A witty, engaging collection of the best of Irish popular poetry.
The Irish have long been associated with great writing generally, and poetry specifically. The love of language spreads all over this strong culture, and the Irish people have long shared poetry with each other, whether in the street, in the home, or in the pub. These more common poems may be bawdy or tragic, but there is always something quintessentially Irish about them.
Now, Christopher Cahill has put together a collection of the best of these Irish popular poems, found in newspapers, heard in pubs, or scribbled down in diaries. Drawing on work published and shared from the eighteenth to twentieth centuries, the poems range from the satirical to the sincere, but oftentimes they simply provide a hysterical tale that begs to be read aloud.
Cahill includes anonymous balladeers as well as famous Irish poets like W. B. Yeats and Brendan Behan, who wrote poems very consciously and proudly in the popular tradition. The Irish live in all parts of the world, so the collection includes poems from the United States, Canada, Australia, and other locations that have a strong Irish presence.
With explanatory notes by Cahill that make the verse more accessible than ever, these poems act as the voice of the Irish people, full of humor, mischief, and wit.
“Gather Round Me is itself a wonderful gathering of popular Irish lyrics ranging from traditional songs to the rhymes of Brendan Behan and beyond. Like a long night in the flaring glow of a pub, the collection mixes the playful and the tragic, the melancholy and the ironic, and it reminds us finally of a dispossessed people’s need for songs and poems that could always be carried in their hearts and minds.” -Billy Collins
“A lovely rattlebag, a saddlebag, a grab bag of poems. Christopher Cahill has put together a collection that gathers us around four hundred years of love, life and lament. There’s a marvellous eclectic arc in operation here. Cahill invents a hearth where we are invited to sit from early morning until nightfall, so open a bottle and set aside the parting glass.” -Colum McCann, author of Dancer: A Novel