ImbolgArlen House 2020
Literally, Imbolg signifies ‘in the belly,’ and is the Celtic festival of Spring. The eponymous poem begins Part I with a defiant birth from a womb of mirrors, leading to poems of change, with its shadows and highs. Parts 2 and 3 comprise three quirky narratives and three long exploratory poems, including the prize-winning ‘Easter 2016.’ Part 4 is a Lockdown Diary of fifty poems, written between March 12 and April 30, 2020.
Time plays a huge part in its many forms – expanding, contracting, disappearing. There is constant movement, especially in ‘the second of April’ and ‘Lockdown Diary’ – where the speaker moves like a revenant past silent houses and closed commercial buildings. Sensual pleasure is also very much in the frame, and a pervasive element of irony and play.
. . . one aspect that is compelling about the book is its attempt to reimagine the personal lyric. The 'she' in 'Before,' for instance, is not a proxy for the author, and yet neither is she an impersonation or a character in a drama; this is not a poetry of self-revelation . . . The book's strange vitality derives from the attentiveness of the poet to the shifting nature of experience.
– Richard Hayes, Poetry Ireland Review 134
Parvit of AgelastArlen House 2016
One of three books shortlisted for The Pigott Prize, 2017
Parvit of Agelast is a fantasy novel in verse, informed by the paintings of Pauline Bewick. Having started with a poem called ‘Yellow Woman’ about a woman wild and unseen in nature, I thought I’d use some of Pauline’s paintings as a visual catalyst to explore possibilities and notions of ‘escape’. The project expanded exponentially and became a story, an allegory that weaves its own course, a fantastic scenario, but always within what we know as normal reality.
“This highly evolved verse novel … Orwellian, Swiftian in the satiric bite of its allegory, a parable of genetic modification and cosmic meltdown, it is relieved by witty offhand prose asides, it bursts and wrests grammar and language to rise to sophisticated effects…. With its bizarre cast and victim heroine it lends itself to a futuristic film or stage drama adaptation.”
"Parvit of Agelast gives epic treatment to the themes of gender, the body, time and the meaning of myth in the post-postmodern world. Deriving its own mythological energy in part through a deep engagement with the mystical-erotic paintings of Pauline Bewick, Parvit of Agelast is a new kind of Irish allegorical-epic poem that vouchsafes Máighréad Medbh’s voice and vision in contemporary poetic culture.”
--Philip Coleman (TCD)
Pagan to the CoreArlen House 2014
Pagan to the Core is a new edition of my first collection, The Making of a Pagan, in tandem with eighteen new poems in a sequence called The Disaffected Country Girl and a Minor Metropolis.
‘Máighréad Medbh’s gaze is unflinching whether it’s turned on her West Limerick country girlhood, her turbulent emergence into the life of the city and work, or her own consciousness as it negotiates awakening and motherhood. This is courageous poetry, charting the journey of the female soul through an almost clinical exploration of the female body’s desires and vulnerabilities. She is not afraid to call it as she sees it and if her truth telling is uncomfortable, it is also liberating and slightly surreal — as if one had just had a cup of tea with a brown bear. In her den. Her narrators are often in extreme states: of rejection, ecstasy, sexual arousal or the disaffection of the new sequence. Sometimes these poems are very funny indeed: both funny ha ha and funny peculiar. Maps to zones of the psyche that are rarely explored in Irish poetry, they are built to be experienced on the pulse, and ‘in the deep heart’s core’.
--Paula Meehan, Ireland Professor of Poetry 2013
Savage SolitudeDedalus Press 2013
Subtitled 'Reflections of a Reluctant Loner', Savage Solitude takes the reader on a journey through the immediate experience of being alone. The subject is explored in a series of dramatic dialogues and aphorisms.
Drawing on quotations from a wide range of poets, philosophers, writers and scientists, the conversation of the book moves in a kind of rolling wave that is simultaneously story and analysis, report and ongoing investigation.
Intimate, empathetic, dramatic, this multi-voiced work is a study by immersion, a living experience conducted through the medium of text, and all the while pushing towards an answer to the question (more pressing than ever in our hi-tech age) of how to be alone.
