Award winning poet Macdara Woods remembered in Newcastle West 

Norma Prendiville


Norma Prendiville

Macdara Woods accepting the Michael Hartnett Poetry Award from Mayor Stephen Keary this April

Macdara Woods accepting the Michael Hartnett Poetry Award from Mayor Stephen Keary this April

THE poet Macdara Woods, who was the joint winner of this year’s Michael Hartnett Poetry Award, has died, aged 76. Macdara  died in a Dublin hospital at the weekend and was buried this Wednesday.

Limerick poet, Jo Slade, who was a judge for this year’s Hartnett Award, said his death would “leave a real absence in the Irish poetry community.”

“There's a sadness to the day, .remembering the poetic spirit, the hoped for inspiration, the vocation,” she said. “Macdara was highly regarded as both a poet and translator. His unique voice and generous spirit will be missed but his work will endure.”

The poet had been ill for some months before his death and his last public appearance was at Eigse Michael Hartnett in Newcastle West in April. He was, he told the organisers, determined to come to Eigse to accept the award along with co-winner poet Mary O’Malley and managed a “weekend pass” from hospital to do so.

His wife, fellow poet Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, the current Chair of Irish Poetry, travelled with him.

“It is delightful to share with Mary O’ Malley an award given in memory of my old and dear friend, Michael Hartnett,” Macdara said about the award.  “We had many wild times, and some quiet times, and adventures together, from Dublin to London to Kilkee.  I intend to take this award as a personal nudge from Michael.”

Mary O’Malley has described  Macdara as a Dublin poet of European sensibility.  “When I started publishing poems in ‘Cyphers’, (set up by Macdara)  he was one of a number of established poets to write me encouraging notes, and comments on individual poems.  He was generous with his time and praise, for which I am still grateful,” she said. “He was also one of the first poets I heard read his own work, a pleasure as he had a fine voice, and read unfussily and very well.”

And she recalled her last meeting with him, in Newcastle West. “ Despite being very ill, he had made a great effort to attend and accept the award in person.  He spoke about Michael Hartnett, whom he had known well, about evenings spent together, and mentioned Michael’s love of song and the ballad. He read a few poems, his voice resonant and strong.

Then,  just as we might have expected him to leave the podium,  he seemed to gather himself, and after referring to Hartnett’s ‘Maiden Street Ballad’,  which was sung to the air of ‘The Rakes of Limerick’, he started to sing his own poem “ Strozza Capponi At Seventy Three’ to the same air. I was not the only one moved and astonished by his clear singing,  my last memory of him, and a parting gift to all who were there.”