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Poem: "Imagining Synge"

The view from Dún Aonghasa (Fort Aengus) on Inis Mór, Ireland

Today's poem is "Imagining Synge," a brief lyric piece inspired by John Millington Synge's (1871-1909) travel memoir The Aran Islands as well as my own travels in Ireland, including a visit to Inis Mór, the largest of the Aran Islands.

Best known as a playwright, Synge was also a prolific collector of folklore, a popular vocation among members of the Irish Literary Revival, including Lady Augusta Gregory, whom Synge partnered with, alongside W.B. Yeats, in founding the Abbey Theatre. In Synge's day, the Aran Islands were a bastion of the oral story telling traditions of Ireland, and his travels allowed him to document many tales of the Seanchaithe (oral storytellers) living there. Synge's best known play, The Playboy of the Western World, was inspired by one such tale. If anyone is interested in Synge's The Aran Islands, I would highly recommend the audiobook read by Donal Donnelly, as hearing Synge's lovely prose and especially his accounts of the stories he encountered read aloud brings one closer to the oral tradition the book documents and celebrates.

During my freshman year of college, I took part in a year long "Focus Seminar" on Irish Literature and Culture, which included a trip to Ireland over the summer. This class, perhaps more than anything else, has left its mark on my literary tastes and ambitions, and I hope "Imagining Synge" can capture some of the wonder the Irish literary tradition has inspired in me.

"Imaging Synge" was first published in the Fall, 2023 (volume 17, issue 3) edition of The Road Not Taken, a Journal of Formal Poetry, "formal" meaning poetry that follows a set metrical or rhyme scheme, not that one must put on a suit and tie to read it. My poem appears on page nineteen, but I would invite you to read through the whole of the issue (or at least the subsection my poem appears in, "Evoking the Past") as much care been taken by the editors in thematically organizing the collection. You can read "Imaging Synge" along with the rest of the Fall, 2023 edition here.

A few notes on phrases I use in the poem:

  • "Inis Mór" - the largest of the Aran Islands.

  • "Curragh" - a wooden boat with hide or tar-coated canvas bottom used on the Aran Islands.

  • "Dún" - an ancient or medieval hill-fort.

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