969; issued Tongues Without Hands (Feb. 1963);


appt. Gregory Fellow in Poetry at Univ. of Leeds, 1971-73 - initially faced with controversy due to his selection by A. Norman [“Derry” Jeffares (Chair of English); received Irish Arts Council Bursary, 1978; elected to Aosdána and recipient of cnuas [stipend]; issued collections incl. Tongue Without Hands (1963) and The Soul That Kissed the Body (1991); Barnsley Main Seam (1995) celebrates York Minster; Collected Poems (2002) was published on his 75th birthday; At Least for a While (2008), shortlisted for Poetry Now Award; long lived at 179 Rathgar Rd., Dublin 6; d. 14 January 2014; there is a portrait by Edward Maguire. DIW DIL AOS OCIL FDA

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  • Tongues Without Hands (Dublin: Dolmen Press 1963), 35pp. [lim. edn. 750 copies];
  • Expansions (Dublin: Dolmen Press 1969), 58pp.;
  • Watching the Morning Grow (Dublin: Gallery Press 1973), 470pp.;
  • The Frost is All Over (Loughcrew: Gallery Press, 1975), [3,] 47pp.;
  • Faoistin Bacach (Baile Átha Cliath: Clóchomhar 1968), 56pp. [trans. Lame Confession];
  • [26cm; ltd. edn. 130 copies];
  • Le Cead na Gréine (Baile Átha Cliath: An Clóchomhar Tta. 1989) [trans. By Leave of the Sun];
  • Climbing the Light (Oldcastle: Gallery 1985), 61pp. [incls. trans. from Irish, Italian and Galician];
  • Barnsley Main Seam (Dublin: Gallery Press 1995), 72pp.;
  • At Least for a While (Oldcastle: Gallery Press 2008), 72pp.;
  • Listening to Bach (Oldcastle: Gallery Press 2014), 71pp.
  • trans., Joseph Carner: Poems (Oxford: Dolphin Press 1962) [query rep. as Do., 30 Poems (1970)];
  • trans., Friend Songs: Medieval Galacio-Portuguese Love Poems [Cancioneiro português(Dublin: New Writers’ Press 1970), 19pp.
  • trans., Antica liria irlandese: traduzione di Pearse Hutchinson e Melita Cataldi [Collezione di poesia, 174] (Torino: Einaudi 1982), xx, 137pp. [Bibl. pp.xix-xx; parallel Old Irish and Italian];
  • The Soul that Kissed the Body (Dublin: Gallery Press 1991), 111pp. [parallel Irish and English text; Intro. in English];
Collected editions
  • Selected Poems (Dublin: Gallery 1982), 92pp.;
    Collected Poems
    (Oldcastle: Gallery Press 2002), 293pp.;
  • Done into English: Collected Translations (Oldcastle: Gallery Press 2002), 208pp.;
  • Poèmes, présentés et introduits par Bernard Escarbelt et Pádraig Ó Gormaile (Villeneuve d’Ascq: Presses Universitaires du Septentrion 2008), 136pp. + 1 sound disc [CD]
  • Poetry and Audience for the session 1971-1972: Pearse Hutchinson (1972; ltd. edn. 200), & rep. [copy held in Leeds Poetry 1950–1980; Leeds University Special Collections - online]. 
  • ‘Rotha Mór an tSaoil’, in The Pleasures of Gaelic Literature, ed. John Jordan (Cork: Mercier 1977) pp.39-51;
  • contrib. to Dermot Bolger, ed., Letters from the New Island, 16 on 16: Irish Writers on the Easter Rising (Raven Arts Press 1988), 47pp., pp.23-25;
  • ‘“Rus in Urbe”: Comhrá le Pearse Hutchinson’, in Inntí, XI (1998), pp.55-68.
  • ‘A Beautiful Thing Wronged’, in Scotland and the Easter Rising: Fresh Perspectives on 1916, ed. Kirsty Lusk & Willy Maley, with an afterword by Owen Dudley Edwards (Luath Press 2016), q.pp. [available on Amazon books - online; accessed 22.01.2022]

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  • Philip Coleman & Maria Johnston, ed., Reading Pearse Hutchinson: From Findrum to Fisterra (IAP 2011), qpp.

See also Mairín Nic Eoin, Gaolta Gairide: Rogha Dánta Comhairseartha are Théamai Óige again Caidrimh Teaghlaigh (BAC: Cois Life 2010), 222pp.

