Coffey, Brian, 1905-

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The Irish poet Brian Coffey was born in Dublin in 1905. After secondary education at Clongowes Wood College and in France, he studied science at University College Dublin from 1924-1930. In 1930 Coffey published a collection of poems with the poet Denis Devlin followed by Three Poems in 1933. Throughout the decade he lived in Paris where he was associated with the Joyce circle. During this period he published his poetry in Criterion and Ireland Today. A third collection, Third Person, appeared in 1938. During the war years, Coffey taught school in London. He completed his own doctorate in 1947, and from 1947-1952 he held a teaching position in St. Louis, Missouri, which would later serve as the impetus for his Missouri Sequence. After Denis Devlin's death in 1959, Coffey served as literary executor to the estate and prepared a collected edition of Devlin's poems and the posthumous collection The Heavenly Foreigner. He also prepared a translation of Mallarm'̌s Coup de dš in 1965. The following year Coffey, in collaboration with John Parsons, published Monster. Coffey's Selected Poems appeared in 1971 followed by Advent (1975), The Big Laugh (1980), The Death of Hektor (1980), and Chanterelles (1985). Brian Coffey died in 1995.

From the description of Brian Coffey collection, [ca. 1933-1976]. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 122517412

Avant-garde Irish poet Brian Coffey (1905–1995) was highly influenced by French surrealism and produced works that drew from his interests in philosophy and religion, particularly Catholicism. Coffey ran his own press, Advent Books, in the 1960s and 1970s.

As early as 1924 Coffey began writing poetry. Under the pseudonym, Coeuvre, Coffey published his first poems in the University College, Dublin's The National Student .

During these early years, Coffey met fellow aspiring poet Denis Devlin, who would become a lifelong friend. While in Paris in the 1930s Coffey studied with French philosopher Jacques Maritain and became acquainted with Irish literary expatriates, Thomas MacGreevy and Samuel Beckett, both of whom encouraged his writing. Coffey’s best known work is Missouri Sequence .

In 1966, Coffey attended printing classes and established his own press, Advent Books, which began publishing limited editions of poetry with a special emphasis on typography and jacket design. Brian Coffey died on April 14, 1995, at his home in Southampton, England.

"Brian Coffey." Dictionary of Irish Literature. Revised and Expanded Edition. Ed. Robert Hogan. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 1996. "Introductory Essay." The Irish University Review, Special Brian Coffey Issue, 5:1 (Spring 1975): 9-29.

From the guide to the Brian Coffey letter to Dee, 1978 October 20, (University of Delaware Library - Special Collections)

Avant-garde Irish poet Brian Coffey (1905–1995) was highly influenced by French surrealism and produced works that drew from his interests in philosophy and religion, particularly Catholicism. Coffey ran his own press, Advent Books, in the 1960s and 1970s. He also translated the work of other poets into English, including

Brian Coffey was born in Dublin on June 8, 1905. His father, Denis J. Coffey, was Professor of Anatomy at University College, Dublin, and, from 1908 to 1940, served as its first president. Coffey attended Clongowes Wood College and Institution St. Vincent where he studied European and Catholic culture and earned his bachelor's degree.

As early as 1924, while earning advanced degrees in mathematics, physics, and chemistry at University College, Coffey began writing poetry. He published his first poems (including "Sada" which was later reprinted in Poems and Versions: 1929–1991 and is included in this collection) in UCD's The National Student under the pseudonym Coeuvre. During this time, Coffey met fellow aspiring poet Denis Devlin, who would become a lifelong friend. In 1930, they co-authored a collection simply titled Poems, published at their own expense.

Coffey moved to Paris in the early 1930s to continue his studies in physical chemistry under Jean Perrin. However, a developing interest in philosophy led Coffey to transfer in 1933 to l'Institut Catholique de Paris where he worked with the noted French philosopher Jacques Maritain. During this time, Coffey also became acquainted with other Irish literary expatriates, including Thomas MacGreevy and Samuel Beckett, both of whom encouraged Coffey to continue writing. In 1934, Beckett published an essay entitled "Recent Irish Poetry," in which he wrote of Coffey and Devlin, "[they are] without question the most interesting of the youngest generation of Irish poets." Coffey was twenty-nine.

Coffey began work on his doctorate in 1937; however, the onset of World War II forced him to abandon his studies and move to London, where he found work as a teacher. In 1938, Coffey married Bridget Rosalind Baynes, daughter of Dr. H.G. Baynes, a distinguished psychologist and partner of internationally renowned psychologist Carl Jung. Shortly after the wedding, Coffey's second volume of poetry, Third Person, was published by Europa Press. The press was owned and operated by George Reavey, who would become a close friend.

During this time, Coffey made several visits to Beckett's bedside while the latter was recuperating after a stabbing. It was here that Coffey was introduced to the ailing James Joyce, an experience he would reflect upon later in his brief essay "Joyce! What now?" published in The Irish University Review, Joyce Centenary Issue (1982).

