Ireland has grown some fantastic writers: poets, playwrights, and novelists have all been proud to call Ireland home. Everyone has a personal favourite, but who’s the best? Here’s our thoughts five of the most famous Irish writers:
- Seamus Heaney
Seamus Heaney wasn’t just one of the best Irish poets. He was one of the best poets, period. Listen to him read “Digging;” his rumbling voice reflects the tone of the poem perfectly: generations of farmers toiling away at Irish soil, with him breaking the tradition.
Heaney’s poems are like biting into an apple. The rhythm, the controlled line breaks, the crispness and brevity of his language, all give the impression of a wordsmith. By the end of one of his poems, you’ll feel both refreshed and hungry for more.
- W.B. Yeats
W.B. Yeats was one accomplished man in a family of talented artists. Yeats is one of the most famous poets in Ireland, and rightly so. Sometimes the classics get a bad rap for sounding archaic, pretentious, or inaccessible, but Yeats’ poems carry the same weight as they did a century ago. “The Lake Isle of Innisfree” is one of his most well known poems, but his other works are more emotional and interesting. “When You Are Old” is a beautiful poem about aging, love, and remembering times gone by; you can visualize the nostalgia present on the woman’s face.
There are plenty of other Yeats poems to choose from that are just as riveting and evoke the spirit of Ireland; “Easter 1916” is an especially powerful political poem. As Yeats wrote hundreds of poems, there’s sure to be something for everyone.
- Bram Stoker
The author of Dracula has the distinction of writing a novel that has remained popular since its creation in 1897. Of course, it has also inspired countless shows, movies, and books, but the original is a true masterpiece. It may seem daunting to read a book that’s hundreds of pages long (somewhere in the 300-600 range, depending on what edition you get), but it’s well worth reading a work that has captured the imaginations of so many people.
- Oscar Wilde
Oscar Wilde was an incredibly versatile writer; he composed poems, plays, essays, and fiction. His one novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, is worth checking out. It was considered scandalous and immoral back when it was first published in 1890, but it caught the public’s attention despite (or maybe because) of its themes. Attitudes may have become more relaxed since then, but one thing that hasn’t changed is how Dorian Gray’s story continues to resonate with readers.
- James Joyce
James Joyce and Dublin go hand in hand; you can’t mention Irish writers without acknowledging Joyce. However, he’s ranked last on our list because his writing is admittedly difficult to get into. There’s no question that he was a talented writer, but the other writers on the list make for easier reading.
That said, if you’re up for the challenge, by all means read one of Joyce’s works. Dubliners, his short story collection, might be a good place to start. Some of the characters have minor roles in his longer novel Ulysses, and one of the stories, “The Dead,” was made into a film by John Huston.
Of course, there are many other fantastic Irish writers both past and present who we didn’t mention, but those are our thoughts on some of the most recognized names.
If you could name your favourite Irish Author of all time who would get the top spot?