Eileain Ni Chuilleanain is known as one of the most important female

Eileain Ni Chuilleanain is known as one of the most important female poets in contemporary Ireland. Contemporary Ireland is the base of the themes in her poetry, to which she adds fascinating stories from folktale to memories from her past. She succeeds in this by creating a mysterious yet beautiful aura that is achieved by her use of language. We can see this in a large selection of her poetry: ‘Street’, ‘Translation, ‘Fireman’s Lift’, ‘Following’, ‘The Bend in the Road’ and ’To Niall Woods and Xenya Ostrovskavia, married in Dublin on 9th September 2009’.The first poem I have done of Ni Chuilleanain was ‘Street’. This poem doesn’t give the reader any background information, which immediately surrounds the reader with mystery. The first line starts of with: “He fell in love with a butcher’s daughter”. We don’t know who ‘he’ is or the name of the ‘butcher’s daughter’. Their identities are kept in secrecy. The only difference is that ‘he’ is its own person while the ‘butcher’s daughter’ is the daughter of the butcher, a possession. We can see this connection to Contemporary Ireland, where women are often labelled as their spouse’ wife, father’s daughter or son’s grandmother. I think this is a simple yet clever way of bringing up the importance of feminism and how labelling a woman as a man’s object diminishes her accomplishment of creating a name for herself. Ni Chuilleanain brings the poem into life by using enticing descriptive words such “dark, shining drops” to describe blood. Blood is usually associated with violence or death, but the vivid imagery created by the words ‘dark’ and ‘shining’ made it appear to be beautiful and enchanting. Towards the end of the poem, we see that the woman was followed by the unknown protagonist until she reached a door that “stood half-open”. She was said to have gone up a staircase, but it never implied that she was followed from that point. The mysterious ending drives our curiosity level higher. What did the man do from that point? Did he watch her? Did he follow her? The mysterious and beautiful twist in this poem has contributed to creating a poem with a fascinating story that leaves the reader in awe and wonder. Another poem that has a similar sense of beauty is “Translation”. Translation was written on behalf of the Magdalene women who were forced to work in laundries and endure abuse. This poem gives a voice to those who’s pain and suffering were overlooked during this dark period of Irish history. Ni Chuilleanain incorporates the history of the Magdalene laundries into her poem to create a fascinating story. The work was tough, and the women were restrained from relief. The line “Where steam danced, around stone drains and giggled and slipped across water” suggests that the women didn’t have any source of enjoyment and that the steam have more ‘freedom’ than them. Ni Chuilleanain creatively personifies the steam, which lures the reader in as it is so beautifully worded. This reminded me of the poem ‘Street’ where the poet described blood as “dark, shining drops”. They both possess charm. In the third stanza, the Magdalenes were described as “ridges under the veil”. The word ‘veil’ has many connotations. A veil is used to cover something, so I assume in this context that the lives and work of the Magdalene women were veiled from society. Neither sides were able to see what lies behind the veil, which creates mystery. The working women can no longer have access to the real world and society dares to not question the Roman Catholic Church on the mysterious ambition of the laundries. A different take on mystery can be seen in “Fireman’s Lift”. Ni Chuilleanain wrote it based on the final stages of her mother’s death. The starting line of stanza 5 “This is what loves sees, that angle” has a powerful force that causes empathy. A person who knew their loved ones prior to illness truly know who they are and have been with them through thick and thin while someone who meets their loved one would only see them a as ‘victim of illness’. People love others by looking at different perspectives, which is a mystery as we don’t know their perspective. The importance of compassion in Contemporary Ireland is clearly shown in this poem. Ni Chuilleanain uses a rich selection of religious imagery to create a fascinating story of the Virgin Mary carried up by a team of angels, “hauled up in stages, Past mist and shining”, which symbolises the stages of her mother’s life. The team of “angelic hands” were the nurses who took care of her mother when she was ill. The visual imagery of the “angelic hands” is beautifully captured in this stanza. Another beautifully composed imagery is “The Virgin was spiralling to heaven”. The use of onomatopoeia creates a musical affect that is pleasing to the ear, which also makes the word ‘spiralling’ sound magical. Another poem that deals with death is “Following”. This poem features memories of Ni Chuilleanain’s father and his death, a theme that is very common in Contemporary Ireland. A narrative style is adapted to describe the journey as she follows her dad throughout his life and afterlife, creating her own version of a folktale. The death of a loved one deeply associates with Contemporary Ireland as it is universal and something that we would have to go through one way or the way in life. In ‘Fireman’s Lift’, Ni Chuilleanain talks about her mother during the times of her illness but there was no mention of where she will go after death, while this poem only focuses on memories of her father’s life and an affectionate visualisation of his afterlife, of a “library where the light is