Medbh McGuckian

Medbh McGuckian Poems

Lordship is the same activity
Whether performed by lord or lady.
Or a lord who happens to be a lady,
All the source and all the faults.

It was a bright inviting, freely formed,
though I suppose it was I who brightened,
with an internal scattering of light,
as though weather maps were more real
than the breath of autumn.

Three windows are at work here, sophisticated
spaces against the day, against the light.
The sky looks as if it has been added later
to a glimpsed world as nobody saw it.

From behind the moon boys' graves
bleed endlessly; from photograph
to browning photograph they blacken
headlines, stranded outside of time
at the story's frigid edge.

The film of a butterfly ensures that it is dead:
Its silence like the green cocoon of the car-wash,
Its passion for water to uncloud.

Left to itself, they say, every foetus
Would turn female, staving in, nature
Siding then with the enemy that
Delicately mixes up genders. This

Like an accomplished terrorist, the fruit hangs
from the end of a dead stem, under a tree
riddled with holes like a sieve. Breath smelling
of cinnamon retires into its dream to die there.

The word comes from a Greek word
for ‘abandonment': we catch an untraceable
fire already kindled in another.

My mother looks at her watch,
As if to look back over the curve
Of her life, her slackening rhythms:

God knows that there is no proof
that part returns to wholeness
simply because miracles happen
at a single church-going.

My half-sister comes to me to be painted:
She is posing furtively, like a letter being
Pushed under a door, making a tunnel with her
Hands over her dull-rose dress. Yet her coppery

Medbh McGuckian Biography

Medbh McGuckian was born in 1950 to Catholic parents in Belfast, Northern Ireland. She studied with Seamus Heaney at Queen’s University, earning a BA and MA, and later returned as the university’s first female writer-in-residence. McGuckian’s poems are layered collages of feminine and domestic imagery complicated by a liminal, active syntax that, in drawing attention to the weight of one phrase on another, emphasizes and questions our constructions of power and gender. Her work is reminiscent of Rainer Maria Rilke in its emotional scope and John Ashbery in its creation of rich interior landscapes. Praising McGuckian’s Selected Poems (1997), Seamus Heaney said, “Her language is like the inner lining of consciousness, the inner lining of English itself, and it moves amphibiously between the dreamlife and her actual domestic and historical experience as a woman in late-20th-century Ireland.” McGuckian has earned significant critical acclaim over the course of her career. Her poem “The Flitting,” published under a male pseudonym, won the 1979 National Poetry Competition. In 1980 McGuckian published two chapbooks of poetry and also won the prestigious Eric Gregory Award. Her first collection, The Flower Master (1982), won the Poetry Society’s Alice Hunt Bartlett Prize, the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature, and an award from the Ireland Arts Council. On Ballycastle Beach (1988) won the Cheltenham Award, and The Currach Requires No Harbours (2007) was short-listed for the Irish Times Poetry Now Award. Her honors also include the Bass Ireland Award for Literature, the Denis Devlin Award, and the American Ireland Fund’s Literary Award. She won the Forward Prize for Best Poem for “She Is in the Past, She Has This Grace.” She edited The Big Striped Golfing Umbrella: Poems by Young People from Northern Ireland (1985) and co-translated, with Eilean Ni Chuilleanain, the Irish poet Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill’s collection The Water Horse (1999). She is the author most recently of Horsepower Pass By! A Study of the Car in the Poetry of Seamus Heaney (1999), and the poetry collections My Love Has Fared Inland (2010) and The High Caul Cap (2013).)

The Best Poem Of Medbh McGuckian

The Good Wife Taught Her Daughter

Lordship is the same activity
Whether performed by lord or lady.
Or a lord who happens to be a lady,
All the source and all the faults.

A woman steadfast in looking is a callot,
And any woman in the wrong place
Or outside of her proper location
Is, by definition, a foolish woman.

The harlot is talkative and wandering
By the way, not bearing to be quiet,
Not able to abide still at home,
Now abroad, now in the streets,

Now lying in wait near the corners,
Her hair straying out of its wimple.
The collar of her shift and robe
Pressed one upon the other.

She goes to the green to see to her geese,
And trips to wrestling matches and taverns.
The said Margery left her home
In the parish of Bishopshill,

And went to a house, the which
The witness does not remember,
And stayed there from noon
Of that day until the darkness of night.

But a whip made of raw hippopotamus
Hide, trimmed like a corkscrew,
And anon the creature was stabled
In her wits as well as ever she was biforn,

And prayed her husband as so soon
As he came to her that she might have
The keys to her buttery
To take her meat and drink.

He should never have my good will
For to make my sister for to sell
Candle and mustard in Framlyngham,
Or fill her shopping list with crossbows,

Almonds, sugar and cloth.
The captainess, the vowess,
Must use herself to work readily
As other gentilwomen doon,

In the innermost part of her house,
In a great chamber far from the road.
So love your windows as little as you can,
For we be, either of us, weary of other.

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