Máire Mhac an tSaoi was born in Dublin in 1922. Her father, Seán MacEntee, a native of Belfast, was a prominent politician who had served in the 1916 rising against British rule in Ireland. Her mother was a teacher and scholar. Her uncle, Monsignor Pádraig de Brún, was a distinguished and influential schlolar of the Irish language. From the age of two she spent up to five months a year in his house in Dún Chaoin, in the heart of the Munster Gaeltacht, or Irish-speaking area, so that, the poet says, she can never remember a time when she was not bilingual. Her debut collection of poetry was published to acclaim in 1956 and subsequent volumes established her as a unique and revolutionary voice in Irish-language poetry.
With candles of angels the sky is now dappled,
The frost on the wind from the hills has a bite,
Kindle the fire and go to your slumber,
Jesus will lie in this household tonight.
Here, father, is this where it started?
Here we became strangers to each other?
Was it here?
Blackberry sweet your little clustered head,
My little stranger son, my share of life,
Welcome here, and settle in my heart.
for Susie Iremonger
What an assembly of the old!
Of tangled grey hair!
Of stooped backs and rheumatism!