The Sacred, the Sacrilegious, and the Elegiac in Dennis O’Driscoll’s Poetry: “Missing God” and Other Poems

  • Joseph C. Heininger Dominican University


Contemporary Irish poet Dennis O’Driscoll’s poetry has often been linked with Philip Larkin’s work in its general outlines and themes. As George Szirtes points out, O’Driscoll’s literary territory “is a place that at first sight appears to be bordering on Larkin country. . . Like Larkin he generally addresses himself to ordinary lives, to their ambit of hopes and disappointments.” O’Driscoll’s poetry seeks, as Szirtes has it, “not . . . to tell people how they should feel but to try to understand, to share and to give shape to [peoples’] feeling” (Szirtes, “Business of Being”). Notably, much of O’Driscoll’s poetry makes explicit rational and emotional connections between human beings in a world marked by personal disconnection, loss of belief in God and God’s presence, and the repetition of impersonal, bureaucratic experiences. Through its plain yet eloquent discursive style, O’Driscoll’s poetry addresses themes of love and separation, life and death, and the sacred and the sacrilegious in a colloquial manner and with an understated tone that together invite his readers to examine central moral, spiritual, and intellectual concerns.

Author Biography

Joseph C. Heininger, Dominican University
Joseph Heininger is Assistant Professor at Dominican University. His areas of expertise include: modern British literature, modern and contemporary Irish literature, poetry in English, contemporary British cultural studies, Irish cultural studies
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