Áine Uí Fhoghlú comes from the Gaeltacht area of An Rinn in County Waterford. She has published three collections of poetry: Aistear Aonair (1999); An Liú sa Chuan (2007); Ar an Imeall (2011), along with four works of fiction: Crúba na Cinniúna (2009); Uisce Faoi Thalamh (2011); Pincí sa Ghaeltacht (2012) and Éalú (2013). She teaches creative writing to second level students and has been writer in residence to a number of schools. Her work has been broadcast and is included in numerous publications. She has been awarded many prizes including Oireachtas na Gaeilge awards, Listowel Writers’ Week poetry prize and the Michael Hartnett Poetry Award. She has received literature bursaries from The Arts Council and Ealaín na Gaeltachta.
The sea -at both a conscious and unconscious level- is a central element in the work of Áine Uí Fhoghlú. In haunting poems like ‘Muir-dhraíocht’(Sea-magic’) and ‘Rabharta’ (‘Tide’) she embraces not only the sea’s traditions and superstitions but also its hardships and tragedies. The key poem ‘An liú sa chuan’ (‘The cry in the harbour’) is an unforgettable elegy for the tragic drowning of two young men from her area – both cousins, and neighbours of the poet. We sense Uí Fhoghlú’s deep empathy with a mother who casts her eyes toward the sea longing afor the return of her drowned son: ‘a súil fós le muir’.
And this sense of ‘liú’ or keening echoes through her second collection as a whole. For Uí Fhoghlú is a master of the genre known as ‘caoineadh’ or lament and the book reverberates with powerful poems expressing loss, absence and emptiness, including the almost unbearably poignant ‘An Cliabhán Folamh’ (‘The empty cot’) and ‘Folús’ (‘Vacuum’). ‘Neamhbheo’ (‘Unalive’) accosts us with t we hear the cry that is locked in the heart and that cannot be released but must be smothered forever: ‘Múchtar an tocht nach féidir scaoileadh’.
Her poignant yet unsentimental depiction of her father’s illness in ‘Do m’athair’ (‘For my Father’) is unflinching in its confrontation with the routines of the nursing home, a place she movingly refers to as the crèche of the living-dead, a place where existence itself is suspended somewhere between living and death The speaker’s father becomes a stranger to her, one inhabited by a succession of different men from his own past. Once again, Uí Fhoghlú explores emotions that choke or smother in their intensity and defiance of expression.
Yet Uí Fhoghlú’s work is also marked by a profoundly celebratory aspect. In a poem like ‘Rabharta’, for instance, language itself becomes the body of a dancer, an eel alive with movement. ‘Oda’, meanwhile, is a memorable expression for affection the poet’s grandniece from Norway, using colour and light as glinting correlatives for deeply held emotions. And other poems exhibit a similarly palpable thirst for colour, life and movement.
Uí Fhoghlú, as a poet is engagé in every sense of the word, one who expresses a profound empathy with those on the edge or the ‘imeall’ of humanity. ‘Fead an Iolair’ (‘The Eagle’s Cry’) deals with the imprisonment of native American Taté Wikikuwva while ‘An Tine Bheo’ was written for Frances Newton, a black woman who was sentenced to death in Texas in 2005. Her series of ‘dánta na scadán’ or herring poems protest the exploitation of women whose hands were destroyed by cleaning and salting fish.
Áine Uí Fhoghlú’s poetry resounds with the unique music of Rinn Irish. She has the voice of a singer, a musical gaeltacht voice, as Gréagóir Ó Dúill has noted. Empathy with her fellow human beings echoes through this unique poetic idiom, one as natural in its rhythms as the sea.
Aistear Aonair, Coiscéím, Dublin, 1999
An Liú sa Chuan, Coiscéim, Dublin, 2007
Ar an Imeall, Coiscéim, Dublin, 2011
Crúba na Cinniúna, Coiscéim, Dublin, 2009
Uisce Faoi Thalamh, Cosicéim, Dublin, 2011
Pincí sa Ghaeltacht, Cosicéim, Dublin, 2012
Éalú, Cló Iar-Chonnacht, Galway, 2013