Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin’s Collected Poems gathers nine collections of poetry, from Acts and Monuments (1972) to The Mother House (2020), as well as new poems and translations. Her poetry is scrupulously controlled but also continuously startling, using the language of history, religion, landscape, and myth. Travelers, pilgrims, and women—especially the veiled subject of the nun—remind us of our deepest inner sanctum with its litany of spiritual truths, human fears, and needs. These images also catalogue the importance of the ordinary and the domestic as metaphors for human experiences and emotions. Ní Chuilleanáin allows those who have been silenced by history to surface in art as surreal but living presences. It is now unquestionably apparent that she is one the major poets in contemporary Ireland.
About the Author
Born in Cork in 1942, Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, an Irish poet, graduated from University College Cork in 1962, with a BA in English and History, followed by a MA in English in 1964, and she also studied at Oxford University. Ní Chuilleanáin was Associate Professor of English, Dean of the Faculty of Arts (Letters), and a Fellow of Trinity College Dublin until her retirement in 2011. From 2016-2019 she also served as the Ireland Professor of Poetry.
“A poet of light and illuminations, of cloistered study and wide European travel, Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin is one of the most important Irish poets to emerge in the post-Yeats, post-Kavanagh era. Her career as poet has been exemplary and brilliant, creating for us an Irish world saturated with learning and firm in its sense of history, womanhood, and motherhood. Her work is crafted with shrewd precision, mindful of the possibilities of learning but with a heightened awareness of love, of loss, of family frailty and fracture. Those of us who were young when she published her spectacular early books, Acts and Monuments and Cork, were kept eternally young by the mesmeric effect of her later work in The Sun-fish and The Boys of Bluehill. Lyrical, gifted, multi-lingual, she is a poet of Europe as well as an Irish poet. As the poems in this great Collected now show us, as well as being a poet of history she is also a poet for the present, anxious moment. The knowledge her work contains is urgent human knowledge, exquisite in its feeling and accomplished in its polish. Certainly, Ní Chuilleanáin’s literary mentors are in Catholic Europe; in Mauriac’s fiction and Kate O’Brien’s prose, in Máire Mhac an tSaoí’s diplomatic briefcase and Eilís Dillon’s childhood summers, but her empathy and affections are utterly modern and contemporary. This Collected is her latest monumental act of self-scrutiny and illumination. It is a joy to hold in one’s hands. Truly, it is a cache of gold.” —Thomas McCarthy
“Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin has been one of Ireland’s most original poetic voices for nearly fifty years, writing poems that are both brilliant and moving. Her deeply personal work tackles difficult topics from Catholicism to politics to language itself. Wake Forest is offering us her combined works in one volume—a delectable treat, especially because it includes new poems to feast on.” —Helen Emmitt, Centre College