A woman once fell in love with a poem – a keying, a roar – for a slain lover. The 18th-century Irish nobleman Iblin Dubh ni Chonail composed “Caoinadh Airt Ui Laoghaire” after her husband was killed by a powerful British officer. Arriving at the scene, Nee Chonail, pregnant with her third child, drank a handful of husband’s blood. “My bright pigeon,” “My joy,” he called her in verse, “my thousand astonishment” – why wasn’t she with him? She imagined her blouse catching a bullet in her bandages.
For decades, “Caoinadh Airt Ui Laoghaire” survived the oral tradition. It is now recognized as one of the great poems of its era. Poet dooren née Ghriofa was also pregnant with her third child when she fell into her adventures, keeping a “scruffy photocopy” under her pillow. Where are the bones of Ni Chonail’s fingers buried? she wondered; Where can someone leave flowers? The tomb is unmarked. Nee Chonail’s letters and diaries have all disappeared. Her own son removed her name from the family record.
The upbeat, sizing-up “A Ghost in the Throat” is Ni Ghriofa’s offering. It includes essays, biographies, autobiographies, scholarships – and his translation of “Caoinadh Airt Ui Laoghaire” with a daily account of life with four children under 6 years of age.
“This is a women’s text,” Nee Ghriofa begins the book. “It is a female text, composed while turning someone else’s clothes. My mind keeps it close, and it grows, soft and slow, while my hands do a myriad of tasks. It is created by guilt and desire. There is a female recital, stitched from the soundtrack to the cartoon nursery rhyme. “
The book is the downward, all-encompassing, entangled path of everything. It recalls Nathalie Lager’s brilliant and original “Suit for Barbara Louden”: a biography of the actress and director that becomes a tally of obstacles in writing such a book, and the entry of the biography’s almost impossibility. “To study a woman’s life marked by silence is to try fog cartography,” Nee Ghriofa wrote.
Ni Ghriofa is self-conscious – an amateur, she repeatedly apologizes. She has no academic credentials, only her obsession – one that has little to do with the real woman, one feels, from the mix of poeticity, her grief, desire, revenge. She is careful in libraries, a child is tied to her chest, a child is next to her. She writes the book we are reading in the free car park while the child is sleeping, stolen one hour before dinner.
So difficult at first, this work – the reconstruction of a life, the translation of a poem – seems familiar. “In Italian, the word The verses Means ‘room,’ “she notes.” I assure myself that I am just a housewife, and this idea stabilizes me, because living in a room is a form of labor that I know I can try with anyone. “She ties Nee Chonail’s life together as if she is preventing the story from moving forward. She interrupts herself to put a child in a car seat, A duvet wrestles under her cover, picking up pieces of pasta from the floor.
Ni Ghriofa is the author of several books of poetry, which she herself has translated from Irish. “A Ghost in the Throat” is his first book in prose. It has been read with enthusiasm, but not always carefully. I have seen reviews that are thankful for how the author exposes the fatigue of domestic life and the “depression” of pregnancy on the body.
Except that Ni Ghriofa is not described, not at all; Not the one who is ashamed of how much she “loves her hard work,” the one who looks at her body in the mirror – “my breasts, unilateral and glorious; the sacred doorway of my fourfold Caesarean mark, my lax. -Pet, stretched with waves like a strand at low tide-marked “- and feels” no hatred, only pride. This is a female lesson, I think. My body responds in its own dialect of scars. Ta-dah! It starts saying, Ta-dah! “
The story that unfolds is stranger, more difficult to tell than those brave accounts of the erasure of history or the challenges faced by a female artist to save a “forgotten” female writer. Nee Ghriofa, who spent 10 years pregnant or breastfeeding, who almost lost her fourth child (there is an annoying chapter in the NICU), is immediately ready for another. Without a child, she trembles – “What will happen to me, in the absence of this labor, growing and harvesting it all?” She cannot give up that “perfect” enjoyment of service, purpose and physical pleasure in caring for, feeding, raising a young child. Her husband begs her, asking if he can get the vasectomy done (she thanks him for going along with it in acknowledgment – for the first time in my reading experience).
What is this bliss of self-denial, what is its value? She documents this tendency without shame or fear, but with curiosity, even for entertainment. She will re-train her hunger. “I could donate my day to find him, “She tells herself, starting Nee Chonale’s story.”I could do that, and I will. ” Or so she says. The real woman Ni Ghriofa summons herself.