Pearse Hutchinson

Pearse Hutchinson (born 1927) is an Irish poet, broadcaster and translator.

Childhood and education

Pearse Hutchinson was born in Glasgow. His father was Harry Hutchinson, a Scottish printer whose own father had left Dublin to go to Scotland to find work, and who was himself Sinn Féin treasurer in Glasgow and was interned in Frongoch in 1919-21. His mother, Cathleen Sara, was born in Cowcaddens, Glasgow, of emigrant parents from Donegal. She was a friend of Constance Markievicz. In response to a letter from Cathleen, Éamon de Valera found work in Dublin for Harry as a clerk in Labour Exchange, and later he held a post in Stationery Office.

Pearse was five years old when the family moved to Dublin, and was the last to be enrolled in St. Enda's School before it closed. He then went to school at the Christian Brothers, Synge Street where he learnt Irish and Latin. In 1948 he attended University College Dublin where he spent a year and a half, learning Spanish and Italian.

Travels overseas

Having published some poems in "The Bell" in 1945, his poetic development was greatly influenced by a 1950 holiday to Spain and Portugal. A short stop en route at Vigo brought him into contact for the first time with the culture of Galicia. Later, in Andalusia, he was entranced by the landscape and by the works of the Spanish poets Lorca, Prados and Cernuda: "That early September of 1950," he would later write, "the light walked for me as it never had before, and I walked through the light I'd always longed for".Pearse Hutchinson, Introduction, "Done Into English", 2003]

In 1951 he left Ireland again, determined to go and live in Spain. Unable to get work in Madrid, as he had hoped, he travelled instead to Geneva, where he got a job as a translator with the International Labour Office, which brought him into contact with Catalan exiles, speaking a language then largely suppressed in Spain. An invitation by a Dutch friend led to a visit to the Netherlands, in preparation for which he taught himself Dutch.

He returned to Ireland in 1953, and he became interested in the Irish language poetry of writers such as Piaras Feiritéar and Aonghus Fionn Ó Dálaigh, and published a number of poems in Irish in the magazine "Comhar" in 1954.

The same year he travelled again to Spain, this time to Barcelona, where he learnt the Catalan and Galician languages, and got to know Catalan poets such as Salvador Espriu and Carles Riba. With the British poet P. J. Kavanagh, he organised a reading of Catalan poetry in the British Institute.

He went home to Ireland in 1957 but returned to Barcelona in 1961, and continued to support Catalan poets. An invitation by the publisher Joan Gili to translate some poems by Josep Carner led to the publication of his first book, a collection of thirty of Carner's poems in Catalan and English, in 1962. A project to publish Hutchinson's translation of Espriu's "La Pell de brau (The Bull-skin)", fell through some years later. Some of the poems from this project are included in the collection "Done Into English".

Return to Ireland

In 1963, his first collection of original poems in English, "Tongue Without Hands" (the title a quotation from the Spanish epic El Cid), was published by Dolmen Press in Ireland. In 1967, having spent nearly ten years altogether in Spain, Hutchinson returned to Ireland, making a living as a poet and journalist writing in both Irish and English. In 1968, a collection of poems in Irish, "Faoistin Bhacach" (A Lame Confession), was published. "Expansions", a collection in English, followed in 1969. "Friend Songs" (1970) was a new collection of translations, this time of medieval poems originally written in Galicoportugeuse. In 1972 "Watching the Morning Grow", a new collection of original poems in English, came out, followed in 1975 by another, "The Frost Is All Over".

From 1977 to 1978 he compiled and presented "Oró Domhnaigh", a weekly radio programme of Irish poetry, music and folklore for Ireland's national network, RTÉ. He also contributed a weekly column on the Irish language to the station's magazine "RTÉ Guide" for over ten years. 1981 saw the publication of another translated collection: this time a collaboration with Melita Cataldi, of Old Irish lyrics into Italian. Another collection in English, "Climbing the Light" (1985), which also included translations from Irish, Italian and Galician, was followed in 1989 by his last Irish collection, "Le Cead na Gréine" (By Leave of the Sun). "The Soul that Kissed the Body" (1990) was a selection of his Irish poems translated into English. His most recent English collection was "Barnsley Main Seam" (1995); the long title poem celebrates the splendours of York Minster, and is a homage to the manual workers of the world.

His "Collected Poems" were published in 2002 to mark his 75th birthday. This was followed in 2003 by "Done Into English", a selection of many of the translated works he produced over the years; it contains translations of more than sixty poets from over a dozen languages or dialects, including Catalan, Italian, Dutch, Milanese and Irish. 'Every poem in this book has been translated because I liked it', he explained.

A co-editor and founder of the literary journal "Cyphers", he received the Butler Award for Irish writing in 1969. He is a member of Aosdána, the state-supported association of artists, from which he receives a "cnuas" (stipend) to allow him to go on writing. He has described this as "a miracle and a godsend": "I was fifty-four when I was invited to become a member and frankly I was at the end of my tether. I might have carried on, but I would have been in the gutter because I would have been evicted or I would have gone mad or killed myself or both." He lives in Dublin.


* "Josep Carner: Poems" (Oxford, The Dolphin Press, 1962)
* "Tongue Without Hands" (Dublin, The Dolmen Press, 1963)
* "Faoistin Bhacach" (Baile Átha Cliath, An Clóchomhar, 1968)
* "Expansions" (The Dolmen Press, 1969)
* "Watching the Morning Grow" (Dublin, The Gallery Press, 1972) ISBN 0-904011-00-3
* "The Frost is all Over" (The Gallery Press, 1975) ISBN 0-902996-34-7
* "Selected Poems" (Oldcastle, Co Meath, The Gallery Press, 1980) ISBN 0-904011-28-3
* "Climbing the Light" (The Gallery Press, 1985) ISBN 0-904011-86-0
* "The Soul that Kissed the Body: Selected Poems in Irish with translations into English" (Dublin, The Gallery Press, 1990) ISBN 1-85235-060-1
* "Le Cead na Gréine", (An Clóchomhar, 1992)
* "Barnsley Main seam" (The Gallery Press, 1995) ISBN 1-85235-155-1
* "Collected Poems" (The Gallery Press, 2002) ISBN 1-85235-312-0
* "Done Into English: Collected Translations" (Dublin, The Gallery Press, 2003) ISBN 1-85235-315-5



* Pearse Hutchinson interview, "Poetry Ireland Review", 52nd edition, edited by Liam O Muirthile, 1997.
* Pearse Hutchinson, Introduction, "Done Into English", 2003.
* Robert Welch (ed), "The Oxford Companion to Irish Literature". Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1996.
* [ The Princess Grace Irish Library online dataset index]

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