Dermot Healy has set forth across the waters as the send-off for this acclaimed Irish poet brought to mind a line from one of his poems, A Funeral: 'shovels work like oars, rowing the dead man from this world.'
President Michael D Higgins said he heard of the news 'with great sadness.' Healy was someone 'whom I had the privilege of also having as a friend.' The President said Healy was 'a prolific and most original poet, novelist and playwright' who 'in recent years . . . had received the recognition and tributes which his work long deserved.'
Minister for the Arts Jimmy Deenihan described Healy as a 'wonderful' talent. 'Widely regarded as one of our finest contemporary writers, Dermot will be remembered alongside the greatest Irish writers of any age.'
Roddy Doyle said he was 'shocked at his death, fullstop.' He said Healy was possibly the best writer in Ireland. 'I just wish there was more of it [his writing],' he said, adding that they had been 'quite good friends.'
Peter Fallon, who published four of Healy’s books of poetry, said 'his work is, literally, extraordinary' and 'the regard serious writers had for him was unusual and exceptional.' He could be 'terrifically funny, a great gift not many writers have.' He believed that 'for its variety, richness and its truth, he has left us a very special body of work.'
A two-day wake was planned at the Healy home, followed by the funeral in the church at nearby Maugherow, with burial afterwards in the local cemetery.
Healy was born at Finea, Co Westmeath, in 1947. His books included Banished Misfortune, The Bend for Home, Fighting with Shadows, A Goat’s Song and Sudden Times and Long Time, No See.
He wrote and directed plays, including The Long Swim, On Broken Wings and Mister Staines, and wrote the screenplay for the film Our Boys, directed by Cathal Black. The Gallery Press published his four collections of poetry, The Ballyconnell Colours, What the Hammer, The Reed Bed, and A Fool’s Errand.
A member of Aosdána, Healy had also founded and edited the literary journals The Drumlin and Force 10. He is survived by his wife Helen, son Dallan, daughter Inor, and granddaughter Georgia.
- By Patsy McGarry
Read full obituary: Sudden death of writer Dermot Healy inspires many tributes (The Irish Times)
Wild geese and a poet's soul: my day with Dermot Healy (The Irish Independent)