Toast to 5 Classic Irish Poets by Alison Auger

Toast to 5 Classic Irish Poets

by Alison Auger

Enjoy our St. Patrick’s Day toast to some of the great Irish poets! We give you our top 5 poet and drink recommendations that are sure to bring out the Irish in everyone.

James Joyce

While most famous for his better known works such as Ulysses  and Finneganns Wake, James Joyce was also an Irish poet. Though often short, his works combine thoughts on love with the very Irish subject of nature. The Irish landscape and the senses inspire him to peer inward and confront both his emotions and how they affect him.

Read: Some poems to read that best demonstrate Joyce’s lesser known style are “Alone,” “Strings in the Earth and Air,” “From Dewy Dreams, My Soul, Arise” and “Winds of May.”

Drink Pairing: Joyce’s favorite drink was white wine, and while there are plenty of Irish wines to be had, an Emerald Isle martini is sure to be far more celebratory!

Seamus Heaney

Seamus Heaney was an Irish poet of both Ulster and cattle-herding Gaelic descent, who inherited, he believes, a personal struggle between “speech and silence” from his talkative mother, and sparse speaking father.  His poetry was sprung from this “quarrel with himself,” and though it may not be the topics of his works, it was this push and pull nature reflected in his writing that put him on the proverbial poetry map.

Read: Heaney’s best known poems “Oracle,” and “Casualty” are sure to get you in a reflective mood.

Drink Pairing: What better way to ponder these poems then over an Irish Coffee? Coffee + Bailey’s = a can’t-go-wrong combination!

Patrick Kavanagh

”Homer’s ghost came whispering to my mind.

He said: I made the Iliad from such

A local row. Gods make their own importance.”

Patrick Kavanagh, or “That Monaghan Boy” as he was disdainfully referred to as in his early career by the Dublin Literary Society, only received a primary school education before attempting to become a shoemaker, and later a farmer. In his time, in the midst of agricultural Ireland, a man’s worth was measured by the straightness of the furrow he could plough, rather than the lines of poetry he could write.

Nevertheless, after twenty years of farming and a quiet but ravenous love of literature, Kavanagh moved to Dublin to become a writer. Though known for and influenced by Irish lyricism and poetic form, Kavanagh is probably most remembered for his ability to transform the ordinary and the banal into something of significance.

Read: Experience the earthiness of Kavanagh in “Stony Grey Soil,” “Canal Bank Walk,” and “On Raglan Road.”

Drink Pairing: Kavanagh was known for drinking whiskey. Cheers to Kavanagh this St. Paddy’s day with Bushmills or Jameson.

Oscar Wilde

‘To get back my youth I would do anything in the world, except take exercise, get up early or be respectable.’

Wilde was a man of great academic achievement and no small amount of fame in high society London. And although he was an exceptional writer, Wilde’s best works only came after being sentenced to two years of hard labor for his “crimes” of homosexual acts. He was aware of and even promoted his own bisexual nature exuberantly, but after being released from prison his person and his poetry were much changed.

Read: Wilde’s most famous poem, “Ballad of Reading Gaol,” heavily reflects his changed nature and view on life.

Drink Pairing: Absinthe was Wilde’s favorite drink. Add a green twist by trying an Absinthe B-55!

William Butler Yeats

W.B. Yeats was heavily influenced by a sense of strong Irish nationality, Celtic Mythology, and the spiritualistic conviction that the mind was capable of perceiving past the limits of materialistic rationalism. Yeats’ ability to bring together all of these classically Irish themes with the more prominent poetic styles of the time are what made him an influential poet.

Read: His most famous and most mythological poems include “A Faery Song,” “A Dialogue of Self and Soul,” “The Lake Isle of Innisfree,” and “The Second Coming.”

Drink Pairing: Toast the classic Irish poet with the most classic of Irish stouts—Guinness. Feeling bold? Take your toast a step further with an Irish Car Bomb.

AlisonAugerAlison Auger has been working in various positions for TBL since the summer of 2013, when she was a fledgling editing intern. She is currently a student of Creative Writing at the University of Colorado with an emphasis in whatever genre fits her fancy for that particular semester. She has been published through the One Book One Denver writing contest and participated in the Poetry Out Loud State Finals.

As Special Programs Director and Executive Assistant, Alison heads TBL’s education projects, grant writing, does a number of poetry reviews and interviews, and is sometimes sort-of helpful to the Editing Department.