Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin’s Collected Poems: shape-shifting, tantalising, dream-words

Fine sense of form anchors every poem in this timeless collection

Writer Eilean Ni Chuilleanain Photograph: Eric Luke

Writer Eilean Ni Chuilleanain Photograph: Eric Luke

“I have a pain in our teeth…” says Sister Mary Anthony in Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin’s J’ai Mal Á Nos Dents quarter way through her Collected Poems – not just one nun’s community mindset, but also a reflection of Ní Chuilleanáin’s often puzzling point of view. As her gaze shifts, time stretches and collapses. Sometimes boundaries dissolve – like this Dublin scene on Corpus Christi Sunday:

…Cross a lane: a kitchen
bare, darkening… one shadow milk bottle,
…basement - a bald man in his sleeves
. . . whose lives
bulge against me, as soft as plums in a bag
sagging in summer… (Atlantis)

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