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Best of Irish Poetry 2009
Best of Irish Poetry 2010

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EILÉAN NÍ CHUILLEANÁIN

 

 

 

Eiléan Ní ChuilleanáinEiléan Ní Chuilleanáin was born in Cork City in 1942, educated there and at Oxford before spending her working life as an academic in Trinity College, Dublin. She was a founder member of Cyphers, a literary journal. She has won the Patrick Kavanagh Award, the Irish Times Award for Poetry, the O’Shaughnessy Award of the Irish-American Cultural Institute which called her “among the very best poets of her generation”, and the International Griffin Poetry Prize. Her collections include Acts and Monuments (1972, winner of the 1973 Patrick Kavanagh Award), Site of Ambush (1975), The Second Voyage (1977, 1986), The Rose Geranium (1981), The Magdalene Sermon (1989) which was shortlisted for the Irish Times/Aer Lingus Award, The Brazen Serpent (1994), The Girl Who Married the Reindeer (2001), Selected Poems (2008) and Legend of the Walled-up Wife (translations from the Romanian of Ileana Malancioiu, 2011). The Boys of Bluehill (2015) is her first collection since The Sun-fish which won the 2010 Griffin International Poetry Prize and was also a Poetry Book Society Recommendation.

 

Photo © Brian McGovern

 

 

        A roomful of Seicento frames

 

They exhibit nothing, opening

on a dark blue damask wall.

 

In the big room are the trophies

the people come to visit,

Saint Sebastian penetrated,

Saint Catherine in red and pale blue;

in the little side-room only

frames, ornate, empty. Some

glance inside – I came in – but

what is it repels them, is it

the figured walls that show through

like flesh through ragged stockings?

they move on to the long gallery

where the domestic scenery

displays itself at its best,

blond headed families grouped and mingling,

some out of doors, their tall trees shading them,

dandling their tailored sleeves.

 

Alone with the frames, their gilt,

the dark-stained flourishes, curving

like the martyr’s rib-bones, like ivy

they shine, they clasp, but it’s emptiness

embraced. The scenes (imagine

a triumph with captives, or a judgement

with pillars and guards all ready)

are all missing, though the guarded ovals

bleed and reek, the sliced poplar

shifts like a hand mirror offering

a better view of what stank worse

than even the painters could tolerate

in the days when the authorities

advised them to be at their windows

to observe executions, to capture

the real thing, to get it right.

                                       

 

©2015 Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin

 

 

Author Links

 

Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin at Gallery Press

Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin at Poetry International

'The Bend in the Road':
Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin video-poem for the Poetry Project

 

 

 

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