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A GHOST IN THE THROAT by Doireann Ní Ghríofa Kirkus Star


by Doireann Ní Ghríofa

Pub Date: June 1st, 2021
ISBN: 978-1-77196-411-1
Publisher: Biblioasis

A fascinating hybrid work in which the voices of two Irish female poets ring out across centuries.

“When we first met, I was a child, and she had been dead for centuries,” writes Ní Ghríofa in her first work of prose—and what a debut it is. Earning well-deserved accolades abroad, the book merges memoir, history, biography, autofiction, and literary analysis. “This is a female text,” she writes, a deeply personal response to a renowned Irish “caoineadh,” an elegy or keen, written in 1773 by grief-stricken noblewoman Eibhlín Dubh Ní Chonaill after the shooting death of her husband. Exhausted from juggling housework, motherhood, and relocating, Ní Ghríofa turned repeatedly to a “scruffy photocopy of Caoineadh Airt Uí Laoghaire, inviting the voice of another woman to haunt my throat a while.” While taking care of her new baby, the author formed an intimate identification with Eibhlín Dubh, and “before long, the poem began to leak into my days.” She wanted to learn more, “adding a brushstroke or two” to an intricately imagined portrait of her “growing in my mind.” Ní Ghríofa tracked down translations of the poem and obscure biographical information. During her second pregnancy, the author embarked on her own translation, which she includes at the end of this captivating, timeless narrative. With her new baby in tow, she visited a monastery where “Eibhlín Dubh spoke her grief in their ruins.” Anxious to learn about the “scattered jigsaw” of the poet’s days, Ní Ghríofa undertook genealogical research and sought out family correspondence. Pondering “all the absent texts composed by women,” the author got a tattoo, forever etching the poet’s words into her skin. She also visited Derrynane, where Eibhlín Dubh wrote her lament. Although much of the poet’s life remains hidden, she holds Ní Ghríofa “close as ink on paper and steady as a pulse.”

Lyrical prose passages and moving introspection abound in this unique and beautiful book.