By Helen O'Neill
The Irish capital pays tribute to its writersm with a bronze depiction of poet Patrick Kavanagh near the Grand Canal.
James Joyce immortalized this port city in his literary epic Ulysses, though many Dubliners admit they haven't read a word of the stream-of-consciousness novel. That doesn't stop them from throwing a celebration every June 16, honouring the day in 1904 when the fictional Leopold Bloom perambulated through the streets of the author's hometown.
Every year, thousands of people flock to Dublin to retrace Bloom's steps. The faithful devour "innards of beasts and fowls" for breakfast, plunge into the bathing spot called the Forty Foot, and descend on Davy Byrne's pub for that famous literary lunch: a Gorgonzola sandwich and glass of Burgundy.
But while Bloomsday is the city's largest literary celebration, it's hardly the only one. Dublin is a haven for those who want to immerse themselves in writers and words - washed down, of course, with the obligatory pint of Guinness. (The old brewery storehouse near the River Liffey is a major tourist attraction.) If there is a pub on every corner - Dublin boasts around 1,000 of them - it seems there is a poet, too. There are statues and plaques commemorating writers, and pubs and restaurants filled with literary references. Literary-themed walks transport visitors to the worlds of Joyce, Shaw and Wilde. Even the city's newest bridges are named after writers - Joyce, Samuel Beckett and Sean O'Casey.
A life-size stone statue depicts Oscar Wilde lounging in the park at Merrion Square. Joyce is depicted in bronze, leaning on his cane as he strolls down North Earl Street. And tourists love to pose for photos sitting next to sculptures of two writers on benches: Brendan Behan by the Royal Canal and Patrick Kavanagh by the Grand Canal. "O commemorate me with no hero-courageous tomb," Kavanagh wrote, "just a canal-bank seat for the passerby."
"Walking through this city is like stepping back into a novel," Rohini Srinibasan, a Joycean scholar from Cincinnati, said after a day of sightseeing with her husband. "It's like reading Joyce or Shaw all over again."
Other famous wordsmiths who were born or lived here include George Bernard Shaw, Jonathan Swift, William Butler Yeats, Bram Stoker, Oliver Goldsmith, Oliver St. John Gogarty, Flann O'Brien and Seamus Heaney.
"There's great history and storytelling and characters in these streets, and it's a city of words and writers all right," said Colm Quilligan, the author of a book about literary pubs. But, he pointed out, "for a long time, we weren't always that kind to them." Joyce and Beckett, for example, emigrated to continental Europe, while Yeats relied on benefactors to pay his bills.
Quilligan hosts a literary pub-crawl that introduces visitors to watering holes frequented by writers or featured in their works. Actors re-enact passages from Joyce, Beckett and Wilde as visitors sip their Guinness and soak up history.
The tour begins in the 19th-century Duke pub with actors reciting from Beckett's Waiting for Godot. It moves to the cobblestone quad in Trinity College, where visitors learn about writers who studied there - Swift, Beckett, Stoker, Wilde and others - before meandering through more pubs and prose, ending at Davy Byrne's.
If Dublin seemed indifferent to writers in the past, it has more than made up for it now. Designated a UNESCO city of literature in 2010, Dublin hosts literary festivals year-round.
The Dublin Writers Museum - a restored Georgian mansion on Parnell Square - is filled with books, letters, portraits and personal belongings of famous scribes. Next door, the Irish Writers' Centre offers a sanctuary for writers in old rooms filled with books and artwork.
There's a James Joyce Centre in the city, but true Joyce lovers take a half-hour train ride south to Sandycove to visit the stone tower featured in the opening scene of Ulysses, now a Joyce museum. The 19thcentury Martello tower was one of a series built along the coast to withstand an invasion by Napoleon. Joyce stayed here briefly, and the gun platform - with its panoramic view of Dublin Bay - as well as the living room are preserved as described in Ulysses.
Nearby Sandymount, a pretty seaside town, was the birthplace of William Butler Yeats, a giant of 20th-century Irish literature and winner of the 1923 Nobel Prize in literature. Three other Irish writers won the prize: Shaw, Beckett and Heaney.
Dublin is also home to fabulous old libraries like the one in Trinity College, home to the Book of Kells, a Latin version of the four Gospels written 1,200 years ago and considered one of the most beautifully illustrated manuscripts in the world.
The Chester Beatty Library houses the elaborate collection of the 20th-century American mining magnate, including many priceless Islamic and Far Eastern manuscripts and artifacts.
And then there's Marsh's Library next to St. Patrick's Cathedral, the oldest public library in Ireland. Built in 1701, it is a old-world treasure filled with 25,000 books and manuscripts dating back 500 years.