CJO | ET Student
Coole Park; the Atlantic Coast; the streets of Dublin. The land of Ireland is outlined in the words of artists. I was amazed, again and again, by how deeply inbred Irish authors are in the culture of the land and people. No matter where we went, there were statues, monuments, and plaques with quotes from poems and novels. In Ireland, local literature is not just something to be studied in schools. Instead, it pulses through the land: a living celebration of place.
When we first arrived in Ireland, we stopped by Coole Park before driving on to Sligo. Coole Park was a favorite location of the poet W. B. Yeats, and he spent long days in the emerald woods and watching the swans on the lake. Walking through those same woods, we found plaques with snippets of his poems inscribed on them, adding another level of beauty to the location, and creating a lasting memory of the great poet. Sligo was no different. On the coast of the Atlantic Ocean, there stands a sign looking out over the water, inviting the reader to immerse themselves in Yeats’ words and the wild Atlantic. It becomes a rhythm of celebration, not only in Yeats, but in the land of Ireland itself.
Dublin boasts many famous authors, but one of the most famous is James Joyce. We took a walking tour of a chapter from Ulysses, and our guide pointed out bronze plaques set into the ground, each featuring a quote from the book at the location it took place. One can follow these stepping stones, tracing the footprints of Leopold Bloom, the main character from the story. We stopped in front of the same candy store; on the same street corner; and under the same statue that Bloom did. Though the story is fictional, Dublin has brought the words to life. Everyone, from a literary scholar to a child crossing the road, can take part in the celebration of place.
Ireland takes immense pride in its people, especially its artists and authors. I was surprised to see how many people were familiar with Yeats and Joyce; exemplified in our coach driver joining us for a tour of Yeats’ home and our taxi driver chatting about Ulysses. For the Irish, this is not something that is dead and gone, but it’s something still living and breathing today. And it transforms Ireland itself into a celebration of great art and great stories.