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Geoffrey Grigson reviewing John Montague, ed., Faber Book of Irish Verse (1974), in Irish Times (9 March 1974), damns the selection but praises Hutchinson’s “Málaga”, espec. lines about the scent of jasmine: ‘The senses, after all. I felt as much in that poem, enveloped by it, as I felt myself enveloped by some of the stricter tropical poems of Leconte de Lisle such as Le Bernica or Le Merichy.’

Augustine Martin, review of Peter Fallon & Derek Mahon, eds., The Penguin Book of Contemporary Irish Poetry (Penguin 1990), in Poetry Ireland (Summer 1990), remarking on ‘the lyric caress’ of the poem “Malaga”.

Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, Collected Poems (Oldcastle: Gallery Press), calls it ‘a wonderful book’ and remarks, ‘the unheroic presentation of himself belongs with a strongly conveyed sense of the realities of poverty, need, desire, which compress our lives.’ Further, ‘in the end, the reader’s experience of watching how he copes, with the long disasters and the moments of vision, is an intensely pleasurable one, a sharing in his avid encouter with realities, an enlightenment.’ (The Irish Times, 23 March, Weekend, p.11.)

Fred Johnston, reviewing of Pearse Hutchinson, Collected Poems, in Books Ireland (May 2002), writes, ‘Collected Poems is [...] a wonderful, fulsome insight, apart form anything else, into the journeyman’s career’.

Further: ‘Hutchinson’s breadth of vision, poetical and political - and his compassion, his wincing at the world’s indulgence of injustices big and small - is startling, given the narrowness of vision of too many younger poets here. He came up [...] when the jaggedness of the Spanish Civil War was still in the air and the pubs of Dublin were jagged too with the civil war poets, Kavanagh for one.’ (Books Ireland, pp.126-27.)

Cites headings: Tongue Without Hands (1963); Watching the Morning Grow (1972); The Frost is All Over (1975); Climbing the Light (1985); Barnsley Main Seam (1995) and New Poems - 1995-2001. Notes a poem ded. to Justin O’Mahoney.

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Foreigners [: ‘Two foreigners in a century / perhaps, break through to a nation’s core: / to them, honour; let grateful others take / some personal boons, and claim no more; / respect and love dispense / at once with blindness and omniscience.’ Further: ‘In this way, it remains a dowdy secret / That only his earth-sized, meticulous capacity / For admiration keeps him free of idols; / And the granite glory of his unrelenting eye / Could not have been reared and lit by anything but love.’ (Quoted in Richard O’Brien, review of Pearse Hutchinson, Collected Poems, Oldcastle: Gallery Press, in Times Literary Supplement, 3 May 2002, p.24.)

Hutchinson in Andalusia: ‘That early September of 1950, the light walked for me as it never had before, and I walked through the light I’d always longed for.’ (Introduction, Done Into English: Collected Translations, Oldcastle: Gallery Press 2002; quoted at Wikipedia > Pearse Hutchinson - online.)

Ar teanga: “To kill a language is to kill a people” [poem]: ‘[...] Is Carleton where the tenderness must hide? / Or would they have the Gaelic words, like insects, / [Crawl] up the legs of horses, and each bite / Or startle, be proclaimed for heritage? / Are those who rule us, like their eager voters, / Ghosts yearning for flesh? ghosts are cruel, / and ghosts of suicide more cruel still. / To kill a language is to kill one’s self.’ (The Frost is All Over, 1975).

The Frost is All Over

To kill a language is to kill a people.
The Aztecs knew far better: they took over
their victims’ language, kept them carving
obsidian beauties; weeded their religion
of dangerous gentleness, and winged them blood-flowers
(that’s a different way to kill a people)
The Normans brought and grew, but Honor Croome
could never make her Kerrymen verse English:
Traherne was in the music of his tears.

We have no glint or caution who we are:
our patriots dream wolfhounds in their portraits,
our vendors pose in hunting-garb, the nightmare
forelock tugging madly at some leash.
The Vikings never hurt us, xenophilia
means bland servility, we insult
ourselves and Europe with artificial trees,
and coins as gelt of beauty now
as, from the start, of power.

Like Flemish words on horseback, tongue survives
in turns of speech the telly must correct;
our music bows and scrapes on the world’s platforms,
each cat-gut wears a rigorous bow-tie.
The frost, we tell them, is all over, and they love
our brogue so much they give us guns to kill
ourselves, our language, and all the other gooks.

