The Currach Requires No Harbours

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Medbh McGuckian is the doyenne of poets of her generation. In this, her eleventh groundbreaking collection, there is a new urgency, an acceleration of stanza, line and utterance: ‘All my weariness of the North / revived with double force . . .’

The book opens with a record of injury and the consequent prayers for her daughter. It proceeds through a series of self-portraits and invocations of women, with their folk instructions and remedies, to construct an historical narrative. Its journey comes to rest in a series of consoling ‘island’ poems. Medbh McGuckian’s code of allegiance to the course of her imagination — see her variations on the colour blue — and the illuminating sensitivity and ardour of her work have fashioned an opus unlike any other. In the unfolding of sense and sentences she is as much a composer of atmosphere and feeling as a maker of poems.

The Currach Requires No Harbours lays bare a mastery of art by a stylist of indisputable effect and beauty. Medbh McGuckian . . . is a writer who creates images of haunting beauty using language that resists easy interpretation. . . here the poet continues to use colour as a type of private code . . . The recurrence of colour, along with images of angels, haloes, sculptures and religious artefacts contained in these poems, reassures the reader that there is some pattern here, some overall meaning to be wrested from the gorgeous if opaque language. As with the abstractions of Kandinsky, we must trust the mood evoked by the arrangement of words on the page rather than strain after their meaning.

— Nessa O’Mahony, The Irish Times


[Medbh McGuckian] has hit on a dream-to-reason ratio perfect for replicating what she calls ‘the feminine subconcious, or semi-consciousness.’ “

— Carmine Starnino, Poetry


[T]he privacy of the voice, and the sense of mysterious secrecy about the luminous images, are qualities that make this work compelling… This poetry is ambitious and mysterious.”

— Magdalena Kay, World Literature in Review

Year Published: 2006
Details: 80pp
ISBN PBK: 978 1 85235 412 1
ISBN HBK: 978 1 85235 413 8

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