The Sperrins2
The Sperrins2

3 Irish Poets Who Speak to the Beauty and Soul of Ireland

Ireland is well known for being the land of “saints and scholars” and among those acclaimed scholars you’ll find writers of short stories, novels, and poems.

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While generally more packed with meaning than prose, Irish poems illustrate the beauty and soul of Ireland that perhaps no other medium can do.

Here are 3 Irish poets who do just that.

Patrick Kavanagh

While Patrick Kavanagh was born in rural Co. Monaghan, much of his life was spent away from the land-locked county, which is the smallest in the province of Ulster.

However, that didn’t quell the love he had for his county. In fact, much of his work was inspired by it.
Lough Muckno in Co. Monaghan, a short distance from Inniskeen, where Kavanagh grew up. Photo: Yohan Riou,

In his poem, “The One,” Kavanagh writes about seeing the beauty of the ordinary places of home, which was Inniskeen.

In writing this particular poem, it brought him back to the boglands surrounding it, a place that he hated while growing up but eventually came to love.

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Read A Poet's Country: Patrick Kavanagh Selected Prose on Amazon

The One

Green, blue, yellow, and red –
God is down in the swamps and marshes
Sensational as April and almost incredible
the flowering of our catharsis.
A humble scene in a backward place
Where no one important ever looked
The raving flowers looked up in the face
Of the One and the Endless, the Mind that has baulked
The profoundest of mortals. A primrose, a violet,
A violent wild iris – but mostly anonymous performers
Yet an important occasion as the Muse at her toilet
Prepared to inform the local farmers
That beautiful, beautiful, beautiful God
Was breathing His love by a cut-away bog.

Learn More About Patrick Kavanagh

The perfect introduction to Kavanagh and his writing is through the Patrick Kavanagh Centre, a place that commemorates the poet and his work.

The center includes exhibitions outlining his life story as well as a history of the surrounding area.
The Patrick Kavanagh Centre in Inniskeen, Co. Monaghan celebrates one of the three Irish poets known the world over. Photo courtesy of Tourism Ireland.

Kavanagh was born in 1903, the fourth of 10 children. He left primary school at age 13 to help his father, a cobbler.

Kavanagh also worked on his family’s farm as a young boy.

You’ll get a much better feel for the local area and the places that influenced Kavanagh by taking a tour of Kavanagh Country, which is organized by the center.
Iniskeen, Patrick Kavanagh's hometown. Photo:

The tour takes in many local sites, including the Patrick Kavanagh Literary & Resource Centre, the ruins of the Norman Notte & Augustinian Monastery, the Folk Museum and Round Tower, Billy Brennan’s Barn, the Kednaminsha National School, Cassidy’s Hanging Hill, and The Kavanagh Homestead, all places that influenced his writing.
The Inniskeen Round Tower that you will see on the Kavanagh Trail, which features local sites relevant to Kavanagh’s life and featured in his work as well as sites of interest. Photo: By Cathar11 – Own work, CC0,

Visitors to the center can also take the Kavanagh Trail, which begins there and makes its way through the village, down lanes, and over fields of this understated county filled with drumlins and quiet country roads.

Kavanagh died on Nov. 30, 1967, of pneumonia in a Dublin nursing home. There are other commemorations to Kavanagh besides the County Monaghan center.
Patrick Kavanagh in wax at The National Wax Museum Plus in Dublin. Kavanagh is one of 3 Irish poets whose works are known the world over. Photo: Osama Shukir Muhammed Amin FRCP(Glasg), CC BY-SA 4.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

They include a sculpture of Kavanagh sitting on a bench by the Grand Canal, a place where he spent a lot of time in his later years, and a wax figure at the National Wax Museum in Dublin.

Read More: 8 Irish Writer Attractions to Explore

William Butler Yeats

County Sligo is closely associated with William Butler Yeats, who wasn’t born in Sligo, but his mother, Susan Pollefexen was, and so he had close connections to the county.

When he was 7, the family relocated to Sligo and Yeats lived in the Pollexfen family home for two years.

This was the beginning of his lifelong obsession with Sligo, a place he once called his “country of the heart.”

a lake with stones in it 3 Irish poets
The beautiful Lough Gill is located in Counties Sligo and Leitrim, from which Yeats got his inspiration for the poem, “The Lake Isle of Innisfree.” Photo: Photo: Nicola Timpson for Getty Images.

In his poem, “The Lake Isle of Innisfree,” Yeats expresses his desire for peace and tranquility away from the noise of London, where he first got the idea for the 12-line poem.

Read More: 4 Irish Fairy Tales that Make for Some Captivating Stories

The Lake Isle of Innisfree

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There, midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.

Learn More About William Butler Yeats

The Yeats Society located in Sligo town is where you’ll discover more about the famous poet.

The Society, which is located in The Yeats Building at Hyde Bridge in the center of town, offers a variety of tours, including a group tour that takes participants to the top of Knocknarea where Yeats’s poetry is read and the story of Yeats and Sligo is told.

a sculpture of a man outside a building 3 Irish poets
The Yeats statue in Sligo is dedicated to the memory of William B. Yeats, who is one of 3 Irish poets who integrated images of the beauty and soul of Ireland into his work. Photo: Conor Doherty for Sligo Tourism.

