Eilean Ní Chuilleanain’s creative use of language creates a
fantastical air of mystery and tension, leaving the reader with more questions than
answers about the personal events that inspired her work. Her clever use of
symbolism and motifs can express some profound ideas.
Ní Chuilleanain’s poem On
Lacking the Killer Instinct combines a multitude of memories, both of her
father’s illness and passing, and of tales of her father running from the black-and-tans.
She recalls leaving the hospital as her father was dying, unable to process the
reality of the situation. She fled to the hills where she sees a hare, peacefully
sitting in a field. This memory is evoked through the image she saw in the
newspaper of two greyhounds running after a similar hare. The sight of the hare
that “shoots off to the left”, filled with a “glad power” as it evades the “absurdly
gross” hounds behind.
The poet is reminded of her father who, as a young man in post-rising
Ireland in the nineteen twenties, was being wrongfully pursued by “a lorry-load
of soldiers”. The hare is creatively used to symbolise her father throughout
the poem, whether being rightfully or wrongfully hunted, or at peace surrounded
by nature. The evasive hare in the newspaper photograph fooled the bloodthirsty
hounds just as her father tricked the zealous soldiers by hiding in a nearby
house and masquerading as a member of the family.
The poet is inspired by the image of the hare, how ‘she’ is
at peace and accepting of nature and its ways. She regrets her decision to run
away from her fears, from hiding from the reality of her fathers impending
death, yet the next morning she went back to the city, “washed in brown bog
water”, cleansed by the natural sights and realisations she had while
struggling to cope. The constant change of perspective, from peaceful hare in
the field, to fleeing hare in the
newspaper, to her father in the nineteen twenties, to the poet herself hiding
from reality, creates a great sense of mystery. The reader is left wondering
which images correspond with each other from each individual memory or story. The
memories are powerful and though lacking in detailed description, are extremely
easy to visualise. While this poem has a considerably lower sense of mystery,
it is more than made up for in her other poetry.
Ní Chuilleanain’s poem entitled The Bend in the Road reminds us of how time is fleeting, how both illness and our time in this
life are short-lived.
BACK AND FINISH THIS POEM
Possibly the most mysterious of all her poems on this
course, is Street. Everything about
the poem, from it’s title to it’s contents answer no questions, instead raising
even more that will never be answered.
The poem follows an unnamed man with uncertain intentions, only referred to as “he”,
who is in love with “the butcher’s daughter”.
This woman is elusive, being described as wearing “white
trousers” and “dangling a knife on a ring at her belt”. This phrase alone
brings many different images to mind. The dangling knife, which later is hinted
as being bloodied, suggests that she is dangerous, a woman of her trade,
The colour white alone holds many connotations. White clothing near something
that could stain, a bloodied knife for example, suggests that she is daring and
willing to take risks. White itself can often imply purity, beauty, peace, kindness,
a soft and gentle nature, but paired with the knife, it suggests sterility, an absence
of information, a blank page. She is free of all information. The colour white
is her obscurity.