Strong, Eithne (née O'Connell) (1923–99), writer, was born 28 February 1923 in Glensharrold, Co. Limerick. One of five children, though her parents were teachers she was brought up on a farm and educated locally through Irish. She briefly attended TCD before entering the civil service in 1942. Becoming a committed campaigner for the revival of the Irish language, she published poems in Irish in An Glór and Comhar. Withstanding her family's strong objections, she married (1943) Rupert Strong (1911–84), an English-born writer and psychoanalyst. In the same year she founded with him the Runa Press, primarily for the publication of poetry. Some of her early work was included in a series of Runa verse anthology quartos (1943–5). Though she had aspired to become a writer from an early age, and wrote continually over the years alongside her domestic responsibilities, she did not publish again till later in life. Her first collection of poems, Songs of living, written in English, appeared in 1961 with a preface by Padraic Colum (qv). Despite being the mother of nine children, the youngest of whom was had intellectual disabilities from birth and required permanent care, she returned to Trinity to study modern languages in 1969. Awarded an education diploma in 1975, she taught creative writing (1973–88), worked as a journalist and theatre critic, and lectured extensively in Ireland and America. Her long poem Flesh . . . the greatest sin (1980) – described by one critic as the female equivalent of The great hunger of Patrick Kavanagh (qv): ‘man was tied to the soil, and woman to her fertile womb’ (Kelly, 23) – helped redefine the traditional image of Irish womanhood. Strong's other poetry in English includes Sarah, in passing (1974); My darling neighbour (1985); Let live (1990); and Spatial nosing: new and selected poems (1993). Her collections in Irish include Cirt oibre (1980), Fuil agus fallaí (1983), An sagart pinc (1990), Aoife fé ghlas (1990), and Nobel (1998). She published short stories, notably the collection Patterns (1981), and two novels, Degrees of kindred (1979) and The love riddle (1993). In a 1993 interview, she discussed her linguistic duality as a culmination of her childhood Irish-language education and the hybrid spoken English of regional rural Ireland. Her work, particularly that written from the 1970s, demonstrates a concern for women and minority issues, and the values of home, family, love, and forgiveness; her characteristic poetic style is a particularly formless free verse that eschews consistent rhythmic pattern. Described as ‘a journeywoman intrigued by the process of living’, she was ‘a quiet bohemian . . . [who] challenged convention in her own distinctive and unorthodox way’ (Ir. Times obit.). She was elected to Aosdána in 1996. She died 24 August 1999 at her home in Monkstown, Co. Dublin.
More information on this entry is available at the National Database of Irish-language biographies (Ainm.ie).