Irish Poems


by Jean Bleakney

‘Nightscapes’ beautifully captures the feeling of being isolated from nature that is common in urban environments.

Bleakney's poem is reflective of her own experience of moving from rural Northern Ireland to Belfast.

If this was Donegal
I wouldn’t be able to breathe
for fear of swallowing stars…

A Watery City

by Jean Bleakney

‘A Watery City’ engages with themes of friendship and journeying, significantly how they are affected by the passage of time.

The poem engages deeply with the city of Cork, the second city of the Republic of Ireland.

Well if I’d known how many bridges there were in that city

I’d have worried for your soul and I’d never have written

Hope the prose is flowing as effortlessly as the Lee if

I’d considered the sea. I hadn’t reckoned on reversible rivers.

Donegal Sightings

by Jean Bleakney

‘Donegal Sightings’ explores how elusive the natural world can feel, even when we are immersed within its beauty.

The poem is intimately connected with Bleakney's native Northen Ireland, with many locations mentioned by name in the poem.

You would need three weather eyes
out here on Dawros Head where the sky,
Atlantic laden, signals its intentions
in airbrushed cliffs and disappearing islands;


by Jean Bleakney

Jean Bleakney’s ‘Consolidation’ is a deeply personal poem about the act of rearranging the cowry shells that the speaker and her children gathered in the past.

Jean Bleakney, one of the important Irish poets of modern times, talks about how her children Stephen and Katherine have grown apart in 'Consolidation.'

Some sunny, empty afternoon

I’ll pool our decade’s worth

and more of cowrie shells

gathered from that gravel patch


by Jean Bleakney

‘Winterisation’ subtly weaves the processes of preparing for winter and steeling oneself for news of bereavement.

Bleakney's writing is very much concerned with the landscape of the island of Ireland but she lives and writes in Northern Ireland rather than the Republic.

Halloween at the caravan.
All along the strand
sand is rearing up
like smoke from a bush fire.


by Jean Bleakney

‘Spring’ is an unsettling poem that explores the dangers of devotion and deferring happiness instead of living in the present.

As ever, Bleakney's poetry is concerned with the Irish landscape, notably its wet and seasonal weather.

It spills from sun-shocked evenings in March

and slit seed-packets, buckled into spouts.

She palms and strokes and shunts them, via heart-line;

index-fingers them to rows of labelled pots.

Sunlight on the Garden

by Louis MacNeice

‘Sunlight on the Garden’ by Louis MacNeice is a poem about change, death, and accepting that life eventually ends.

A great poem by an Irish author but not one that represents the poetry of Ireland more generally.

The sunlight on the garden

Hardens and grows cold,

We cannot cage the minute

Within its nets of gold;


by Oscar Wilde

‘Ravenna’ by Oscar Wilde is the poet’s recollection of a trip to the culturally and historically important Italian city of Ravenna.

Oscar Wilde is better known for his plays, his novel 'The Picture of Dorian Gray,' and his sparkling wit than his poetry. However, he is still one of the better poets Ireland has produced. But 'Ravenna' is not considered to be one of his best poems nor one of the country's best-known.

A year ago I breathed the Italian air,

And yet, methinks this northern Spring is fair,

These fields made golden with the flower of March,

The throstle singing on the feathered larch,

Csontváry’s Flowers

by Jean Bleakney

‘Csontváry’s Flowers’ is a fascinating insight into one extraordinary artist’s view of the work of another.

Unlike much of Bleakney's poetry, this poem is unrelated to the island of Ireland. Instead, it was inspired by a visit to Hungary.

The thin ribbon of sky, and thinner still,

blued hints of the easterly Carpathians

then down into the whole arboretum of blue-greens and greens

closing in around the valley town of Selmecbánya

A Memory

by Lola Ridge

‘A Memory’ by Lola Ridge describes a speaker’s memories of a specific emotional night she spent with the listener on the shore of a tropic sea.

A Peasant

by Ronald Stuart Thomas

‘A Peasant’ was written in 1942. The poem presents an emblematic character of Thomas’s poetry called Iago Prytherch.

Amethyst Beads

by Eavan Boland

‘Amethyst Beads’ by Eavan Boland alludes to Greek mythology and the suffering of a child, Persephone, after she was separated from her mother, Demeter.

An Irish Airman Foresees His Death

by William Butler Yeats

After losing his dear friend in World War I, William Butler Yeats wrote this particular poem, ‘An Irish Airman Foresees His Death. Robert Gregory, an Irish Airman, was accidentally shot down by an Italian Aviator, who happened to be a dear friend of Yeats.

And Soul

by Eavan Boland

‘And Soul’ by Eavan Boland is a poem about death and a body’s dissolution into the elements that it is made up of. The poet emphasizes the connection between a human being made nearly entirely of water and a city that’s drenched by a particularly rainy summer season. 


by Eavan Boland

‘Anorexic’ by Eavan Boland conveys the mindset of a woman determined to destroy her physical body through starvation and filled with hatred for her sinful past, as according to the Biblical story of Adam and Eve.

Belfast Confetti

by Ciaran Carson

Ciaran Carson’s poem ‘Belfast Confetti’ describes how external conflicts influence a speaker’s mind. It speaks on the aftermath of the Troubles in Belfast.


by Seamus Heaney

In ‘Blackberry-Picking’ the speaker is recalling a recurring scene from his youth: each August, he would pick blackberries and relish in their sweet taste.

Breaking the Surface

by Jean Bleakney

‘Breaking the Surface’ by Jean Bleakney is about the “art of skimming,” an extended metaphor for the art of writing poetry.

Brown Penny

by William Butler Yeats

‘Brown Penny’ by William Butler Yeats is an expression of the various levels of honest “love” that follow us from birth to death.


by Eavan Boland

‘Cityscape’ by Eavan Boland is a complex, allusion-filled poem that describes Dublin and the Blackrock Baths, and presents contrasting images of past and present. 


by Seamus Heaney

‘Clearances’ forms part of a series of sonnets in which Heaney examines his relationship with his mother, and focuses on her death.


by Seamus Heaney

‘Docker’ is a 1966 poem by Seamus Heaney which depicts the life of a dockworker in Belfast and explores his personal and religious sense of discord.

Ecce Puer

by James Joyce

‘Ecce Puer’ was published in 1932 and it is featured in Collected Poems. Joyce wrote this poem in order to mourn the recent death of his father, John Stanislaus Joyce.


by Seamus Heaney

‘Exposure’ by Seamus Heaney discusses the poet’s role in a society and how he might contribute helpfully to the discourse of the time. 


by Sinéad Morrissey

‘Genetics’ by Sinéad Morrissey speaks on the composition of one’s body and how one is made of their mother, father, and their combined history. 

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