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12 poets you haven't thought about since the Leaving Cert

Remember the great Eavan Boland scandal of 2010?

Source: GIPHY

SO TODAY IS Poetry Day Ireland which of course is a chance to reflect on the many wonderful poets that Ireland has produced such as Nuala Ni Domhnail,  W.B. Yeats and Edna O’Brien.

However for those of us who only engaged with poetry because we had to for Leaving Cert English, it’s a chance for us to ruminate on how hard poetry was.

Here are 12 poets you haven’t thought about since that your Leaving.

1. Sylvia Plath

Source: Flickr

Sylvia Plath had a tough life as a poet and penned some of the most beautiful poetry ever written. Unfortunately she also inspired a load of girls to put lines of her poetry on their selfies on Instagram which is probably not what she envisioned when she wrote about her husband cheating on her. But hey, at least your filter is good.

2. Eavan Boland

Source: Wikipedia

Eavan Boland, otherwise known as ‘the Great Melt of 2010′ when she didn’t come up on Paper 2 even though everyone was convinced she would. We never got over that betrayal and some of us are still very damaged from it all.

3. William Shakespeare

Was quite the surprise when old Will turned up as a poet as well wasn’t it? It was hard enough understanding ‘Macbeth’ or ‘Othello’ and suddenly he was there spouting on about sonnets. ‘Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?’ Stuck in an exam hall miserable while everyone else drinks cans?

4. Seamus Heaney

Source: Wikimedia

Ah the great Seamus Heaney. You hated him when you studied him didn’t you? ‘Mid Term Break’ just made you sad but you kind of related to it too as being run over by a car was more appealing than taking one more look at ‘Bogland’ or ‘The Tollud Man’.

5. Elizabeth Bishop

Source: Wikimedia

If you studied Bishop then you’ve never looked at a petrol station in the same way since and you probably never read such a descriptive tale about fishing either. Bishop’s poetry took the phrase ‘find the imagery’ to the next level.

6. Derek Mahon

Source: Rollingnews.ie

Never has there been a poet who was more obsessed with mushrooms and sheds than Derek Mahon. He also wrote a poem dedicated to a garage in Co. Cork and having a swim in Co. Wicklow. Mad for the geography. He was a great backup for when Plath or Larkin didn’t come up though wasn’t he?

7. Gerard Manly Hopkins

Source: Wikimedia

Did anyone actually know or understand what Hopkins was on about half the time? He seemed to be constantly having some form of existential crisis which made your life easier I suppose since you could relate. Still easier to understand than Shakespeare though.

8. Adrienne Rich

Source: Flickr

Remember when she died in March 2012 and people were convinced she’d come up as a poet in the Leaving? This is despite that fact that poets are laid out 4 years in advance and the poets for the paper are set out in September? Ah the hope we clung to.

9. Robert Frost

Source: Wikimedia

There was nothing like sitting down to study Robert Frost and studying ‘The Road Not Taken’ and asking yourself if you should have taken the road that led you to study Ordinary Level English.

10. Thomas Kinsella

Source: PA Archive/PA Images

Thomas Kinsella’s poetry was actually easy to study in fairness but his constant reflections on age and the ever-approaching mortality that faces us all was a bit heavy. Then again, so were most poets we ended up studying.

11. Emily Dickinson

Source: Wikimedia

Dickinson was the other poet you learnt the crap out of because you knew that a female poet always had to come up. Why? Well because only 5 out of the 15 prescribed poets were female between 2011-2014 and one always had to come up. So that was 3 of your 8 poets sorted wasn’t it?

12. William Wordsworth

Source: Wikimedia

I’m calling it now, William Wordsworth was a miserable bastard and I’m still resentful of his poetry as our English teacher made us study him ‘just in case’ and I never quite forgave him for that. His poems were just too damn long.

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About the author:

Rachel O'Neill

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