South East Wales

Tributes paid to Welsh poet Dannie Abse

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Media captionAbse was regarded as one of Wales' finest modern writers

Tributes have been paid to the Welsh poet and author Dannie Abse, who has died aged 91.

The award-winning writer died on Sunday surrounded by his family after a short illness.

Born in Cardiff in 1923, he had a successful career writing poems, novels and autobiographies, while also practising as a doctor.

Fellow Welsh poet Owen Sheers led tributes, and urged people to read Mr Abse's poems and "remember him".

Mr Abse, who was the brother of Labour MP Leo Abse, and psychoanalyst Wilfred Abse, was regarded as one of Wales' finest modern writers and was a popular choice in homes and schools.

His literary agent Robert Kirby said: "We've lost a truly great poet."

Image copyright Dannie Abse Collection
Image caption Mr Abse as a boy in Roath Park, Cardiff

He added that Mr Abse was able to make final revisions to some new poems before he died, which will be published in his final collection of poetry, Ask The Moon.

Friend and poet Tony Curtis visited Mr Abse a week before he died and said he was working "right to the end".

"We visited him in London a week ago and he was aware of what was happening. He was very seriously ill, he was very frail," said Mr Curtis.

"But on his desk was a pile of papers and he was editing, proof-reading with his close friend another final version of the collected poems."

'Man of Cardiff'

Peter Finch, the writer and former chief executive of Literature Wales, said Mr Abse, a lifelong Cardiff City Football Club supporter, was as successful across Britain as he was in Wales.

He said he was a writer who could "do it all and did it all successfully".

"Dannie Abse will be remembered, I suppose, as the way he portrayed himself, he was the man of Cardiff, the great supporter of Cardiff City, the poet who was born in Cardiff, wrote about his city and that's what he would want to be remembered for," Mr Finch added.

Image caption Writer and friend Tony Curtis described Mr Abse as a 'cultural ambassador'

Mr Abse's friend and fellow writer, Robert Minhinnick, said the poet always supported young and upcoming writers - including himself.

He said: "It's a great thing for those young writers like myself because he was famous, he was well known but he cared."

He said that the literary legacy of Mr Abse, who drew much inspiration from south Wales' Glamorgan Heritage Coast, would be "eternal".

Football supporter

As news of Mr Abse's death spread, people took to social media to pay tribute to the poet.

Stephen Doughty, MP for Cardiff South and Penarth, said: "Very sorry to hear of passing of Dannie Abse: Bluebird + legendary Welsh poet. Had lovely letter from him after we met a few years ago. RIP."

Leighton Andrews AM, minister for public services and a fellow Bluebirds supporter, said: "Sad to hear about the passing of Dannie Abse. #Bluebirds"

Literature Wales said: "Literature Wales is deeply saddened to hear of the passing of eminent Welsh writer & President of The Welsh Academy, Dannie Abse (1923-2014)."

Image copyright Twitter
Image copyright Twitter

Mr Abse's publishers, Hutchinson, also used social media to pay tribute, writing: "We're so saddened by the death the wonderful Dannie Abse. His poems will live on."

Book of the Year

During his early working life Mr Abse opted for a career in medicine, and split his family life between south Wales and London where he worked as a chest physician.

But his reputation as a poet and playwright soon grew with published works of fiction, autobiographies and poetry.

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Media captionDannie Abse reads Scent, a poem he wrote for his 2013 collection Speak, Old Parrot

Despite spending most of his life living away, he kept south Wales close with a home in Ogmore-by-Sea and his life here influenced many of his works.

Much of that life was spent with his wife Joan, who died in a car accident in 2005.

He struggled to come to terms with her death, but eventually wrote about his grief in the book The Presence, which went on to win him the Wales Book of the Year award in 2008.

He was president of the Welsh Academy of Letters and was awarded a CBE from the Queen for services to poetry and literature in 2012.

Image copyright Charlotte Knee Photography

Dannie Abse

  • Abse was born on 22 September 1923 in Cardiff
  • His father ran a cinema
  • He studied medicine at Westminster College and at King's College, London, qualifying in 1950
  • Abse's brother Leo, a lawyer, was MP for Pontypool and then Torfaen from 1958-1987 and died in 2008
  • His brother Wilfred, a psychoanalyst, died in 2005
  • Abse was senior fellow of the humanities at Princeton University between 1973-74
  • His 2002 novel, The Strange Case of Dr Simmonds & Dr Glas, was long-listed for the Booker Prize
  • He had been a Cardiff City FC fan since his first visit to Ninian Park in 1934

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