0 items - $0.00
Wake Forest
University Press

Wake Forest University Press

Dedicated to Irish Poetry

Wake: Up to Poetry

"The act of poetry is a rebel act."

Guinn Batten on Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin’s new COLLECTED POEMS

Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin may be the contemporary Irish poet most relevant today, as we continue to enlarge the shifting contours and diverse embodiments of Irish legacies and identities, and the poet who most rewards our keen and sustained attention. Indeed, she may also be of her contemporaries the least indebted to Yeats, or to any other post-Romantic predecessor. With affection, mischief, and leavened erudition, she weaves into her own ingenious fabrics strands of Irish history and culture beside those from elsewhere. With linguistic virtuosity and formal fluency, including in Irish and several European languages and traditions, her abiding interests shine forth in this Collected Poems, establishing her links to forebears, cultural and in some cases also genealogical, from monastic traditions to eighteenth-century women writers to outspoken Irish republicans who, as she has written, looked beyond borders and other forms of confinement, risking incarceration but also valuing the sharp edges of difference. Ní Chuilleanáin may be, after all, the most international of Irish poets after Yeats, as she puts us in proximity to strangeness and to strangers, producing effects that can be visionary while remaining, in every sense, worldly.

The sequence “Site of Ambush” is particularly welcome in this collection, and should be seen as a powerfully mythic, radically feminine, and distinctively republican counter-statement to set beside other more widely known Troubles sequences from her contemporaries writing in the 1970s. In this major poem, as elsewhere in her long and extraordinary career, Ní Chuilleanáin writes with startling immediacy and disturbing prescience about the collateral damage, political and personal, of colonial and civil wars as they extend into the troubled images of migrant laborers, of overlooked women who witness and remember, and the visceral formal survival of early trauma. It concludes with a powerful vision of—possible—transformation.

The continuities between “Site of Ambush” and more recent poems including “The Copious Dark,” “The Sun-fish,” and “Maria Edgeworth in 1847”—all poems that are not only intensely “Irish” but also transnational in their urgent understanding of how labor, including that of women, shapes lives and histories—become real, and gratifying, in appearing in this Collected Poems. Ní Chuilleanáin negotiates with control and aplomb the border between (to use a word she favors) a copious world, with its manifold conflicts and possibilities, and (to use another) the praeteritio, “passing over in silence,” the rhetorical device that hides and preserves but also insists. We celebrate with these poems the miracle of a reality, shattering but also sheltering, that may be most shared when, as Ní Chuilleanáin reminds us, it is not all there, and as such requires the close reading and re-reading that these poems elicit. “Help is at hand,” she writes in The Brazen Serpent, “though out of reach: / the world not dead after all.” Here is “the real thing, the one free foot kicking / under the white sheet of history.”

Guinn Batten
Associate Professor of English, Washington University in St. Louis
Former manager of Wake Forest University Press

Collected Poems | Eiléan Ní ChuilleanáinEiléan Ní Chuilleanáin’s Collected Poems was published in North America in May 2021, in both paperback and hardback.

Categories: Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, New ReleasesTags: ,

Comments are closed.