Brian Coffey letter to Dee

Biographical and Historical Notes

Brian Coffey (1905-1995)

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.

Scope and Content Note

Irish poet Brian Coffey handwrote this letter to an unidentified person named "Dee" to accompany an issue of The Lace Curtain, which published an extract from Concerning Making.

Coffey's letter regarded the difficulties which "Dee" had mentioned in a letter that Coffey had received that morning. Coffey counseled "Dee" that he could "appeal for good manners" from his "ill-motivated" attackers but "Dee" need not respond to their charges. The content of the letter suggested an academic setting and mentioned American literary critic and biographer Richard Ellman, who was teaching at Oxford in 1978. Coffey also referred to the accompanying copy of The Lace Curtain.