International Women’s Day is a great time to look at your bookshelf (and your twitter timeline) and ruminate on the extraordinary writing that Irish women have offered to the world. Here, we list some of our favourite Irish Women Writers whose work you should seek out and celebrate this International Women’s Day.
The Queen herself. Keyes is a beloved (dare I say it) icon. Her writing makes you laugh before throwing a gut punch. She’s active on twitter where if she’s not entertaining, she’s calling something important to attention. The bestselling author even provided a free Creative Writing course for her followers over on Instagram during lockdown. Keyes is genuinely a national treasure and we can’t wait to see what she does next.
Mc Bride is a force who powers her fiction with fury. Her writing explores trauma, loneliness, sex, guilt, religion, death with an uncompromising commitment to the reality that trauma begets change. Don’t read McBride’s work today if you’re in need of a feel-good ending, but seek out the recently published Strange Hotel if you’re ready to delve into an unbridled excavation of ‘being alive, of being a human being’.
Felispeaks (Felicia Olusanya)
Felispeaks is a Nigerian-Irish Poet, Performer and Playwright. Felispeak’s presence on stage is difficult articulate, but you can watch one of her recent performances at the National Concert Hall’s Notes from a Quiet Land to experience it for yourself. This young woman is an incredible artist, but what makes her an incredible person is the time she spends raising up those around her.
Edna O’Brien was recently appointed a Commander in France’s “Ordre des Arts et Lettres”, the nation’s highest cultural distinction. O’Brien’s accolades are well deserved, having written 18 brilliant novels that provoked conversation and change. Her debut novel, The Country Girls, was published in 1962 and won the Kingsley Amis Award, but was banned by the Irish censor. Despite this, O’Brien persisted with portraying and challenging important topics, and her legacy is felt across the Irish literary scene.
Ciara Ní É
Ciara Ní É is a bilingual poet who makes filíocht ghaeilge (Irish Poetry) feel accessible for those of us who learned gaeilge in school and have shied away ever since. She is the 2020 Scríobhneoir Cónaithe (Writer in Residence) at Dublin City University and acts as an Irish Writers Centre Ambassador. The poet founded REIC, a monthly multilingual spoken word and open mic night, and has cultivated a warm and welcoming environment for seasoned performers and newcomers alike.
Kerri Ní Dochartaigh
Ní Dochartaigh’s Thin Places was recently released to immense critical acclaim. This writer explores liminal spaces, the in-between, ‘ places that make us feel something larger than ourselves.’ Ní Dochartaigh’s work feels like an exposure of what is often unsaid, what should not be said if religious or cultural decorum is followed, but Ní Dochartaigh doesn’t shy away from this. She tells a survivor’s story, bravely and beautifully.
Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill
Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill is one of the most prominent poets writing in the Irish language today. She explores Irish themes in her poetry, and these themes range from ancient myths to details of contemporary life, to language itself. She weaves a story in her poetry with a sense of discovery that carries a reader along.
Lady Augusta Gregory
We couldn’t do a list like this without Lady Gregory, but how do you introduce someone who achieved so much? She co-founded the Irish Literary Theatre and the Abbey Theatre. She authored 42 plays and a book of sonnets. She was a skilled and accomplished translator and a folklorist. She invented the unique dialect of Hiberno-English which influenced John Millington Synge and is now synonymous with the Irish dramatic tradition. Too often, her achievements are only described in the context of W.B. Yeats, but if you ask us, Yeats was lucky to have her by his side.
Maeve Binchy Snell is an Irish novelist, playwright, short story writer, columnist, and speaker. She tells wonderful stories that focus on people and their relationship with each other. A master at nostalgia, her novels were characterised by a sympathetic and often humorous portrayal of small-town life in Ireland, and surprise endings. She creates insightful pieces that are read many years after their release.
Doireann Ní Ghríofa
Doireann Ní Ghríofa is a poet and essayist. A Ghost in the Throat was awarded Book of the Year at the Irish Book Awards in 2020 and has captured the imagination and wonder of readers across the world. Her poetry collection Lies was an Irish Times Book of the Year, and provided poems in Irish with English translations by the writer herself. Ní Ghríofa’s work explores motherhood, the act of care, and connections that transcend linear time in a way that few others have. She explores the relationship between writing in English and Irish by providing translations of both. As Clíona Ní Ríordáin has said, ‘She makes the language sing.’
Who are you celebrating this #IWD? Tweet us at @DublinBookFest and tell us who you think we should raise up and celebrate today.