Ireland has long been renowned as a land of music, folklore and poetry. Without a doubt the Irish seem to have a knack for expressing circumstance and emotion in dramatic and lyrical ways that evoke emotion and masterfully engage the reader. Some of Ireland’s greatest poets have gone on to be recipients of the Nobel Prize and conferred with the position of poet Laureate, no mean feat for a country so small.
The Original Poets
The traditions of storytelling through verse and music have been consistently passed down through generations as part of Ireland’s cultural heritage. Many of these would have been undocumented but the works of Thomas Moore, born in 1779 in Dublin, are well remembered and recorded. Considered an Irish bard Moore travelled in well-heeled circles and performed his verse often to music for all who would listen. Born in 1865 William Butler Yeats is one of the country’s best-known poets in part because he was awarded the Nobel Prize and because he had a somewhat traumatic life. His early work was more inclined towards the lyrical form but later in life he worked with a more realistic form and was more influenced by his political involvements. Certainly, he is among the foremost writers of the twentieth century both in Ireland and worldwide.
No consideration of Irish poetry would be complete without looking at the work of perhaps one of the most accessible and admired poets, Seamus Heaney. Born in Northern Ireland in 1939 most of his formative years were spent growing up on a farm and this is reflected in much of his work. Drawing the reader in by evoking the five senses Heaney can engage the reader in a manner that is seemingly effortless and thus most effective. Unlike many of his fellow artists he led a peaceful life happily married for forty years and raised three children. Heaney enjoyed many accolades not least of which had to be receiving the Nobel Prize.
Eavan Boland is among a select group of women considered to be among Ireland’s great poets. Born in 1944 in Dublin she continues to write and published a collection in 2014. Using everyday experiences of motherhood and family she manages to infuse these with matters of history and politics to add her voice to a social situation.
Cecil Day Lewis may seem familiar perhaps as the father of the well-known and highly regarded actor Daniel Day Lewis. However, as a poet Cecil was highly acclaimed before his son’s career had even been imagined. Born in Ireland he went on to spend much of his life in England where he was to become the Poet Laureate of The United Kingdom. Over a period of some forty years Cecil published ten collections of poetry and in later life exhibited his talent for working in a more traditional and lyrical format, perhaps a return to his Irish roots! Many more individuals could grace this list, George William Russell, John Montague and Jane Wilde to name a few. Suffice to say the literary talent that has always flowed from Ireland’s shores will continue to live on in the poetic works of its many talented citizens.