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Celebrating World Poetry Day 2024

The annual World Poetry Day was established by UNESCO on March 21st in 1999 with the aim of promoting linguistic diversity through poetic expression

Thursday, 21 March 2024
station island

The National Library of Ireland holds a rich and diverse collection of poetry, including original manuscripts by authors such as Seamus Heaney.

We would like to share a selection of poems in both English and Irish highlighting some of the many poems you can discover in our collections. To browse the collections of the National Library, please visit www.catalogue.nli.ie.

1. Once by Eavan Boland

From 10 Poems from Ireland, selected and introduced by Paula Meehan.
Catalogue reference: A32575

Once by Eavan Boland is a mediation on legend, love, and ageing. The last wolf on the island of Ireland is believed to have been killed in 1786. This poem takes a couple from contemporary Ireland back to a time when their suburb was a forest, where they are transformed into a pair of wolves.

Image of poem by Eavan Boland
Book Cover

2. An Fear Marbh (The Dead Man) by Colm Breathnach

From Cnámh agus Smior (Bone and Marrow), An Anthology of Irish Poetry from Medieval to Modern, edited by Simon K. Fisher and Brian Ó Conchubhair.
Catalogue reference: A36054

Inis Tuaisceart (Inistooskert) is an island off the northern coast of the Dingle Peninsula in County Kerry in the west of Ireland which provides the setting of this poem. It is known locally as the dead man or the sleeping giant due to its unusual profile. The landscape is personified in this poem as the poet’s deceased father. It is given a mythical status not unlike the imaginary lands referenced in this poem such as Tír nan Óg (the land of eternal youth).

Poem
book cover

3. Filleadh ar an gCathair (Return to the City) by Ailbhe Ní Ghearbhuigh

From The Coast Road, by Ailbhe Ní Ghearbhuigh.

Catalogue reference: 17A 651

In 2013, Filleadh ar an gCathair was chosen as Ireland’s EU Presidency poem. It was also shortlisted by RTÉ for ‘A Poem for Ireland’ in 2015. This competition invited the public to share and vote for their favourite Irish poems. It is an atmospheric poem recalling the vibrant imagery of a city and was influenced by the poet’s time living in France.

Image of Poem
Image of book cover

4. Le Tatú a Bhaint (Tattoo Removal) by Doireann Ní Ghríofa

From Lies, by Doireann Ní Ghríofa. 

Catalogue reference: A32818

A Ghost in the Throat is a book from Ní Ghríofa which weaves together two stories: of the narrator’s own relationship with pregnancy and motherhood, and the life of the poet Eibhlín Dubh Ní Chonaill. Caoineadh Airt Uí Laoighaire is an Irish lament by Eibhlín Dubh Ní Chonaill, widely regarded as “one of the greatest Irish poems of the 18th century.” This poem from Ní Ghríofa’s bilingual collection of poetry Lies (2018) focuses on the removal of a tattoo as a marker of memory, of an event physically etched into the body. It deals with themes of loss and reincarnation.

poem
book cover

5. Shancoduff by Patrick Kavanagh

From Selected Poems by Patrick Kavanagh with an introduction by Paul Muldoon. Catalogue reference: A36967

In Shancoduff, Kavanagh’s love for his family land in south Monaghan and the view from it which stretched as far as the Mourne mountains is seen clearly and the hills are depicted as being eternal. Despite its poor quality for farming as referenced in the final stanza, for Kavanagh his “black hills” represent the importance and value of everyday life and nature.

book cover
poem

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Article by the NLI's Exhibitions, Learning and Programming Department