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Erin Go Bookshelf: Irish Poets for St. Patrick’s Day

March 16, 2012

W.H. Auden once said “Mad Ireland hurt you into poetry.” And some excellent poetry it is, too.

Auden and Yeats are masters of the art form, of course.

When I think of Irish poets, the first one I think of is Cathal O’Searcaigh. (It’s pronounced Cavil O’Sharkey) He writes primarily in Gaelic. I first heard of him at a People’s Poetry Gathering performance at the Bowery Poetry Club. Black 47 put together a concert with Irish and Scottish poets, reading their poems first in the original Irish and Scots Gaelic, and then in English.

One of the poems O’Searcaigh read utterly flattened me.  It was angry and caged and beautiful and haunting– and fused gorgeously with Black 47’s mournful “Sleep Tight in New York City (Her Dear Old Donegal,)” and that’s it. I was bawling. It was phenomenal. I don’t know the title of the poem- only that it had something to do with a kitchen and potatoes in their jackets, and I haven’t found it in an anthology since. I’ve tried looking for it at The Poet’s House but no joy so far.

Here are some Irish writers who are easier to find.

Seamus Heaney is an excellent read. His translation of Beowulf is artfully done (and even more amazing as an audiobook- kind of scary, actually!) but I prefer his own poetry. Every time I browse my copy of Opened Ground: Selected Poems, 1966-1996 I find something new to savor.  Read: Digging

Eamon Grennan taught at Vassar when I was there. I never took one of his classes, which was dumb of me. I heard him read poetry once or twice, and he had a deliciously lovely reading voice. Read: A Few Last Lines of Laundry

I haven’t read nearly enough Galway Kinnell, though I heard him read once… Just found this lovely treasure of a poem. Read: After Making Love

Huh. No women lingering at the top of my mind to post on this list. I should remedy this gap in my knowledge next time I’m at the Poet’s House.

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