Maynooth University to host Pearse Hutchinson Archive

Thursday, March 27, 2014 - 00:00

Maynooth University is to permanently host the archive of the distinguished multilingual writer Pearse Hutchinson in the university’s library.  Hutchinson’s collection, which generated significant interest internationally, includes published and unpublished poetry, memoirs, letters to friends and fellow poets including Saul Bellow and Octavio Paz, and his own paintings and sketches. Maynooth University is employing a dedicated archivist for 12 months to develop the collection and the university will also establish an annual bursary in his honour. 

Born in Glasgow, Pearse Hutchinson was five years old when his family moved to Dublin. Both his parents were Irish and had been active supporters of Sinn Fein. His father, a printer, was interned in Frongoch from 1919 to 1921. His mother was a friend of Countess Markievicz, and Hutchinson’s collection includes a painting of his mother by the Countess and correspondence between the two.

Hutchinson studied Spanish and Italian and traveled extensively, living in Spain for almost a decade, where he developed a deep love of the Catalan and Galician language, culture and literature.

During a long career, he published several volumes of poetry and a series of translations from Italian, Catalan and Galaico-Portuguese. Known as a truly original poet, he was a frequent contributor to radio and print media, writing a regular Irish language column for the RTÉ Guide and hosting a weekly RTÉ Radio 1 programme of Irish poetry, music and folklore, Óró Domhnaigh. A co-editor and founder of the literary journal Cyphers, Ireland’s longest-running poetry magazine, and an active member of Aosdána, he received the Butler Award for Irish writing in 1969. In the early 1970s he took up the Gregory fellowship in poetry at the University of Leeds.

Hutchinson’s poems were first published in The Bell literary magazine in 1945. In the early 1950s he became interested in Irish language poetry, having been influenced by writers such as Piaras Feirtéar. His collections of poetry, in Irish and English, include Tongue Without Hands (1963), Faoistín Bhacach (1968), Expansions (1969), Watching the Morning Grow (1973), The Frost Is All Over (1975), Climbing the Light (1985), Le Cead na Gréine (1989), The Soul that Kissed the Body (1991) and Barnsley Main Seam (1995).

With Melita Cataldi, he translated into Italian an anthology of medieval Irish lyrics, Antica Lirica Irlandese (Einaudi,Turin, 1981). Books of his poetry were translated into Castilian in 1991, Italian in 1997, and Galician in 2002. His Collected Poems was published on his 75th birthday in 2002, and the following year he published Done into English, a selection of many of the translated works he produced over the years containing translations of more than sixty poets from over a dozen languages or dialects, including Catalan, Italian, Dutch, Milanese and Irish.

Discussing the archive, Professor Philip Nolan, President, said: “We are very proud to be selected as the home for Pearse Hutchinson’s archive, despite much competition for the honour. Pearse Hutchinson is one of the most influential poets of the last century and his volumes of poetry, letters, translations and paintings will enjoy pride of place in our library. Hutchinson’s archive offers a unique opportunity to delve into a rich, diverse and untapped collection of literature, letters and translations which provide fascinating insights into the cultural, historical and social fabric of the 20th century. Pearse was himself a talented writer and artist but he also demonstrated a passion for poetry from around the world, using his multilingual skills to translate poems he loved and bring them to a wider audience. We will now honour his legacy with a permanent archive at the university which, when launched, will be open to all.”

Writer and broadcaster Vincent Woods, literary executor of Pearse Hutchinson’s estate is delighted that Maynooth University is home to the Pearse Hutchinson archive. “It’s a perfect match. Pearse Hutchinson would be especially pleased to have his writings and papers in the same university space as those of the Nigerian environmentalist and activist Ken Saro-Wiwa. With its strong commitment to the arts, humanities and music, Maynooth University is the ideal place for an archive that reflects what Declan Kiberd called ‘an alternative cultural history of Ireland’. Pearse would be very happy to know that his writings and family papers will be at the centre of literary and cultural studies at a university of the stature and significance of Maynooth University.”

The archive, which will be of interest to literary scholars and historians alike, will be developed over the next 12 months, with an archivist documenting and assembling the various materials. The archive will subsequently go on public view at Maynooth University ’s library on the South campus. Future plans include a conference celebrating Hutchinson in early 2015 drawing on the ongoing cataloguing of the archive.

The archive will be officially launched in Maynooth University on March 27th, coinciding with the launch of a new volume of Pearse Hutchinson's unpublished poems in English, 'Listening to Bach' (The Gallery Press). 

Photocaption: Pearse Hutchinson