Literary Boroughs #41: Dublin, Ireland

The Literary Boroughs series will explore little-known and well-known literary communities across the country and world and show that while literary culture can exist online without regard to geographic location, it also continues to thrive locally. Posts are by no means exhaustive and we encourage our readers to contribute in the comment section. The series will run on our blog from May 2012 until AWP13 in Boston. Please enjoy the forty-first post on Dublin, Ireland, by Stevie Howell. -Andrea Martucci, Ploughshares Managing Editor

James Joyce once wrote that the challenge in Dublin is to get where you’re going without passing a pub. Dublin is a walkable city, and a sociable city: a writer might be torn between sitting alone at the River Liffey and conjuring the muse, or hanging out on a pub stoop shooting the craic with a few of Ireland’s legendary, salt-of-the-earth storytellers. Dublin is proud of its rich literary history and values its living writers. The weather here features four seasons every hour—and the conviviality of the people combined with the moodiness of the land seems to produce great writers.

Resident Writers:

Where to begin! Dublin produced some of the greatest literary names in the world: James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw, Samuel Beckett. You can learn about these and others at the Dublin Writers Museum. Visit these days and you could bump into world-class heavyweight writers Seamus Heaney (Nobel Prize winner for poetry) and John Banville (Booker Prize winner for literature).

Where to Learn: 

The Irish Writers’ Centre, in the heart of Dublin, offers an array of tailored courses for writers. Prestigious Trinity College with one of the UK’s oldest English schools, is an obvious choice, and offers undergraduate and graduate studies. They also have a selection of evening classes in everything from literary forms to the importance of literary friendships (aww…). Make sure to check out the awe-inspiring Long Room of antiquarian books and the ancient Book of Kells.

Where to Find Reading Material:

WHSmith is a prominent chain that will greet you at the airport lounge, but there are countless other bookshops with tons of charm and history. Chapters on Parnell Street is Ireland’s largest independent bookstore and sells an extensive selection of new, used, and remaindered books. The Winding Stair, named after the Yeats poem, makes for a romantic date: it’s a fine-dining restaurant with a rustic bent and new-and-used bookstore right at the Ha’Penny Bridge. Hodges Figgis, located on Dawson Street in Dublin, was established in 1768.

Where to Write:

Where to write in Dublin depends on whether you’re looking for quiet concentration or spontaneous inspiration. People seem to congregate everywhere. Your best bets for people-watching are any of the hundreds (thousands?!) of pubs. There are some beautiful green spaces, such as St. Stephen’s Green, or the literary-themed Garden of Rememberance park, featuring a dramatic statue of the mythological Children of Lir. One unique thing about Dublin is the large numbers of writer’s workshops—a great way to get feedback from peers.

Where to Get Published:

Dunlin is a small but bountiful place—and that also holds true for the impressive number of literary outlets. The Irish Writers’ Centre has monthly readings and accepts submissions to their ongoing publications and also post external competitions. Poetry Ireland keeps a comprehensive list of calls. Literary journals to look for include: Poetry Ireland Review, Revival Literary Review, Cronnag,The Stinging Fly, and The Moth.


The Dublin Writers Festival combines regional and international talent and takes place every June—which is a great month to visit Dublin for literary tourists. During June, the life of James Joyce is celebrated through a series of events, called collectively Bloomsday. Bloomsday events now take place wordwide, but nowhere is the gathering larger or more significant than in Dublin, the birthplace of James Joyce and setting for his masterpiece, Ulysses.

The Dublin Literary Pub Crawl happens year-round (though is more frequent in the summer). Like countless tourists—er, writers—before you, get tipsy in Dublin, and feel smart doing it!

Stevie Howell is a Toronto-based poet, critic, and editor, though her heart is in Ireland.

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