All 2 entries tagged Medbh Mcguckian

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July 18, 2008

Medbh McGuckian on Her Poetry

On Being a Poet from Belfast

I don’t write about ‘The Troubles’ but in 1968 the conflict did filter into me – did give me a sense of dislocation, a sense of being two people or a divided personality. (2)

On Language

I just take an assortment of words, though not exactly at random, and I fuse them. It’s like embroidery. […] They are very intricate, my poems, a weaving of patterns of ins and outs ad contradictions, one thing playing off another. I guess there’s a narrator somewhere, holding it all together, but I don’t feel it’s necessarily me. I feel there is someone else writing the poem sometimes. (2)

On Her Own Name

The fact that I spell my name in Irish is significant, because it’s a re-Gaelicized version of what was previously anglicized. In a way I’m an English poet, trying to reverse into an Irishness that is a impossible dream. I was christened ‘Maeve’. (5)

On Home

We’re all just adopted. Ireland doesn’t care about us, nor England. We feel we don’t have any roots. (6)

Finding Irishness

My name, Medbh, is quite important, because I am repudiating the Anglicization of myself. And some part of me is desperately seeking a spiritual reunion with my native, Irish-speaking, peasant, repressed and destroyed, ancestors and ancestresses. If to be Irish is to be Catholic, at the same time as you’re trying to get away from the anglicization of yourself, you are also trying to get away from the colonization of your soul by Roman Catholicism. I can’t accept that kind of restriction. I’m trying to re-christianize myself, to get back to whatever true Christianity is. (6)

McGuckian, Medbh. 1990. Interview by Rebecca E. Wilson. Sleeping with Monsters: Conversations with Scottish and Irish Poets. Ed. Gillian Somerville-Arjat and Rebecca E. Wilson. Edinburgh: Polygon. 1-7.

Weblinks
A Dialogue with Medh McGuckian: http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3822/is_199710/ai_n8772942
Contemporary Writers Entry: http://www.contemporarywriters.com/authors/?p=auth02D9P274512627448
Interview on The Argotist: http://www.argotistonline.co.uk/McGuckian%20interview.htm
Poetry International Web Entry: http://uk.poetryinternationalweb.org/piw_cms/cms/cms_module/index.php?obj_id=8479

Further Reading
Murphy, Shane. “Obliquity in the Poetry of Paul Muldoon and Medbh McGuckian.” Eire-Ireland 31.3-4 (1996): 76-101.

-. ”’You took Away My Biography’: The Poetry of Medbh McGuckian.” Irish University Review 28.1 (1998) 110-32.

O’Connor, Mary. ”’Rising Out’: Medbh McGuckian’s Destabilizing Poetics.” Eire-Ireland. 30.4 (1996): 154-72.

Porter, Susan. “The ‘Imaginative Space’ of Medbh McGuckian.” International Women’s Writing: New Landscapes of Identity. Eds. Anne E. Brown & Marjanne E. Gooze. Westport, Ct.: Greenwood Press, 1995.


July 01, 2008

‘Initiations, Tempers, Seductions: Postmodern McGuckian’

Thomas Docherty offers some interesting insights into the Northern Irish poet, Medbh McGuckian, in his essay, ‘Initiations, Tempers, Seductions: Postmodern McGuckian.’ Docherty begins by discussing the seemingly pointless nature of McGuckian’s poetry, but this is not a criticism. Rather Docherty is aware that ‘[t]he verse often reads as if the language itself, a language devoid of a consciousness, were directing it’ (Docherty 1992: 191). Docherty notes that the ambiguity about language also applies to identity as ‘it is difficult to locate any single location from which the poem can be spoken’ (192). Docherty sees this ambiguity as a kind of ‘blank phenomenology’ where ‘the relation between the speaking Subject or ‘I’ and the Object of its intention is mobile or fluid’ and ‘instead of a stable “persona,” all we have is a potential of personality, a voice which cannot yet be identified’ (192). Docherty’s reading of ‘a postmodern McGuckian’ suggests that ‘her writing offers a way of breaking away from the “place-logic” which is central to the formulation of a national culture, tradition or lineage’ (192).