In 1947, Coffey returned to Paris and completed his doctoral thesis, De l'idée d'ordre d'après Saint Thomas d'Aquin . Shortly thereafter, he accepted a position in the philosophy department at Saint Louis University, Missouri, and he and his family relocated to the United States. Here, Coffey began his best known work, Missouri Sequence .

Coffey and his family left the United States in 1952 and returned to London where Coffey found work teaching sixth-form mathematics. In the years following this move, his career as a poet blossomed. He published several poems in University Review and Poetry Ireland, including "Nine -- A Musing," "Missouri Sequence," "Mindful of You," and "Fidelities."

In 1966, Coffey attended printing classes and established his own press, Advent Books, which began publishing limited editions of poetry with a special emphasis on typography and jacket design. Among his own works to be published by Advent Books were Monster, a concrete poem with illustrations by John Parsons (1966); The Time, The Place (1969); Village in the Mountain, a translation of French poet Gaston Bonheur's La Village dans la Montaigne (1970); Brigid Ann (1972); and the beautifully illustrated Abecedarian, the original drawings of which are included in this collection.

During these years, Coffey also published several volumes through Liam Miller's Dolmen Press. Among them were two editions of Devlin's work which Coffey edited, Collected Poems (1964) and The Heavenly Foreigner (1967), as well as Coffey's translation of Mallarme's Dice Thrown Never Will Annul Chance (1964).

Friend and fellow publisher Anthony Rudolf of Menard Press is responsible for publishing much of Coffey's later work, including Slight Song (1985); Advent (1986); and Poems of Mallarmé (1990).

Consistently avant-garde and strongly influenced by French surrealism, Coffey's poetry also reflects deeply religious and philosophical sentiments. His most frequent themes include exile and emigration. The sound of his poems, their syntax and rhythm, has led many to compare Coffey's work to Ezra Pound and T.S. Eliot.

Brian Coffey died on April 14, 1995, at his home in Southampton, England.

Luftig, Victor. "Brian Coffey." Dictionary of Irish Literature: Revised and Expanded Edition. Ed. Robert Hogan. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 1996. "Introductory Essay." The Irish University Review, Special Brian Coffey Issue, 5:1 (Spring 1975): 9–29.

From the guide to the Brian Coffey papers, 1917–1996, (University of Delaware Library - Special Collections)

"Brian Coffey." Dictionary of Irish Literature: Revised and Expanded Edition. Ed. Robert Hogan. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 1996. "Introductory Essay." The Irish University Review, Special Brian Coffey Issue, 5:1 (Spring 1975): 9-29. Mark Axelrod website. http://www1.chapman.edu/~axelrod/ (accessed November 2009).

Avant-garde Irish poet and publisher Brian Coffey was born in Dublin on June 8, 1905. As early as 1924 Coffey began writing poetry. He published his first poems in the University College, Dublin's The National Student under the pseudonym Coeuvre.

During these early years, Coffey met fellow aspiring poet Denis Devlin, who would become a lifelong friend. While in Paris in the 1930s Coffey studied with French philosopher Jacques Maritain and became acquainted with Irish literary expatriates, Thomas MacGreevy and Samuel Beckett, both of whom encouraged his writing. Coffey’s best known work is Missouri Sequence .

In 1966, Coffey attended printing classes and established his own press, Advent Books, which began publishing limited editions of poetry with a special emphasis on typography and jacket design. Brian Coffey died on April 14, 1995, at his home in Southampton, England.

Mark Axelrod is Professor of English & Comparative Literature at Chapman University, Orange, California, and Director of the John Fowles Center for Creative Writing.

From the guide to the Brian Coffey letters to Mark Axelrod, 1978, 1990, (University of Delaware Library - Special Collections)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Coffey, Brian, 1905-. Brian Coffey collection, [ca. 1933-1976]. Emory University Library, Special Collect Department
creatorOf Brian Coffey letter to Dee, 1978 October 20 University of Delaware Library - Special Collections
creatorOf Brian Coffey letters to Mark Axelrod, 1978, 1990 University of Delaware Library - Special Collections
creatorOf Brian Coffey papers, 1917–1996 University of Delaware Library - Special Collections
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Advent Books (Firm) corporateBody
associatedWith Apollinaire, Guillaume, 1880-1918 person
correspondedWith Axelrod, Mark person
correspondedWith Axelrod, Mark, correspondent. person
associatedWith Beckett, Samuel, 1906-1989 person
associatedWith Bonheur, Gaston. person
associatedWith Claudel, Paul, 1868-1955 person
associatedWith Coffey, Denis J. person
associatedWith Devlin, Denis, 1908-1959 person
associatedWith Eluard, Paul, 1895-1952 person
associatedWith Embolador, Pinto Repentista. person
associatedWith Hayter, Stanley William, 1901- person
associatedWith Mallarmé, Stéphane, 1842-1898 person
associatedWith McAlpine, Margaret Mary. person
associatedWith Neruda, Pablo, 1904-1973 person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Subject
English poetry
English poetry
Poets, Irish
Poets, Irish
Poets, Irish
Private presses
Symbolism in literature
Occupation
Poets
Translator
Artists
Activity

Person

Birth 1905-06-08

Death 1995-04-14

Irish (Republic of Ireland)

English

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