Reading Medbh McGuckian


Leontia Flynn

A pioneering critique of Medbh McGuckian’s poetry by fellow Ulster poet, Leontia Flynn. Flynn carefully and concisely unearths McGuckian’s meanings in her poetry but leaves her renowned mysteriousness intact. A series of close readings of poems spanning Medbh McGuckian’s life and career to date.



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Reading Medbh McGuckian is a highly original study of renowned Northern Irish poet Medbh McGuckian.
 Fellow poet Leontia Flynn offers close readings of McGuckian’s early and mid-career work in an attempt to shed new light on the poet’s complexities, while remaining clear, accessible and highly original.
 Making use of valuable new research suggesting that much of McGuckian’s poetic language is gathered from other sources, Reading Medbh McGuckian begins as a series of observational readings, analysing the poems and textual materials from which the poem has been developed, and goes on to suggest how her poetic technique has been applied in her later work.

Assuming several critical perspectives, this personal and unique book seeks to give a sense of the challenges presented by McGuckian’s poetry, and of the poet’s evolving style over the last three decades. It also seeks to show how the poet wants her readers to think differently about women, poetry and tradition, constructing McGuckian’s meanings where possible but also insisting that the mysteries – and pleasures – of the poetry remain intact.

Table of Contents

1. ‘Not sacrificed to Plot… ’: The Flower Master and Single Ladies.
2. ‘This oblique trance is my natural way of speaking’: Venus and the Rain
3. ‘A hill wind blows at the books edges to open a page… ’: On Ballycastle Beach.
4. ‘Clear cut from another world, as if translating…’. Marconi’s Cottage
5. ‘The War Degree’: Captain Lavender and the later political poems
6. ‘Reading in a Library’: where we are now.

About the Author

Leontia Flynn is a research fellow at The Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry, Queen’s University, Belfast.  She has written three collections of poetry, all published by Jonathan Cape, and has received the Forward Prize for Best First Collection, the O’Shaughnessy Prize for Irish poetry and the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature. She has written extensively on the work of fellow poet Medbh McGuckian. She has also been short-listed for the T.S. Eliot and Whitbread Prizes.