Ireland has produced some of the most memorable literary works of all time. Four Irish writers have won the Nobel Prize for Literature, and James Joyce is regarded as one of the most influential authors in world literature. It is almost impossible to travel through Ireland without encountering the landmarks of its rich literary history.
Literary Ireland 101
While Oscar Wilde set many of his plays in London society and Beckett often set his in abstract locations not associated with any country in particular, James Joyce was constantly aware of Ireland and especially the map of Dublin city life, in the bulk of his works. Therefore, a Joycean tour of Dublin can be a great source of pleasure for the literary-minded traveller.
A true Joycean will make a point of not missing Bloomsday, the 16th of June, the day Joyce set the action of Ulysses, his most famous work. On Bloomsday, there are numerous activities around Dublin, which include readings, performance, music, and general celebration of the genius of Joyce and his most famous character: Leopold Bloom.
Whatever the time of year, one should visit the Martello tower at Sandycove, where Joyce once spent some time with a friend, an experience he would later put to literary use in Ulysses. Now transformed into a museum, this is a most interesting literary landmark. I recommend bringing along Richard Ellman's definitive Joyce biography, which will be both a pleasure and the perfect reading for this type of trip.
The James Joyce Centre, new home to highlights from The National Library's 2004-2006 landmark James Joyce Exhibition, encourages an appreciation of the great writer. Restaurants, schools, hotels, parks, and private homes connected either to Joyce's life or the content of his literary works help to reveal Joyce's Dublin.
A Poet's Ireland
Two of the most famous Irish poets, W.B.Yeats and Seamus Heaney are Nobel Prize winners and Ireland has a rich poetic tradition. Yeats has strong associations with Sligo and Galway as well as Dublin. You can visit Yeats' home at Merrion Square in Dublin, (where you may also see a monument to Oscar Wilde, as well as his family home.) Sligo, Yeats' birthplace, known as 'Yeats' Country', offers wonderful examples of places mentioned in his poetry, (Ben Bulben,Inishfree, Lissadell.) Yeats' final resting place and the Yeats' Memorial Building may also be visited.
Coole Park near Gort in Galway, the home of Lady Gregory, is well worth a trip. Yeats was a frequent visitor and his initials and those of many other literary figures may be seen on the Autograph Tree.Thoor Ballylee(The Tower,) near Gort too,where Yeats lived for a time with his wife Georgie Hyde-Lees, should also be included.
As a poet of nature, Seamus Heaney beautifully described the landscape of Northern Ireland in his works. South Derry and Tyrone will offer you some sense of what prompted the poet to write:
the shiny grass(from the poem ANAHORISH)
and darkened cobbles
in the bed of the lane.
Anahorish, soft gradient
of consonant, vowel-meadow,
after-image of lamps
swung through the yards
on winter evenings.
The Oscar Wilde House museum in Dublin will give you a chance to explore the place where the flamboyant playwright and poet spent his childhood, surrounded by his mother's literary guests. The Wicklow Mountains, located in Dublin's suburban area, were one of Samuel Beckett's favourite landscapes. In his novel Mercier and Camier, Beckett (who is actually much better known for his plays) presents this description of the road by the mountains:
'None ever pass this way but beauty-spot hogs and fanatical trampers. Under its
heather mask the quag allures, with an allurement not all mortals can resist.
From J.M.Synge and Sean O'Casey to John B. Keane, Brian Friel, Martin Mc Donagh and Enda Walsh,Ireland has always had great dramatists. Go to any of the many theatres and enjoy what's on offer.
See the poet Patrick Kavanagh's seat and statue beside the Royal Canal in Dublin or attend the Kavanagh weekend in Inishkeen, Co. Monaghan where the poet was born.
Read John Mc Gahern, Roddy Doyle, John Banville, Maeve Binchy or Joe O'Connor.
Ireland is really a literary island. Happy literary travels!
Bruree Co. Limerick
O'Connell St. A. O'Loughlin
Kilaloe from the Bridge
The Falls Ennistymon Co. Clare
Colimore Harbour (Dublin)
Peaceful path in Wicklow
"If you look like your passport photo, you're too ill to travel " - Will Kommen