‘When we first met, I was a child, and she had been dead for centuries’
In the 1700s an Irish noblewoman, on discovering that her husband has been murdered, drinks handfuls of his blood and composes an extraordinary poem. Eibhlín Dubh Ní Chonaill’s Caoineadh
Airt Uí Laoghaire was famously referred to by Peter Levi, then Professor of Poetry at Oxford University, as the ‘greatest poem written in these islands in the whole eighteenth century.’
In the present day, a young mother narrowly avoids tragedy. On encountering the poem, she becomes obsessed with its echoes in her own life and sets out to track down the rest of the poet’s
Culminating in Doireann Ní Ghríofa’s own translation of the poem, A Ghost in the Throat is a devastating and timeless tale about one woman freeing her voice by reaching into the past to hear
DOIREANN NÍ GHRÍOFA is a bilingual writer whose books explore birth, death, desire, and domesticity. Doireann’s awards include a Lannan Literary Fellowship, a Seamus Heaney Fellowship, the Ostana Prize and the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature. She is a member of Aosdána. A Ghost in the Throat is her prose debut.
My thoughts: this was a really interesting book, part essay, part memoir, part poetry. The author explores the poem and the life of Eibhlín Dubh Ní Chonaill, an 18th century woman whose husband is murdered. As well as exploring the extraordinary text, she puts it into context with the life and times of its creator, all while raising her own children and moving house over and over.
It’s a thoughtful and fascinating work, I enjoyed learning all these things – Caoineadh Airt Uí Laoghaire is not a work I was familiar with, probably because being a Gaelic poem, it never made it onto any syllabus here in the UK. Which is a shame, it’s an incredible and powerful piece, full of grief and rage and intense love. The translation at the end of the book, with the English alongside the original Irish is gripping and haunting, despite its age, the words still move the reader. A really impressive book.
*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.