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Books Noted: Eiléan Ni Chuileanáin, Selected Poems

 

Wake Forest University Press, 2009

Eiléan Ni Chuilleanáin is one of Ireland's major contemporary writers,and this Selected Poems is a deep, rich compilation of her work. Seamus Heaney writes that Ni Chuilleanáin's poems "see things anew, in a rinsed and dreamstruck light. They are at once as plain as an anecdote told on the doorstep and as haunting as a soothsayer's greetings." The poems gain power through their sonic intensity and the richness of their diction. Mythical and mysterious, they feel ancient and yet express the timeless pulls and aches of nature and religion, of the rifts between the sexes and the world of the domestic. Tracing the trajectories in Ni Chuilleanáin's poetry is a special pleasure of reading this collection. Her shifting stances with regard to the same topics light them anew, untangling the mysterious elements that make the world. In an early poem, she writes:

Woman and world not yet Clean as the cat Leaping to the windowsill with a fish in her teeth; Her flat curious eyes reflect the squalid room, She begins to wash the water from the fish.

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