4 Modern-Day Irish Poets to Add to Your Lucky Reading List

March marks Irish American History Month, as well as St. Patrick’s Day. You might have planned your emerald outfit and parade route, but have you planned to add some themed reads to your monthly list? The Irish are known for their rich traditions, love of family, stubbornness, boldness, and more—all traits that poetry can help reflect and exemplify. 

According to the United Census Bureau, 32 million Americans—an estimated 9.7% of the country’s population—identify as Irish. This representation can be seen in every field, but literature especially stands out. Literary icons of the past, including F. Scott Fitzgerald and Frank O’Hara, as well as current bestselling writers, like Sally Rooney, have been inspired by Irish heritage and culture. The four poets on this list also play a role in this lineage. 


Brigit Pegeen Kelly


Brigit Pegeen Kelly has won the Academy of American Poets Fellowship, the National Books Critics Circle Award, and the Yale Series of Younger Poets award, all cementing her as one of the most heralded and skilled poets in our recent times. Throughout her poetry career—which spanned from 1987 to her death in 2016—Kelly brought an element of magical realism to her distinctly Irish inspiration, with scenes depicting stained glass angels coming to life and real-life animals gallivanting alongside richly imagined, mythical creatures. In Kelly’s poetry, intense, biblical morality brushes up against the nuances of human life, making stirring arguments about mortality, nature, and other universal themes. 


Essential read: To the Place of the Trumpets


Marie Howe


Beloved writer Margaret Atwood has championed the poetry of Marie Howe since her very first collection, calling Howe’s works “poems of obsession that transcend their own dark roots.” As Atwood noted, Howe’s poems are deeply ruminative, taking twisting journeys into spirituality, life, death, and loss. Devoted readers of Howe’s works view her as firmly between two worlds, with her poems serving as an eerie, fascinating portal. Sometimes, this portal takes the form of personal narrative—in one of her most powerful collections, Howe writes about her brother’s death—while other times it takes on the form of persona, such as in the collection where she imagines the life, emotions, and conversations of Mary Magdalene. 


Essential read: What the Living Do


Sinéad Morrissey


Sinéad Morrissey is the inaugural poet laureate of Belfast, making her a notable figure in the Irish literary landscape. Morrissey’s poetry is known for its glimmering subtleties, with the imagery of daily life raising larger, structural questions. Highly visual poems place the reader inside Morrissey’s unflinching gaze, inviting them to look at maps, photos, and paintings and taking them inside the stories these artifacts present. While Morrissey’s unexpected metaphors often bring added inspiration to everyday scenes, they can also bring a tinge of horror and hauntedness—two forces Morrissey expertly balances. 


Essential read: Parallax 


Otto Goodwin


A current undergraduate student studying English in Cork, Ireland, Otto Goodwin represents the bold, aspirational future of Irish poetics. Goodwin recently won the Eavan Boland Emerging Poet Award, with judge Diane Seuss calling their award-winning work “expansive, artful, and challenging.” Goodwin, a nonbinary poet with publications in up-and-coming online journals like Aster Lit and Cinder magazine, writes sprawling, immersive poems that intertwine personal narrative and identity with the mystery and agelessness of the natural world. When Goodwin evokes the sky and the sea, you might be reminded of classic pastorals—but instead, Goodwin reinvents this trend with more specificity, a more confessional voice, and a deeper commitment to ecopoetics. 


Essential read: “Embed”


If you’re Irish-American, consider what this identity means to you and use it as a poetry prompt. Happy reading—and happy Irish American History Month!