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Irish Poetry

Medbh McGuckian - Shelmalier (clothbound)

Taking her title from the Wexford fishermen who became gunmen in the Irish rising of 1798, McGuckian carries the sea changes in language she has elsewhere wrought in bodily tropes of waves, tides, liquidity, and blueness into poems where “the long, long dead/ steer with their warmed breath/ my unislanded dreams” (“Feastday of Peace”). In poems that warm history into the living and breathing voice, the space of the body into time itself (“making addresses into dates”), McGuckian transforms the rebels’ “still unused voices” into “soon-to-be-living words” (“Rose Trellis”) that may yet resonate in an island where hope itself remains difficult two centuries later:

Not even a dead letter
a pseudohope from your pseudohome.
You are dissolved in me
like the death of a century.
I need your summer movements
as the spirit needs the world
my non-world the inner
gospel of your letters.

1998   120 pages
ISBN 978-0-916390-87-7

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