Now that there are 25 women in my ongoing anthology, I thought it time to add a belated prefatory note. Until recently, it was common to assume that poetry by Irish women pre, say, 1960 was a figment. Happily, a number of recentish publications have roundly refuted that notion. These include the unfortunately out-of-print Pillars of the House, An Anthology of Verse by Irish Women (Ed. A.A Kelly, Wolfhound Press, Dublin 1987), Poetry by Women in Ireland: A Critical Anthology 1870-1970 (Ed. Lucy Collins, Liverpool University Press, 2012) and Anne Ulry Colman’s wonderful Dictionary of nineteenth-century Irish women poets (Kenny’s Bookshop, Galway, 1996).
However, it’s not just the scale of women’s poetry in Ireland that interests me, it’s also the quality. With the towering exceptions of Yeats and Swift, there were few if any male Irish poets writing during the 18th and 19th centuries who were better than their female peers. It’s really only in the 20th century that we men have begun to catch up. It’s encouraging that we’ve begun to rediscover these poets; if this blog series makes even the tiniest of contributions to this process I’ll be pleased.