cover image A Ghost in the Throat

A Ghost in the Throat

Doireann Ní Ghríofa. Biblioasis, $16.95 trade paper (224p) ISBN 978-1-77196-411-1

Irish poet and essayist Ní Ghríofa makes her North American debut with a rich mixed-genre story of her quest to learn about the life of 18th-century poet Eibhlín Dubh Ní Chonail, author of “Caoineadh Airt Ui Laoghaire.” When Doireann first comes across the poem, about a woman who finds her husband shot dead and drinks the blood pouring from his wound, in high school, it sticks in her head like lyrics from a pop song. Several refrains recur in Ní Ghríofa’s narrative of her own life as a writer and middle-aged mother of four, including lines from the poem in her own translation, which she works on alongside her research of the poet’s family history and fabrication of Ní Chonail’s story, much of which is excised from the public record; snippets of U2’s “With or Without You” (“and you give yourself away”), a song Doireann dislikes but which resonates with her daily routine of filling bottles with breast milk for her own children as well as those in need; and the interchangeable “This is a female text,” which refers to this book, the “Caoineadh,” and even stains of breast milk on a sheet. As Doireann discovers and reveals how she sees herself in the poem and Eibhlín in herself, she leads the reader through an intensely beautiful reckoning. This is a remarkable achievement. (June)