The poems of Catherine Phil MacCarthy

Video recordings

The Irish Poetry Reading Archive, part of the UCD Special Collections, has released a number of readings by Catherine Phil MacCarthy of her poems. These readings are now available on the Archive’s YouTube channel. Click on the links below to access Phil reading the following poems:

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Excerpts from reviews

‘A subtle elusive intellectual power can be felt in the work of this poet. The poems seem artlessly simple, until the reader tries to grasp how they achieve their effects and begins to appreciate their challenging precision’.

— Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill, Field Day Anthology of Irish Literature V, Cork University Press, 2002.

‘the landscape of her County Limerick childhood is a shaping presence.’

— James S. Rogers, New Hibernia Review, Autumn 2010

‘The parish or the moment sometimes suffices, and sometimes can be teased into a revelation. Their language seems simple, but MacCarthy’s breaking of a line, posing of an allusion, repetition of an unrhymed word winds up complicating the reader’s first intuitions.’

— Charles Fanning, New Hibernia Review, Summer 1998

‘Catherine Phil MacCarthy is more concerned with a haunting interior landscape, inflected by childhood and made powerful by a sophisticated and sometimes erotic lyric perspective of considerable power.’

— Eavan Boland, Irish Poetry Since Kavanagh, Four Courts Press, Dublin, 1996

‘Whether working in Irish or English, none of these poets is willing to rest on the smooth surface of things as they are or are said to be. Instead they choose to dig, to slice beneath the given to bedrock and bone in the manner urged and practiced in different and dovetailing ways by Seamus Heaney and Thomas Kinsella. Thus, Catherine Phil MacCarthy in ‘Buddleia’:

‘A black tangled mass.
Unearthed. Like a heart.
I thought of photographing it,
turned it over and over
like an old tooth:
To hide in a safe place
and keep bad spirits away.’

In the process they liberate and nourish what NĂ­ Chuilleanáin in ‘Pygmalion’s Image’ calls ‘a green leaf of language.’

— Phillip O’Leary, Preface, Jumping Off Shadows, Cork University Press, 1995

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Catherine Phil MacCarthy was interviewed by Seán Rocks on the RTE Radio programme, Arena, on October 22, 2012. Click on the link below to listen to the interview (page opens in a new window):

Seán Rocks’s interview with Catherine Phil MacCarthy →

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Audio recordings

Readings by Catherine Phil MacCarthy on the RTE Poetry Programme (May 2021)

In this episode of the Poetry Programme presented on Sunday, 23 May 2021, in the National Botanic Gardens, Olivia O’Leary speaks with four contributors to Empty House, a book of writings about climate change, edited by Alice Kinsella and Tessa O’Mahoney. In the episode, Catherine reads her poem Night Sky which gave the anthology its name.

Night Sky (at 1.55 in the recording bar) →

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