Distinguished poet and member of Aosdána, Richard Murphy has died aged 90 at his home in Sri Lanka.
On Arena, Gerald Dawe remembered his life and work, and in particular, the special connection he had with the west of Ireland where he was born and where he lived for much of his life. The two poets became close on a trip to Holland for poetry readings in 1981 and Gerald paid homage to the richness and tone of his friend’s voice.
"He was such a fantastic reader of his own work. The poems came out with such clarity. He didn’t overextend the work, he just let it speak for itself but he had a wonderful, actually quite an actor’s voice too in a way, this impeccable English that he spoke."
Despite his silken tones and Oxford education, Richard was at home living the simple life in the west.
"I remember we were driving back to Dublin together, going up Shop St in Galway and I had this very clear image of him of his arm out the window, as if he was driving cattle up the main street. Suddenly I saw a different kind of Richard than the poet. I saw somebody who felt very much at ease and in great comfort being in the west of Ireland and needless to say, he said we’ll stop at Ballinasloe in Hayden’s Hotel, they do a good tea and scone there for a good price!"
Listen: President Michael D. Higgins pays tribute to Richard Murphy, via Morning Ireland
Richard was at his happiest ferrying people to the various islands off the Connemara coast, refurbishing old buildings in traditional styles and entertaining fellow poets who used to visit him in Cleggan - the likes of Sylvia Plath, Ted Hughes and Philip Larkin. Out of these simple interests came spectacular poetry that fused contemporary issues with traditional styles.
"These historical poems linked together the contemporary world, the modern Ireland, the emerging Ireland, but always, there’s a kind of almost epic look back to where that Ireland had come from… There’s a wonderful kind of symmetry in these big poems of his… It’s a skill which isn’t that current today, to find a poet who can actually produce a narrative in their poems… He modernized the old traditional ways of writing."