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The High Caul Cap

The High Caul Cap is both the name of a traditional Irish air and a symbol for the link remaining after birth between mother and child. The caul was superstitiously regarded as a good omen and so kept at the hearth as a preservative against drowning. This symbolic gesture helps us to fathom the watery imagery in this volume, which traces the decline and death of the poet s mother. Medbh McGuckian s writing is always profoundly sensual, but now, with the maternal body at stake in its meditations, the physical takes on supernatural powers. Poetry relies on the senses for proof, much as the doubter relies on touch to be convinced of the miraculous. Mother-daughter relationships move down the generations (I discover a photograph / of my beautiful sculpted daughter from Corner of Field with Farm ) trying to establish the exact nature of their love. As in many of McGuckian s books, blue is a sacred color (of the Madonna, the sea, the sky) and saints and angels appear throughout the volume as though to remind us of how the masters used such icons to transform their myths into art. McGuckian uses these icons to grieve for, interrogate, and transform into poetry her late mother s tangible gaze. "
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About the Author

Medbh McGuckian was born in Belfast in 1950, where she now lives with her husband and four children. She received both a BA and MA from Queen s University, where, alongside Paul Muldoon, she studied under Seamus Heaney. In 1985, she returned to Queen s as the university s first female writer-in-residence. She has also held residencies at the University of Ulster and Trinity College, Dublin, as well as universities in America. Medbh McGuckian published her first two chapbooks in 1980 before her first full-length collection, The Flower Master (1982), won the Poetry Society s Alice Hunt Bartlett Prize, the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature, and an award from the Ireland Arts Council. Wake Forest University Press has published eleven books by McGuckian, beginning with On Ballycastle Beach (1988), which won the Cheltenham Award. Her other awards include the prestigious Eric Gregory Award, the Denis Devlin Award, the Bass Ireland Award for Literature, the American Ireland Fund s Literary Award, and the 2002 Forward Prize for Best Poem, honoring She Is in the Past, She Has this Grace. With Eilean Ni Chuilleanain, Medbh McGuckian co-translated Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill s collection The Water Horse (2000); she is also the author of Horsepower Pass By! A Study of the Car in the Poetry of Seamus Heaney (1999) and is the editor of an anthology of younger Northern Irish poets, The Big Striped Umbrella (1985)."

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