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The Irish Times Book of Favourite Irish Poems

The Irish Times Book of Favourite Irish Poems
Published by The Irish Times Limited, 2000

On the last day of the last century, The Irish Times published a list of the 100 Favourite Irish Poems of all times as chosen by readers of the newspaper. All but two of those poems (for which copyright permission was unforthcoming) are published in this book.

The poems are presented in order of those that received the most nominations –The Lake Isle of Innisfree tops the list. Yeats has 24 other poems in the list, with Seamus Heaney and Patrick Kavanagh also well represented.

Surprisingly very few of the chosen poems are by living poets – many are poems that readers would have learned in their youth, almost always in school and by rote. Raifteirí An File and An Old Woman of the Roads are two such examples. Poetry in the Irish language is well represented but poems by female writers barely feature in the collection.

In his introduction to the book, Colm Tóibín states ‘Irish poetry over the past hundred years has maintained its roots in song and prayer; it has, unlike poetry elsewhere, kept faith with its audience, it has been written for readers to be cut out from the newspaper or copied out by hand, to be kept beside the bed, close to the prayer-book and the list of important telephone numbers. To be learned off by heart and recited in such a way that anyone listening, child or adult, could never forget the voice, the tone, the moment when the line ended and the rhyme hit home, and the strange, awed silence when the voice stopped reciting’.

‘Here are good poems that have proved their ability to endue in time, to speak across generations and across the gulf of silence that necessarily isolates us from each other. Here are testaments to the endearing and enduring human signature, artifice blended with speech from the heart’ Theo Dorgan, Poetry Ireland.

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