Intimate City: Required reading for every Dubliner

Book review: Peter Sirr ponders Dublin’s shameless appetite for devouring itself

View of Dublin, Ireland, in the 17th century. Photograph: Bildagentur-online/Universal Images Group via Getty

View of Dublin, Ireland, in the 17th century. Photograph: Bildagentur-online/Universal Images Group via Getty

From Dante to Baudelaire, poets have been given to walking around, and Peter Sirr, one of our leading poets, is no different. The stimulating and illuminating essays in this collection are the fruits of his flaneries around Dublin and other cities, but also journeys through time and the internet, a poetic record of the pleasures of what Walter Benjamin called “strolling around in the world”.

Of course, he encounters the literary ghosts of Kavanagh, Behan, Hartnett, Krapp and Bowen. But there is also the ghost of the city itself. On his walks, Sirr traces the original Iron Age routes under the city, converging, according to the late Niall MacCullough, somewhere near Kevin Street. He searches for that famous if intangible place, Ath Cliath, which he calls finely, “a virtual bridge’’.

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