clean”, “His clothes all finely laundered” and “whiskey poured out in two glasses”. I think it’s a beautiful way of thinking what life after death holds for us after we leave this world, this could have been used as a coping mechanism as we have no idea what is there beyond death. The feeling of knowing that our loved ones are happy and free from suffering gives us comfort. The poem contains an abundance of contrasting imagery which switches from mythic and real life. The first stanza starts of with a young girl in a busy, congested fair, following her father and in the second stanza she appears to be in a place with a ground that is “forested with gesturing trunks” with a “dead corpse risen from the wakehouse”. The contrast between both worlds is emphasised, which is creates a fascinating story for the reader. What I find mysterious is the fact that the reader isn’t given a physical description of the father regarding his appearance. We only know about his interests and how his daughter looked up to him. We get a sense of mystery in the atmosphere. Ni Chuilleanain could have purposely excluded this information for privacy or to rise one’s curiosity levels, which leaves the reader hooked. The fifth poem “The Bend in the Road” is based on a memory. One day, as the family were on a trip, Ni Chuilleanain’s child felt sick so the car had to be pulled over at a ‘bend in the road’. As the family waits for the child to recover, “the tall tree like a cat’s tail” waits too. They stay in the “shadow of a house” and then leaves. The tree could be described as a cat’s tail as it sways side to side along with the wind. This simile gives the setting of the landscape a fairy-tale like quality which makes the place seem more enchanting and beautiful, almost like it never happened. Soon the place held a significant value to the family over the past 12 years since the incident happened. Over these past years, many changes in the landscape had occurred, the tree grew taller, the house that casted its shadow is covered with “green creeper”. The child grew taller as well. However, despite these changes, the road was as silent “as ever it was on that day”. Silence gives an air to mystery, which people tend to question. Why was the road silent? What took place during the past twelve years? Just like all of Ni Chuilleanain’s mystery poems, the poem aches our thirst for more answers. The bend in the road is a sacred monument to all the changes that took place ever since the day they stopped by the bend in the road, most of which is the death of loved ones. Even though the dead are absent from this world, they still dwell in the memories of others. Death and loss are relevant times that are suffered by people during Contemporary Ireland, which is expressed by the poet and how she was able to cope with the difficult situation. For Ni Chuilleanain, it was the remembrance of how the place of their presence is “in the tree” and “in the air”. How an ordinary bend in the road became a significant monument in the family history creates a fascinating story and shows the variability of Ni Chuilleanain’s poetry as she can create small details into a big masterpiece.The final poem, ’To Niall Woods and Xenya Ostrovskavia, married in Dublin on 9th September 2009’ was Ni Chuilleanain’s blessing for her son and his spouse, on their wedding day. As I read the first stanza, I was immediately surrounded with a fairy tale aura. The star that the couple both see is a sign that they are ready to set out on journey and start a new life together. The poem is packed with references of fairy-tales and folktales from both the Russian and Irish culture. Ni Chuilleanain narrates as a wise woman that advises the couple and tells that everything will be fine and that they find everything back if they leave behind the places that they knew. She compares it to “the sleeping beauty in her high tower”. In the fairy-tale ‘Sleeping Beauty’, the princess faced many hardships but found love and had a happily ever after ending. She also did a comparison with Ruth from the Bible and Xenya. Ruth left her hometown and was in exile, but she found good people to rely on and true love, just like Xenya. Ni Chuilleanain’s technique of incorporating fairy-tales and folktales and comparing them to situations that occur in life creates beauty within the meaning of the poem, which adds the story and makes it fascinating. The talking cat is mystery as there was no talking cat in ‘Sleeping Beauty’. The identity and symbolism of the cat is left for us to theorise. My theory is that the cat is the couple’s ‘future child’ as it will speak “Irish and Russian” and have a bilingual duality of both parents. Overall, this poem expresses the beauty and importance of the everlasting love that is emphasised in Contemporary Ireland. I have concluded that Ni Chuilleanain explores important themes of Contemporary Ireland by revealing it through fascinating stories with a twist of mystery and beauty. In my opinion, Ni Chuilleanain’s strongest point is allowing other to see the beauty of her work by creating a magical, enchanting imagery, such personifying steam in ‘Translation’ and comparing her daughter in-law’s life to Ruth, from the Bible in ‘To Niall Woods and Xenya Ostrovskavia, ‘Married on September 9th, 2009’ and refers to the working nurses as angels in ‘Fireman’s Lift’. Ni Chuilleanain cleverly incorporates mystery with such simplicity in ‘Street’, ‘Following’ and ‘The Bend in the Road’ by keeping the unknown in secrecy. Overall in all six poems, Ni Chuilleanain successfully explores the themes of Contemporary Ireland through fascinating stories.

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