In studying this breaking away, Docherty notes that McGuckian is often concerned with ‘initiation rites’ and ‘transgressions of borders or boundaries’ (193). These are not geographical borders but ‘symbolic borders, such as the boundary between infancy and adulthood; the border between an Edenic garden and a secular world’ (193). (Later Docherty writes of McGuckian’s focus on ‘puberty, a shift from infancy into adulthood, from “non-speaking” (infans) into a voice’ and he notes how her poetry often forms around ‘a mythic moment of a beginning or birthing’ overlapping pregnancy with ‘the mythical; biblical beginning in the fall from grace’ (194).)

McGuckian rejects ‘the kind of explicit or mythic politics found in other contemporary Irish poets’ and instead she adopts ‘a “French-born” idea, le temps perdu’ which is complemented by ‘a governing figure of “seduction” or temp-tation’ (193). Docherty summarises:

A postmodern sublime lies available here. We have the necessity of a transgression, the idea of a breakthrough across some threshold of perception, together with the recalcitrance which the transgression provokes: this is the pleasurable pain of interpretation in McGuckian. It is like the seduction of a letter unread, a letter which remains tantalisingly visible or within its envelope; but the tearing open of the envelope reveals that the letter is not there after all: what we thought was a meaningful missive turns out to be a pattern on the envelope. (200)

The play on temp is extended when Docherty notes ‘the linguistic slippage between “tempt” and “temporal”’ in McGuckian’s poems (201). This creates another aspect in which poetry becomes ‘a call to a critical historicism: not just an awareness of time past, but an awareness that one must “disappoint” the history or narrative seemingly determined by time past: time past must be misplaced, perdu’ (204).

Most of all though, McGuckian’s poetry is characterised by seduction, which Docherty describes as ‘taken in a sense close to that proposed by Baudrillard: it is not simply a sexual event; rather, it describes a state of relation between powers or forces, and one which explicitly excludes production. Production here would mean the end of seduction’ (205). In focussing on seduction as an ongoing, endless process, McGuckian ‘questions the modern belief of availability in identity’ (206).

This rejection of certainty is described by Docherty as ‘a turn towards nomadism. towards a chosen ground, which is, strictly speaking nowhere in particular’ (207). McGuckian is then ‘[a]lways in flight’ and her poems ‘are never foxed in historical time or geographical space: their meaning is always untimely, never present-to-themselves, and hence never “available”’ (207). In adopting this poetics, Docherty suggests that McGuckian is more like the nineteenth-century decadents or the twentieth-century surrealists than Irish poets. This outward looking set of influences also concords with McGuckian’s linguistic strategy in which she combats her Anglo-Saxon words against those of other idioms: Malaysian, African languages, Polish, Spanish and Persian. Using this kind of language ‘suggest[s] an alienation in McGuckian’s own relation to her language’ and ‘[t]here is no single governing Logos, no monotheology of Truth here, no originary language’ (208). McGuckian ‘does not live between English and Gaelic, but between English and the languages of Europe, Asia, Africa’ (208).

Such linguistic instability smacks of surrealism according to Docherty, yet McGuckian tends more towards the superreal than the surreal. Recalling Baudrillard’s theory of the postmodern simulacrum, Docherty wonders whether McGuckian ‘can question the very principle of reality itself by its parodic duplication’ (209).

Reality in her writing constantly slips away , leaving a reader to puzzle where she or he stands. Her sentences meander from éstrangeté to bizarrerie, dislocating metaphor and being ‘easily carried away’ in this language which is dictated by no consciousness, and leaving a reader stranded in flight from multivalent realities. (209)

Reference
Docherty Thomas. 1992. ‘Initiations, Tempers, Seductions: Postmodern McGuckian.’ The Chosen Ground: Essays on the Contemporary Poetry of Northern Ireland. Ed. Neil Corcoran. Bridgend: Seren, 1992. 191-211.


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