ISBN 978 1 906614 63 8 paperback
290 pp, 216 x 140 mm / 5.5" x 8.5"
Twelve Beds for the DreamerArlen House 2011
The 'twelve beds' in the title of this collection refer to the twelve astrological signs. The dreamer is the poet, who began by noting the moon's monthly passage through the zodiac and checking whether it bore any relation to her dreams. Would she dream of conflict when the moon was in Aries, or of love when it was in Libra? She didn't reach a scientific conclusion, but she did write the dreams as poems and found that they could be allocated thematic places within the astrological divisions. She added other poems of the night and half-light to achieve a narrative of the inner life with the zodiac as a structure, astrology having proved a very interesting map-maker in her experience.
The journey in the sequence is from Cancer (home, children, tradition) to Gemini (communication, information, restlessness), a road which has also been walked by the poet's generation. The last poems in the sequence are steeped in the clamorous demands of the Celtic Tiger mentality.
This collection is in two parts. The first, called 'Saturn's Little Colours', is a mix of lyric, narrative and inspirational verse. Themes unite such very concrete facts as the 9/11 attack and financial failure with philosophical transcendence and triumphant death. Styles vary, but generally continue Máighréad's concern with organic form. Saturn is a jailor, but there is a thrust towards release.
Part Two, 'Flight', is a requiem for the poet's sister, who died suddenly and violently in 2006. Details of the death are not here; rather, the reader is given short, honest, emotional and philosophical responses, which culminate in the final poem, 'Accompanied'. The last lines are:
'... these tears are not made of water,
but of light, pattern, space, form
and are beautiful, because
everything natural is everything else.'
¡Divas! is a volume containing three collections. The poets, Máighréad Medbh, Nuala Ní Chonchúir and Deirdre Brennan, have each contributed 69 pages of poetry under separate titles and with individual introductions. Máighréad's collection is entitled 'Split', and consists of 34 poems. The themes are marriage, its failure, the diversity of desire and the desperate search for connection.
'She got out on a Sunday afternoon,
leaving bubbles to beat Everest in the sink.
Her two teenagers were out loitering
and her husband felling a precarious tree,
all due back by six.'
(from 'The Orange Coat')
Some of the 23 poems on this CD have not been published except in the voice, at performances. Many are from collections, including two of the most powerful pieces from Tenant (Link to Tenant below): 'Mór' and 'Scar'. From the urban rap, 'Out of My Skin', to the sensuous love poem, 'Feed', Máighréad's delivery is urgent and intimate. There are the explicit poems, 'Saturday Morning' and 'Nick Cave Makes Love to Me', and three sung poems based on the Celtic seasonal calendar, which marry the old and the modern in an original way.
'I walk the night
and the silence falls like footsteps at my back,
like the promises I lack,
like the voices of my dead father, fighting still,
like the knock when there's no-one in.'
Tenant is a historical narrative sequence, following the fortunes of the fictional O'Sullivan family through the traumatic years of Ireland's Great Famine, 1845-49. The fate of the main character, Rena, reflects the social devastation and historical legacy of the period. The poems are visceral, entering into the various physical experiences with mirroring rhythms and uncompromising bluntness. Several types of hunger are explored: the depressive tendencies of Rena's father, Peadar; Rena's yearning for glamour and position; the desire for national self-determination; the need for harmonious personal relationships. The style changes as the story progresses, marking the shift from innocence to knowledge and the complex redemption of time. The poem, 'Mór', in the voice of a goddess of the earth, signals transition:
'Humans are small things that think themselves big.
What I am is spirit matter, pulsing out in heaves and swirls,
rising from the shifting points of earth,
all points thinking they're the centre,
sending out their waves.'
Out of Print, but contact me if you want a copy.
Dream-like impressions of early childhood, vivid, sensuous portraits of love and sexuality, incisive observations of the disturbing dilemmas faced by women, caustic but witty comments on church and state... With forceful, energetic rhythms taken from rock, reggae and rap, Máighréad Medbh charts her growth from child to woman in this startling first collection.
'Clack go her glasses
down on her nose.
Raatum go her false teeth.
Suck suck suck on the thread
to thread a needle
to turn a hem
to shorten a dress for me.'
Out of Print, but contact me if you want a copy.