In Joyce's Wake
Contemporary Irish writers live up to legend
by Ricco Villanueva Siasoco


Ulysses: Joyce's masterpiece.
James Joyce and W. B. Yeats set quite a precedent. Since their deaths more than 50 years ago, Irish writers have lived in the shadow of perhaps the most influential writers of the 20th century.

Writing fiction or poetry in Ireland after Joyce and Yeats seemed to require some combination of hubris, naivete, or unparalleled courage. To their credit, today's writers have created a body of work with a voice and influence all their own.

Heaney and the Poets

Seamus Heaney is undoubtedly the best-known contemporary voice in Irish poetry. His varied and complex poetry, published in collections such as Death of a Naturalist (1966) to Station Island (1984) transcend the Irish experience and filter the concerns of his homeland through a personal lens. Most recently the 1995 Nobelist has turned his attention to translation, producing a new edition of the epic poem Beowulf.

Among Heaney's well-respected contemporaries are Eavan Boland, Paul Muldoon, John Montague, Derek Mahon, and Thomas Kinsella.
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Dark Fiction and Subtle Tales

Roddy Doyle and Patrick McCabe may be the next wave of Irish fiction. Booker Prize-winning author Roddy Doyle, author of Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha, shares McCabe's theme of family and adolescence. Much like best-selling countryman Frank McCourt, Doyle takes an unsentimental look at Irish childhood.

Patrick McCabe has carved his own niche with dark fiction like The Butcher Boy, which fellow Irish novelist and filmmaker Neil Jordan made into an acclaimed film in 1998. McCabe's most recent novel, the dark comedy Breakfast on Pluto, told the tale of a young transvestite caught in the paramilitary conflict of Ireland in the 1970's.

Far from the bittersweet vision of his young colleagues, William Trevor has long written lyrical fables of Irish families torn between tradition and change. A regular contributor to the New Yorker, Trevor recently came into a wider spotlight with Atom Egoyan's film adaptation of Felicia's Journey. Trevor has garnered a wide audience for his modern-day tales written in a subtle, somewhat ironic style.

The story goes that Joyce once knocked on Yeats' door and announced he was there to escort the visionary poet into the 20th century. To be certain, poets and writers of Irish descent are still leading the way.


Contemporary Irish Novelists
John Banville
Eavan Boland
Seamus Deane
Roddy Doyle
Patrick McCabe
Colum McCann
Alice McDermott
Brian Moore
Edna O'Brien
William Trevor

Contemporary Memoirists
Nuala O'Faolain
Frank McCourt

Modern Irish Novelists
James Joyce
James Stephens
Flann O'Brien

Contemporary Irish Poets
Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill
Paul Durcan
Michael Hartnett
Seamus Heaney
Thomas Kinsella
Michael Longley
Derek Mahon
Medbh McGuckian
Paul Muldoon
John Montague

Modern Irish Poets
Patrick Kavanagh
W. B. Yeats

Contemporary Irish Dramatists
Brian Friel
Martin McDonagh
Frank McGuinness

Modern Irish Dramatists
Samuel Beckett
Sean O'Casey
John Millington Synge
Oscar Wilde


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