Ireland has a long and rich tradition of poetry. Three living Irish poets, all women, stand out as worthy of celebration as we celebrate Irish culture and heritage. The three women featured in this article include: Celia de Freine, Moya Cannon, and Eavan Boland.
Celia de Freine, has published five collections of poetry. A native English speaker, Celia de Freine taught herself Irish, and feels she can express herself better in Irish than she can in English. Her poetry is written in both Irish and English. Born Newtownards, County Down. University College of Dublin and Lancaster University, she worked as a civil servant and teacher, she now divides her time between Dublin and Connemara. The five volumes of poetry include:
Faoi chabaisti is Rionacha (Of Cabbages and Queens, 2004),
Fiacha Fola (Blood Debts, 2004),
Scarecrows at Newtownards (2010),
Aibitir Aoise: Alphabet of an Age (2011).
Enjoy viewing and listening to Celia de Freine recite a poem about a Seal Woman who comes to shore.
In an interview with the Irish Times Newspaper, Celia de Freine said, “The type of poetry I write tends to be surreal, and I think that Irish is better suited to the surreal,” she said. “I just think that Irish poetry has the edge, it’s that bit more imaginative.Surrealism is easy to detect
in “Rian / Trace.” The film’s
title comes from a handprint a child leaves on the window, peering in at Peadar during one
of his darkest moments. But the film is also about “the trace you
leave after you”.
Moya Cannon was born in Dunfanaghy, County Donegal in 1956. She too studied at the University College of Dublin (history and politics), and later attended Corpus Christi College in Cambridge. She taught and was editor of Poetry Ireland in 1995. Her work has appeared in a number of international poetry anthologies, and her first book, Oar (1990, rev. ed., 2000) won the Brendan Behan Memorial Prize in 1991. Moya Cannon also wrote The Parchment Boat (1997), and Carrying the Songs: New and Selected Poems (2007).
You will find them easily,
there are so many –
near roundabouts, by canal locks,
by quaysides –
haphazard, passionate, weathered,
like something a bird might build,
a demented magpie
who might bring blue silk flowers,
real red roses,
an iron sunflower,
a Christmas wreath,
photographs in cellophane,
angels, angels, angels
and hearts, hearts, hearts
and we know
that this is the very place
which the police fenced off with tape,
that a church was jammed
with black-clad young people
and that under the flowers and chimes
is a great boulder of shock
with no one able to shoulder it away
to let grief flow and flow and flow,
like dense tresses of water
falling over a high weir.
Late at low tide,
at the tip of a green promontory
which brimmed with lark song and plover cry,
I lay down on a slab of damp granite
encrusted with limpets and barnacles;
laid my head down in that rough company
and heard the whispers
of a million barnacles,
the grumbling of a hundred limpets
and behind them, the shushing
of the world’s one
gold-struck, mercury sea.
Eavon Boland was born into the family of an Irish diplomat in 1944 in Dublin, Ireland. Her mother was a painter, and her childhood was spent between London and New York, returning to Ireland to attend school in Killiney and Dublin. She attended Trinity University, where as a student, she published her first book of poetry, 23 Poem (1962). Her early works were informed by her life as a wife and mother, and later she “emerged as one of the foremost female voices in Irish literature” (Poetry Foundation). She is a noted anthropologist and professor. She has written over 29 volumes of poetry and numerous other books and articles.
Witness by Eavan Boland
Here is the city—
its worn-down mountains,
its grass and iron,
its smoky coast
seen from the high roads
on the Wicklow side.
From Dalkey Island
to the North Wall,
to the blue distance seizing its perimeter,
its old divisions are deep within it.
And in me also.
And always will be.
Out of my mouth they come:
The spurred and booted garrisons.
The men and women
What is a colony
if not the brutal truth
that when we speak
the graves open.
And the dead walk?
Eavon Boland was born into the family of an Irish diplomat in 1944 in Dublin, Ireland. Her mother was a painter, and her childhood was spent between London and New York, returning to Ireland to attend school in Killiney and Dublin. She attended Trinity University, where as a student, she published her first book of poetry, 23 Poem (1962). Her early works were informed by her life as a wife and mother, and later she “emerged as one of the foremost female voices in Irish literature” (Poetry Foundation). Eavon Boland is a noted anthropologist and professor. She has written over 29 volumes of poetry and numerous other books and articles. Her poetry reflects a more down-to-earth look at love, family life, and the culture of Ireland than some of the more traditional and courtly poetry that views love from the more elitist and courtly tradition. Boland bares the world that is rife with abuse, domestic violence, and the earthy reality of life.
House of Shadows. Home of Simile
One afternoon of summer rain
my hand skimmed a shelf and I found
an old florin. Ireland, 1950.
We say like or as and the world is
a fish minted in silver and alloy,
an outing for all the children,
an evening in the Sandford cinema,
a paper cone of lemonade crystals and
say it again so we can see
androgyny of angels, edges to a circle,
the way the body works against the possible—
and no one to tell us, now or ever,
why it ends, why
it always ends.
I am holding
two whole shillings of nothing,
observing its heaviness, its uselessness.
And how in the cool shadow of nowhere
a salmon leaps up to find a weir
it could not even know
was never there.
Take some time to get to know these and other Irish poets as you celebrate the Feast of St. Patrick.