A poet who taught science
BRIAN COFFEY was an avant-garde Irish poet who spent the last 30 years of his life in a large, rambling house in Alma Road.
Coffey was born in Ireland and brought up a Catholic, a faith which he adhered to all his life and which informed his philosophy and his work. He obtained a MSc. in Maths, Physics and Chemistry from University College Dublin. During his university days he became friends with the playwright Samuel Beckett and the poet Dennis Devlin.
He then spent some years in France researching chemistry and immersing himself in French poetry. He spent the war teaching science in England. In 1947 he took his thesis and was appointed assistant Professor of philosophy, at St Louis University, Missouri. He only stayed in post for four years and his departure may have been linked to previous friendships with Communists. Coffey and his family returned to London where he taught sixth form Maths.
During the sixties his poetry began to be recognised and he published Missouri Sequence and Mindful of You. In 1972 he retired from teaching and a year later moved to Southampton. This was the most productive period of his literary career and he published major works like Advent and Death of Hektor. He also came out of retirement to do some teaching at Taunton’s School. His house was always open to aspiring poets who he loved to encourage. His poetry is widely considered to the most significant Irish work after W.B. Yeats.
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