Brendan Kennelly.

 Who is the good looking Bally girl with Brendan on his birthday!?

Yesterday was Brendan’s 80th birthday and several tributes are being are deservedly paid to him. For Brendan is spirit alive and driven. He puts sacramental words on the dept that we all sense and so often don’t allow to take hold of us.

So many of a certain generation remember the night on the Late Late Show that Gay rang up the winner in a competition to tell her she had won the prize of a car. She had entered the competition for her daughter who had been killed in a car crash in the meantime and Gay had phoned her mother as she waked her daughter. What can you say Brendan was asked. In that moment Brendan showed a nation how to respond as the dept of the tragedy registered and he finished by quoting those wonderful inspiring lines of his:”though we live in a world that dreams of ending that always seems about to give in, something that will not acknowledge conclusion insists that we forever begin.” 

Last year when I found out I had a cancer, through the kindness of Brendan’s family  he sent me a copy of that poem with a personalised note of encouragement. And that is what he does for us all – he inspires. “But sure he’d have to when you’d see the family in Bally he came out of!” You’d be in the better of meeting anyone of them. Bally is proud of their native son for it takes a village to rear a child. And then he moved to Dublin and he poured redemption for the country from there by his words,honesty and compassion. He never side stepped an issue as he often went into the lonely rooms of human suffering and trials and came out of there.

Back in the late 1970’s I first met Brendan in Rome. I was a student there at the time and he was promoting Irish literature. Feeling a bit nostalgic he transported me back home by his lyrical presence that night. Outside was the honking streets of Rome but I was on Carrig Island looking out at the Castle. When I told him afterwards where I was from he gave me a poetry book he read from,” The Small Light,” wrote on it, “Up Bally, even for an Asdee man!” And then there was the joke I heard yesterday : “how do you recognise the Kerry mafia?   They make you an offer you can’t understand.”

Noel O Grady has a great 80th celebration on YouTube  http://youtu.be/-A7JW4b9yhM

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