D4 bookworms revere Joyce and Yeats

Image by Alanna O’Shea.

Image by Alanna O’Shea.

Summer seems like the appropriate time to celebrate some of Ireland’s most famous literary talents. This June saw the annual Bloomsday tribute to James Joyce, as well as a special celebration for the 150th anniversary of the birth of William Butler Yeats.

Both these writers have strong ties to Dublin 4, having lived in Sandymount. While Sandymount Green might turn into a stadium of prose and poetry for two days in June, does this actually encourage more people to buy their work?

NewsFour asked Brian O’Brien, the owner of Books on The Green bookshop in Sandymount, if people come to local bookshops on these days, whether to buy Ulysses or a book of Yeats poetry. He said that the events did generate a few visitors to the shop, although the weather kept a few people outside in the sun this year.

He did say that, overall, there is no shortage of people up to the challenge of reading the work of these famous writers. Not only does he stock Ulysses, Joyce’s most difficult work, but the 700 page, stream-of-consciousness tome frequently sells out.

“Any of the Irish authors or poets do well,” says O’Brien. “Patrick Kavanagh and others are still popular.”

Certainly, any residents with an interest in local history will know that, if you can brave Joyce’s esoteric prose, you can find some gems about Sandymount and beyond in his work.

His writing was often a love letter to Dublin. One of the most famous passages in Ulysses takes place in Sandymount, when his protagonist takes a long, contemplative walk along the strand.

The influence Joyce and Yeats have on the area extends further than a few days in June, though, while Sandymount’s literary pedigree makes it a destination for a small but not insignificant number of book-loving tourists.

O’Brien says Books on the Green gets frequent visits from tourists staying in Sandymount Hotel and the local B&Bs. There is also a steady trickle of people interested in seeing the house where W.B. Yeats was born on Sandymount Avenue. On Dromard Terrace, you can see the house James Joyce was living in on the date all the events of Ulysses takes place, 16th June 1904. Of course, many people want to take a walk on the Strand, perhaps hoping for the same sort of epiphany that struck Stephen Dedalus.

For those interested in knowing more about Sandymount in Joyce’s work, Walking Into Eternity by Rodney Devitt helps you understand the Sandymount of Joyce’s time and can be useful for taking a walking tour of the village through Joyce’s eyes.

Events like those of this summer are useful to keep these authors in our consciousness; it is not hard to see these great writers losing favour in a digital age.

Joyce’s style was hard to comprehend when it was first published and it may be even harder for the modern reader to understand. Reading poetry like Yeats’s requires long periods of intense concentration, something that is hard to achieve today, when smartphones allow access to the internet at any time. Still, perhaps romantic Ireland is not dead and gone, as Yeats proclaimed so many years ago.

By Alanna O’Shea