The Book of Irish American Poetry

From the Eighteenth Century to the Present

Edited by Daniel Tobin

Selected as an “Outstanding” title for 2008 by the University Press Books Committee, American Association of School Librarians and the Public Library Association

”. . . a prodigious and remarkable work of literary scholarship. This anthology is far more than an original work of scholarship: it is a major act of recovery, which rescues from oblivion the work of important writers who have been the creators of the Irish American literary consciousness. Professor Tobin has achieved the invention of a whole new field. With publication of this anthology, we will finally understand both the scale and importance of Irish American poetry.” —Eammon Wall, Jefferson Smurfit Professor of Irish Studies, University of Missouri-St. Louis

“More than two hundred poets from the eighteenth century to now are represented in The Book of Irish American Poetry, some resurrected and restored, others seen anew from the perspective of Irish American studies, still others deservedly anthologized for the first time. Poet and editor Daniel Tobin demonstrates beyond question the length, depth, strength and variety of Irish American poetry. His anthology—complete with historical chronology, biographical and explanatory notes, and extensive bibliographies—is the first accurate map of a new territory.” —Brendan Galvin, author of Habitat: New and Selected Poems, 1965-2005

“An informed and informing intelligence, Dan Tobin casts a wide net across the centuries of poetic engagement with Irish and American interaction. The result of his prodigious labor is an indispensable collection—often surprising in its discoveries and juxtapositions, always illuminating of crucial themes.” —Charles Fanning, Professor of English and History and Distinguished Scholar, Southern Illinois University Carbondale

This is the first major anthology of Irish American poetry. It breaks new ground in the field of Irish American literary scholarship by collecting for the first time the work of over two hundred Irish American poets, as well as other American poets whose work enjoins Irish American themes.

What does it mean to be an Irish American poet? The Book of Irish American Poetry answers this question by drawing together the best and most representative poetry by Irish Americans and about Irish America that has been written over the past three hundred years.

The question is not merely rhetorical, claims Daniel Tobin in the introduction, for it raises the issue of a certain kind of imaginative identity that has rarely, if ever, been adequately explored. This anthology brings together exemplary poetry of the “populist period” of Irish American verse (in particular the work of poets such as John Boyle O’Reilly), with the work of those Irish Americans who have made an indelible imprint on American poetry: Robinson Jeffers, Marianne Moore, Louise Bogan, John Berryman, Thomas McGrath, John Montague, Robert Creeley, Frank O’Hara, Ted Berrigan, Charles Olson, Galway Kinnell, X. J. Kennedy, and Alan Dugan, among others. Finally, the anthology includes distinctive poems by contemporary Irish Americans whose work is most likely to stand the test of time: poets such as Tess Gallagher, Alice Fulton, Brendan Galvin, Marie Howe, Susan Howe, Billy Collins, Michael Ryan, Richard Kenney, and Brigit Pegeen Kelly. The poems in this collection cut across the broad spectrum of American poetry and place Irish Americans within every notable school of American poetry, from modernism to confessionalism and the Beats, from formalism to imagism, and from projectivism to the New York School and Language poets.

The Book of Irish American Poetry recovers many poets who have been forgotten and places already notable figures in American poetry within the context of a distinctively Irish American tradition. This important work of literary scholarship will dominate the field for years to come.

DANIEL TOBIN is chair and associate professor of writing, literature, and publishing at Emerson College. He is the author of three books of poetry as well as the critical study Passage to the Center: Imagination and the Sacred in the Poetry of Seamus Heaney.


“Tobin’s 900-plus-page anthology is a gem . . . . It is an effusive text of Irish American poetry, rather than of Irish American poets, and because of this it is inclusive in a way that one might not expect. . . .This is an anthology at once rigorously defined and researched and yet also open to every type of poet and poem.” — The Virginia Quarterly Review

“This handsome book . . . is unique in American anthology-making . . . [It is] a major literary and critical achievement. . . . It is basically a superb poetic treasury, just as suitable for one’s home collection as for research libraries. Its hundreds of poems . . . constitute versions of an historical and cultural tradition of enormous importance to America. . . .” — Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture

“ . . . If the purpose of a good poetry anthology is to introduce readers to unfamiliar writers and reacquaint them with neglected masters, this one must be judged a raging success. Tobin does provide a meaningfully convivial context in which to engage, in close proximity, the work of Galway Kinnell, Billy Collins, and Paul Muldoon. They’re good company, and there’s plenty more where that came from.” — Booklist

“Editor and poet Daniel Tobin took on a mammoth task in attempting to compile the most authoritative collection of Irish-American poetry . . . . This book is a must-have for lovers of Irish and Irish-American writing.” — Irish America

“An intelligent, imaginative collection that sheds new light on a literary tradition while highlighting exciting work that might otherwise go unnoticed. Definitive enough to belong on the book shelf of any scholar who teaches or writes about American poetry, it is also a marvelous read, a browsing treasure.” — New Hibernia Review

“Tobin as editor reaches beyond ethnic boundaries to capture a deeper and universal sense of freedom and exile. These poets, not all Irish or Irish-American, feel deeply the trauma of history.” — Multicultural Review

“Daniel Tobin’s The Book of Irish American Poetry: From the Eighteenth Century to the Present means to be for poetry what Charles Fanning’s two great works, The Irish Voice in America and Exiles of Erin, do for Irish-American prose. That is, to be the last word. And certainly, what he has created with this encyclopedia collection is a compendium of works remarkable for its scope and depth.” — An Sionnach

“This is a book that one will enjoy dipping into again and again through the years. It appeals to poetry-loving Americans of all backgrounds, not only those who rejoice in some sort of ‘Irish connection.’ ” — Doxa: A Quarterly Review