A walking tour of Sligo is also offered by the Society that starts with a look at its indoor Yeats exhibition, which includes artifacts related to the poet, such as Lily’s writing desk, which was presumably in the family home and used by his sister, Lily.

a living room 3 Irish poets
A room in the Yeats Building in Sligo, which belongs to the Yeats Society Sligo. The AIB Bank donated the building in 1972 as a memorial to the Yeats family. Photo: Irish Studies,

Part of the exhibition also includes a previously unseen color film of Yeats’s funeral in Sligo, with dignitaries like Eamon de Valera in attendance and others.

The walking tour covers all of the places in Sligo associated with the Yeats family.

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Read The Collected Poetry of William Butler Yeats

Seamus Heaney

Like Kavanagh, Seamus Heaney’s poetry was also a reflection of where he grew up in Bellaghy, Co. Derry.

Similar to Kavanagh, he, too wrote about the ordinary things in life, which is abundantly clear in his poem, “Digging.”

The poem, published in 1966, is about his family’s traditions on their farm and explains the importance of respect and hard work.

You'll find the beautiful words to this poem below, or you might like to hear Irish actor Liam Neeson recite a few in this Discover Ireland video that recounts Heaney's poetry and the beautiful places that inspired him.


Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests; snug as a gun
Under my window, a clean rasping sound
When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:
My father, digging. I look down
Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds
Bends low, comes up twenty years away
Stooping in rhythm through potato drills
Where he was digging.

The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft
Against the inside knee was levered firmly.
He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep
To scatter new potatoes that we picked,
Loving their cool hardness in our hands.

By God, the old man could handle a spade.
Just like his old man.

My grandfather cut more turf in a day
Than any other man on Toner’s bog.
Once I carried him milk in a bottle
Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up
To drink it, then fell to right away
Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods
Over his shoulder, going down and down|
For the good turf. Digging.

The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head.
But I’ve no spade to follow men like them.

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I’ll dig with it.

Learn More About Seamus Heaney

There’s a wealth of information about Heaney and his life’s work at the Seamus Heaney HomePlace, Northern Ireland’s tribute to its native son and Nobel Prize winner.

The center is housed in a building transformed from an old, heavily fortified RUC police station.

a statue of a man with a shovel 3 Irish poets
The Turf Man sculpture is located outside The HomePlace in Bellaghy, Co. Derry, where Seamus Heaney lived as a boy. Heaney is one of 3 Irish poets to evoke the beauty and soul of Ireland through his poetry. Photo: Brian Morrison for Tourism Northern Ireland.

Over two floors, you’ll find many of Heaney’s books and personal belongings, in addition to a recreation of the attic study from his house in Dublin.

There is also a creative zone where you can put your own creations or ideas on paper inspired by Heaney’s work of course.

artifacts in a museum 3 Irish poets
Artifacts at the Seamus Heaney HomePlace visitor center that relate to the famous writer, one of 3 Irish poets whose works are celebrated around the world. Photo: Tourism Ireland.

There are video recordings from friends, neighbors, and cultural leaders, and the voice of the poet himself reading his own work.

To get a true sense of what influenced Heaney you need to head further into the surrounding countryside.

Taking a tour with local man Eugene Kielt, a veritable Heaney expert and owner of the popular Laurel Villa, is a must if you're a Heaney fan.

a lake at sunset with land in the middle of it 3 Irish poets
Lough Beg, a small freshwater lake north of Lough Neagh between Counties Derry and Antrim. The location was the inspiration for Heaney's poem, “The Strand at Lough Beg.” Photo: Tony Pleavin, Tourism Northern Ireland.

The Heaney aficionado takes individuals and group tours to various sites in this part of Ulster and to places where Heaney lived and experienced life.

Those places include the Old Market Yard in Magherafelt, where a local man sold rope, inspiring the poem, “Seeing Things XVIII;” at Mossbawn farmhouse, where Heaney was born; the Gaelic football grounds where his uncle played for a Derry inter-county team, and much more.

a table laid out in a dining room 3 Irish poets
The dining room in the Laurel Villa guesthouse in Magherafelt, with a picture of Seamus Heaney in the background. Heaney is one of the 3 Irish poets well known around the globe. Photo: Laurel Villa Guest House Facebook.

Kielt’s guest house, a Victorian-style building, is a treasure trove of poetry books and art dedicated to the poet. The dining room alone is a shrine to Heaney, with framed reproductions of his poetry on the walls.

In fact, Heaney once read one of his poems in this very room.

By clicking on the Amazon link below, I may earn a small commission from the Amazon Associates Program. However, you will not incur any additional costs by doing so.

Read: 100 Poems by Seamus Heaney

Are you a fan of Irish poetry? Have you read any of the works of the 3 Irish poets mentioned above? Let me know in the comments below.


Colette is a County Sligo native who created Ireland on a Budget to provide her readers with money-saving tips on how to get to Ireland and then save even more when they're there. She's a professional copywriter who lives in the New York area with her husband and two children.

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