I found out today that the Irish poet Dennis O'Driscoll died back in December. I met Dennis a year ago when he came to Australia to promote his book Stepping Stones, a collection of essays about his good friend Seamus Heaney. When he arrived in Albany from the airport, he got out of the car, a slight man in a creased suit, and walked straight towards the sea without saying hello to anyone. He stood next to the landlocked replica of the Amity, staring out at the water. Then he returned to the car park where we stood bemused, and introduced himself.
Later I wrote a post about talking to him and how he 'interviewed' me. That blog post has made its way into my forthcoming book as part of the introduction. He said at the time that he would like to read my book, which is bolstering. I was going to send him a copy.
I met a poet from Tipperary. A man in his fifties; his humour, his wisps of hair and pale, elfin face made him a different creature from anyone I’d ever met. I wanted to tell him that, despite his bemoaning the status of poetry in Australia, clandestine visitors to one of the isolated fishing shacks I frequent had stolen nothing but my copy of Phillip Larkin’s Collected Poems. They could have shot holes in the rainwater tank or taken the gas bottle or generator. But no ... a book of poetry.
He nodded slowly. ‘Larkin. They showed good taste.’
‘I thought so too.’
‘I heard that you are a fisherwoman,’ he said.
‘Yes. We work the estuaries and beaches with nets, in a little boat.’
He took his time during the conversation. He looked distracted and stared across the table at something or someone. ‘You look like you are strong.’