Contemporary Irish Poetry

A Road from the mid-Twentieth Century Onwards

They, like all creatures, being made
For the shovel and worm,
Ransacked their perishable minds and found
Pattern and form. . . .
— “The Poets,” Eavan Boland

It was on a dark, cold Swedish day, on 7th December 1995, that the great Irish poet Seamus Heaney, having been awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, gave an acceptance speech entitled “Crediting Poetry.” In it, Heaney narrates how, as a child in rural County Derry, Northern Ireland, and during the nineteen forties, he would be irretrievably attracted to the voices emanating from a wireless speaker in the traditional thatched farmstead where his family lived. Young Seamus would be interested not so much in the news of war and continental conflict as in what in his Nobel lecture he identifies as being “the thrill of story.” In time, as the celebrated poet tells his audience, such irrepressible excitement would gradually morph into “a journey into the wideness of language, a journey where each point of arrival – whether in one’s poetry or one’s life turned out to be a stepping stone rather than a destination.”

​It is indeed through language and the thrill it ideally provokes in many of us that poetry and life inform one another—that they become virtually indistinguishable from one another. Heaney, like almost every other poet of Ireland, necessarily understood this as being one the great truths of humankind, from time immemorial. And the Irish nation has a collective memory founded on poetic language, whether it be that descended from Celtic antiquity or that deriving from Germanic incursions into the Gaelic motherland. From the pangs and pleasures of everyday life to the conflicts of identity and nationality, Irish men and women poets have covered a range of topics and themes that, for many a generation, have dazzled and inspired readers and listeners alike due to their imaginative vivacity and formal versatility. The language and the voices of those people have continually paved a wide avenue towards the recognition and understanding of what to be Irish, to be human, represents in a world that, for the most part, crawls with disingenuousness and uncertainty.

This webpage, conceived as a virtual journey through Anglo-Irish poetical expression, intends to explore the possibilities of contemporary Irish verse in the context of the immediate intercultural communication that determines our increasingly globalised realities. Hopefully, the diverse readings of pieces by poets ranging from William Butler Yeats and Patrick Kavanagh to Sinéad Morrissey and Adam Crothers, as well the intellectual musings inevitably arising from them, will constitute a myriad stepping stones down the road towards the universality of Irish verbal aesthetics. May this effort from a select group of professors and students at UNAM’s School of Philosophy and Letters contribute to the crediting of (Irish) poetry as a paragon of artistic pattern and form—as the linguistic embodiment of “the power to persuade [the] vulnerable part of our consciousness of its rightness in spite of the evidence of wrongness all around it,” to echo, once more, the ever-resounding words of Seamus Heaney.

Mario Murgia