The scholar Adrienne Leavy, writing in The Irish Times, saw Mr. Kinsella’s poetic career as falling into two clear segments: first an embrace of “elegant formalism and a lyrical style” beginning in the early 1960s, influenced by W.H. Auden, Patrick Kavanagh and others; and then a more experimental phase in which formal verse was abandoned, reflecting his exposure to the writings of Ezra Pound and William Carlos Williams and his study of the Swiss psychologist Carl Jung.
His themes, though, endured.
In “Downstream” (1962), the reader follows the poet on a journey by “frail skiff” on a “seam / Of calm and current” ending at a barrier of rock, where “We glided — blotting heaven as it towered / Searching the darkness for a landing place.”
Six years later, in another of Mr. Kinsella’s best-known poems, “Nightwalker,” a journey on foot leads to a place where the dust “has a human taste”: “I believe / I have heard of this place. I think / This is the Sea of Disappointment.”
By the time he published “Notes From the Land of the Dead” in 1972, the move away from lyricism and formality was complete. One passage in the collection says simply: “Hair. Claws. Gray. / Naked. Wretch. Wither.”
The break coincided with upheaval in his own life. Until 1965, Mr. Kinsella had worked in the Department of Finance in Dublin, pursuing a civil service career that started in 1946. He had written poetry in his spare time. His first major collection, “Another September,” was published in 1958.
But by 1965 his poetry had attracted attention beyond Ireland, and he accepted a three-year position as writer in residence at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. After his translation of “The Tain” was published, he and his wife, Eleanor Kinsella — often described as his muse — decided to settle in the United States. He was appointed a professor of English at Temple in 1970 and held the position for 20 years.
Thomas Kinsella was born on May 4, 1928, in Inchicore, a blue-collar suburb of Dublin. A brother, John, born in 1932, became a composer. A sister, Agnes, died in infancy. His father, John Paul Kinsella, had worked at the Guinness brewery and had a reputation as a labor union organizer, a life his son Thomas eulogized in his poem “The Messenger” (1978) published two years after his father’s death, which charted the elder Mr. Kinsella’s transition from robust bravado to frailty.