A woman’s husband dies – and this woman, she loves him. Completely, so much so that she is willing to dissolve family ties in the 1700s in Ireland, which we can imagine would be difficult for any woman in many eras to be willing to do but even more so at at this time and place. Her husband does not just die, but is murdered. And when she finds his murdered body his blood pours from his body – an open, beating wound. What does this woman do? She takes courage, and drinks from it. She drinks his blood and does what she can to protect his children (and loses the one she is currently pregnant with). Her grief becomes a legend, becomes a poem, becomes a song of mourning – and it reaches across time and space, so that a young Doireann hears her song, and can recall it later, when she herself is pregnant with her third child. And in that moment, a moment that echoes across time, her obsession is born.
This is a female text.
This book is a combination of essays about Ghriofa’s life, and also her interest in the poet Eibhlin Dubh Ni Chonaill. Interest is putting it mildly – as her family grows, so does her fascination with the poet, who was once married to Art O’Leary. The poet’s grief over her lost husband was poured into a Gaelic song, which Ghriofa heard as a child and felt called back to time and again in her later life as a poet and mother. Ghriofa is a modern woman who sings Radiohead songs as lullabies to her children, but maybe it is because she becomes a stay-at-home mother that she decides to spend so much of her time uncovering the life of Eibhlin Dubh. She painstakingly pours through records – letters, newspaper reports, anything she can find, that might hint at the lives of Eibhlin and the women around her. Often, she relies as much on her vivid imagination as what she can find in historical records – this does not exactly purport to be a piece of research. And yet, it has the air of both an academic artifact, and a deeply personal extended essay.
This is a female text.
Ultimately, this book became an experience, unlike many that I have read. It was lyrical, bringing the voices of two Irish poets to life with tenderness and raw desire. This book is an open, beating heart, take courage and drink from it.