Catherine Phil MacCarthy

Life
1954- ; b. Crecora, Co. Limerick; ed. University College, Cork; postgraduate work in drama TCD and Central School of Speech and drama, London; winner National Women’s Poetry Competition, 1990; editor of Poetry Ireland Review in 1998; issued This Hour of the Tide (1994); also a novel, One Room an Everywhere (2003), dealing with passion, heartbreak and self-discovery in love-affair between an older man and a younger woman; she is married to the solicitor Justin McCarthy; issued Suntrap (2007).DIL

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Works
Poetry, This Hour of the Tide (Dublin: Salmon 1994), 87pp.; The Blue Globe (Belfast: Blackstaff 1997), 83pp.; Suntrap (Belfast: Blackstaff Press 2007), 76pp.

Fiction, One Room an Everywhere (Belfast: Blackstaff Press 2003).

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Criticism
Catríona O’Reilly, ‘Things’ thinginess’, review of The Blue Globe [sic], in The Irish Times (16 May 1998), “Poetry Now” column [q.p.].

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Commentary
Thomas McCarthy, ‘A fatalistic viewpoint and chronicles of love’, review of Suntrap [inter al.], in The Irish Times (28 April 2007): ‘Catherine Phil MacCarthy has […] developed a confident and enduring personality in poems. Her Suntrap sparkles with life and light - and, for her, light is both a method and a metaphor. […] MacCarthy has also created a great travelogue of contemporary Irish life. Her poems move from the west coast of Ireland, with its own kind of light, to that truly sunlit porch, the suntrap of Spain or Africa. […] But it is as love poet that Catherine Phil MacCarthy triumphs. From This House of the Tide, published 13 years ago, to the present collection, she has been a powerful, chthonic observer of love in all its forms. Suntrap continues this vein in its chronicling of the robust power of attachments, from the primal power of “Dance” to the sexual intrigue of “Another Woman”. Here is a poet, then, who becomes stronger with each new collection, a poet who understands that furnace of love while longing for late winter ice to hold firm along the Shannon.’ (For full text, see infra.)

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Quotations
Suntrap”: ‘After tea, in the front yard the old man / asks for my hand, the hand of a child. / He wants to show me a magnifying glass, / the closest thing he has to a toy, // And I'm bored, though my palm under it is pink, fantastic. Now he dips / the silvery rim as if he's fishing air / to trap the sun on newspaper, angling it / closer so it smoulders and takes fire, / and I learn for the first time how to burn.’ (Quoted in Hugh McFadden, review of Suntrap, in Books Ireland, Summer 2007, pp.136-37.)

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Fugit Amor”: ‘At the Musée Rodin I looked for us / among the lovers. We were never that / fierce, a couple twinned in flight, / white marble bodies all delicate curve / back to back lying across air. And yet. / How those arms reach over his head /seize her shoulder, her breast/ how she strains beyond his hands / … Stretched on that rack, desire holds them still, governs her tongue, consumes / him […].

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Seeds”: ‘Giant, freckled, / my father's hands / scatter grain, palms cast from a jute sack / this way and that as if / he's performing a rite./ … As for the seeds, / I watch them sprout / delicate ribby greens/ against the rainy earth / and rise over months to a deep / aquamarine that glistens/ in runnels under the breeze. / Avid to catch the split / second the colours change,/ l playhide-and seek in an emerald smock, / vanish and appear, / eye-to-eye with ripening grain / stilled by a tide / shifting the field, / and close my eyes to listen / as the harvest turns golden.’

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Notes
Eavan Boland writes of This Hour of the Tide (1994) that the poems have ‘The sort of music that reaches outwards and into the memory’ (q. source).

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