Brendan Kennelly was born in Ballylongford in 1936. One of a large family, he went to the local National School and received his secondary education at St. Ita’s College, Tarbert, an inter-denominational school, where at the age of 12, he was reading Baudelaire.
In 1963 he was appointed to the Department of English in Trinity College, Dublin, became a Fellow of the College in 1967, was promoted Associate Professor of English in 1969, and became the first occupant of the newly-created Chair of Modern Literature in 1973. He retired from this post in 2006.
Literary Career of Brendan Kennelly
By 1963 he had published four books of poems, Cast a cold eye (1959), The Dark About Our Loves (1961), The Rain, the Moon (1962), and Green Town Lands (1963) in conjunction with Rudi Holzapfel. Since then he has published a further twelve books of poems: Let Fall no Burning Leaf (1963), My Dark Feathers (1964), Moloney Up and At It (1965), Collection One: Getting Up Early (1966), Good Souls To Survive (1967), Dream of a Black Fox (21968), Selected Poems (1969), A Drinking Cup (1970), Bread (1971), Love Cry: The Kerry Sonnets (1972), Salvation: The Stranger (1972), and Selected and New Poems (1972).
Two novels by Brendan Kennelly, The Crooked Cross (1963) and Florentines (1967), have been well received. He won the AE Memorial Prize for Poetry in 1967 and the Critics’ Special Harvey’s Award in 1988.
His best-known work is the popular and controversial book-length poem sequence, Cromwell, published in Ireland in 1983. his book-length sequence, Judas, was published in 1991, and his work, The Man Made of Rain, was published in 1998 in both book and tape form. Other collections include Begin (1999) and Martial Art (2001). His most recent publication Reservoir Voices was published in 2009. To celebrate his 75th birth a collection entitled The Essential Brendan Kennelly was published in 2011 which includes a CD recording of Brendan.
In 2016 Brendan returned to his ancestral home in North Kerry where he now enjoys his retirement.