I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

Home Uncategorized Freed White Dove

Freed White Dove

Enda Wyley
Daughters of the House, by Catherine Phil MacCarthy, Dedalus Press, 71 pp, €12.50 In 2013 the poet Catherine Phil MacCarthy spent time in Paris as part of an artists’ residency at the Centre Culturel Irlandais where many of the poems in this, her fifth volume, are rooted. In the first poem, “Singer”, the poet comes upon a shop of shoes and leathers on Rue Lacépède. It’s a shop that triggers memories not just of her father “choosing a belly-band for a horse / at Carews, William Street, / a new ‘winkers’ for the mare,” but also brings back memories of her mother “at the table / hand winding the wheel, / her mouth full of pins.” She is “all business”, and “new words drop from her lips, / “muslin”, “chiffon”, “bias”, / “tension”. The final word, “tension”, in this opening poem seems purposeful and apt in a book of poetry which is preoccupied with the many tensions of French and Irish cultural and political history from the late nineteenth century through to contemporary times. They are tensions which MacCarthy deftly reveals through personal stories of the many inhabitants of this book. The poem “The Suitcase”, for instance, depicts a young man who arrives as an immigrant from India to Paris, “with a gun-metal blue valise, / patterned in silver stripes / weighing twenty-two kilos.” But the case is stuffed with objects of love from the parents that he will never see again. “Mother placed in his hand / an envelope of folded newspaper / with lotus, hibiscus, cherry and roses, / aromas of Karaikal offered to the Gods for his safety;” While towels from his father were “the colour of French and Indian flags.” That this poem’s final detail is delivered in a matter of fact tone makes the ending all the more poignant. “And the photograph so that / he would never forget his parents.” Many poems in Daughters of the House are inspired by the lives and work of female artists – one of whom was the nineteenth century Russian artist and intellectual Marie Bashkirtseff who came to live in Paris and eventually died there in her mid-twenties from tuberculosis. “A Marketable Craft” primarily describes one of Bashkirtseff’s paintings, titled “In the Studio”, where the artist has placed herself centre stage in a studio of women painters in 1881 “crowded in / to that tubercular attic on the fifth floor…

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