Bobrowski would have understood, he found
some old, surviving words of a murdered language,
and told a few friends; but he knew how to mourn,
a rare talent, a need not many grant.

To call a language dead before it dies
means to bury it alive; some tongues do die
from hours or days inside the coffin, and when
the fearful killers dig it up they find
the tongue, like Suarez, bitten to its own bone.
Others explodes in the church, and stain the bishop,
whose priest could speak no Gaelic to his “flock”
but knew how to sink a splendid tawny goblet
as deep as any master of the hunt.

Is Carleton where the tenderness must hide?
Or would they have the Gaelic words, like insects,
crawl up the legs of horses, and each bite,
or startle, be proclaimed a heritage?
Are those whoe rule us, like their eager voters,
ghosts yearning for flesh? Ghosts are cruel,
and ghosts of suicides more cruel still:
To kill a language is to kill one’s self.

—Posted by Patrick Neil O'Doherty on Facebook - 21.01.2019

Celtic Tiger: ‘Music and a small plant / we had for emblems once./ Better, surely,/ than lion or eagle. / Now our proudest boast / is a dangerous beast of prey.’ (From At Least for a While, 2008; quoted at Wikipedia > Pearse Hutchinson - online.)

Aosdána: ‘I was fifty-four when I was invited to become a member and frankly I was at the end of my tether. I might have carried on but I would have been in the gutter because I would have been evicted or I would have gone mad or killed myself or both.’ (Interview, in Poetry Ireland Review, No. 52, ed. Liam Ó Muirthile; cited in John Boland, Bookman’, Irish Times, 8 March 1997.)

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James Simmons, ed., Ten Irish Poets (Cheadle: Carcanet 1974), selects ‘Connemara’; ‘Lovers’; ‘Bright after Dark’; ‘A Rose and a Book for Sant Jordi’; ‘Fleadh Cheoil’; ‘A Man’; ‘The Nuns at the Medical Lecture’. See also Frank Ormby, ed., Poets from Northern Ireland (Belfast: Blackstaff 1979; rev. & updated 1990).

Peter Fallon & Seán Golden, eds., Soft Day: A Miscellany of Contemporary Irish Writing (Notre Dame/Wolfhound 1980), ‘Fleadh Cheoil’; ‘Gaeltacht’; ‘Geneva’; from ‘All th Old Gems’.

Peter Fallon & Derek Mahon, eds., The Penguin Book of Contemporary Irish Poetry (Penguin 1990), selects “Malaga” [p.16 in Selected Poems, 1982].

Seamus Deane, gen. ed., The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing (Derry: Field Day 1991), Vol. 3: selects from Faoistín Bhacach [913]; Tongue Without Hands; The Frost is All Over [1334-46]; BIOG 1431-32.

Patrick Crotty, ed., Modern Irish Poetry: An Anthology (Belfast: Blackstaff Press 1995), selects “Málaga” [146]; “Gaeltacht” [147]; “Sometimes Feel” [148].

There is a Wikipedia page on Hutchinson - online.

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Kith & Kin: Pearse Hutchinson is the son of Harry Hutchinson, a Scottish printer whose father had left Dublin (Seville Place) for work, and who was himself Sinn Féin treasurer in Glasgow, being interned in Frognoch in 1919-21; his mother, Cathleen Sara, dg. of Donegal emigrants to Scotland, was born in Cowcaddens, Glasgow, and was a friend of Constance Markievicz; in response to a letter from Cathleen (so they could bring up their son in ‘holy Catholic Ireland’), Eamon de Valera found work in Dublin for Harry as clerk in Labour Exchange, and later he held a post in Stationary Office. Hutchinson lives at 179, Rathgar Rd., Dublin 6. (See Hutchinson, ‘A Beautiful Thing Wronged’, in Scotland and the Easter Rising: Fresh Perspectives on 1916, ed. Kirsty Lusk & Willy Maley, with an afterword by Owen Dudley Edwards, [Scotland:] Luath Press 2016 - available at Google Books - online; accessed 22.01.2022.)

Nano Reid: Hutchinson called Nano Reid ‘for my money the best Irish painter, mo cheol thú, a Nano’. (See Brian O’Doherty, The Irish Imagination 1959-1971, 1971 [Rosc Exhib. Cat.])

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