Bloomsday or Bust

Dublin, Ireland, June 16–20, 2015

Think you’re escaping and run into yourself. Longest way round is the shortest way home.James Joyce, Ulysses

Measured in pages, June 16 marks what may be the longest day in literature: 24 hours in the life of Leopold Bloom, a central character in James Joyce’s novel, Ulysses. In 18 episodes and approximately 265,000 words (including everything from bathroom breaks to errands), the novel charts Bloom’s meandering odyssey through Dublin on June 16, 1904.

Join Gold Boat Journeys: Mind Trips for Writers for our first international meet up to celebrate Bloomsday in Dublin, Ireland, June 16–20, 2015. Even if you’re not a fan of James Joyce or Ulysses, you won’t regret seizing this opportunity to time travel through this UNESCO City of Literature in Leopold’s shoes. (The timing is also right to celebrate the 150th birthday of poet W.B. Yeats on June 13 in Sligo, a pre-Bloomsday option we can help you arrange.)


John Kehoe’s Pub, Dublin, Ireland, by Ellen Girardeau Kempler for Gold Boat Journeys.

With writers’ budgets in mind, we’ve selected a choice of lodgings in the heart of the city, and scheduled a selection of activities, from a backstage tour of the Abbey Theatre (founded by poet W.B. Yeats), to a history walk led by Trinity College graduate students, to a literary pub crawl and private small group day-trip to Wicklow, the Garden of Ireland.

Half Penny Bridge, Dublin, via Wikimedia Commons

We’ll help you make the most of Joyce-related activities around the city, secure group rates on plays and concerts, and give you the option of enrolling in a private writing workshop. Every meet up participant will receive a Bloomsday Kit full of Edwardian costume accessories and surprises to help you get into the freewheeling spirit of the day.

James Joyce, Circa 1918, via Wikimedia Commons

The unofficial Bloomsday observances started shortly after Ulysses’ controversial publication in 1922. (Deemed pornographic by censors, the book was banned in Britain and the U.S. for more than a decade.) Joyce made the first reference to “what they call Bloom’s day” in a 1924 letter. In 1929, publisher Sylvia Beach organized the Dejeuner Ulysse at the Hotel Leopold near Versailles for 30 guests, including Joyce himself, to celebrate the book’s 25th anniversary and its translation into French.

The first official Bloomsday in Dublin, known as “Firstbloom,” occurred 50 years later, when Irish poet Patrick Kavanagh joined a group of local literati (including one of Joyce’s cousins) to retrace Leopold’s steps in two horse-drawn carriages. Instead of ending in “Nightown,” like the novel, Firstbloom finished with the pilgrims abandoning their buggies at the drunken end of a pub crawl.

Poets Patrick Kavanagh and Anthony Cronin at the church in Monkstown with the carriage in which they’d been proceeding about Dublin in the footsteps of Leopold Bloom, June 16, 1954. Photo: National Library of Ireland on the Commons

Dublin celebrates the Bloomsday Festival with a week of observances from readings to plays, walks, a bus tour, scholarly talks and a rally of cyclists dressed in Edwardian costumes. The James Joyce Centre serves as the clearinghouse for Bloomsday events in Dublin and worldwide.

Contact Gold Boat Journeys for more details about the #Bloomsday2015 Dublin Meet Up. Parts of this post were excerpted from Ellen Girardeau Kempler’s June 16, 2014, story for Black Balloon Publishing’s (no longer active) literary blog, The Airship.