Celia de Fréine is an award-winning playwright, screenwriter and poet who writes in both Irish and English. Her first collection, Faoi Chabáistí is Ríonacha (Of Cabbages and Queens) was published in 2001. Three years later her second collection, Fiacha Fola (Blood Debts) was published, a sequence of poems which explores from the perspective of one female sufferer, the Irish Hepatitis C scandal in which pregnant mothers were inadvertently infected in the 1970s. Fiacha Fola was launched during the Imram festival and won the gradam litríochtha chló iar-chonnachta prize. That same year, 2004, de Fréine’s play, Anraith Neantóige (Nettle Soup) was staged as part of the Dublin Fringe Festival.
One of the things I love about Celia’s work is its scope. Her range of reference is broad and includes Beckett, Shakespeare, the Bible, general mythology and contemporary experience. Her influences are theatrical and cinematic as much as literary, many of the poems have an atmosphere of carnival, of masquerade; there is a sense that anything is possible in these pages. And you can take nothing for granted – her poems are full of surprises, of internal movement, twists and turns – I think she is the only poet I know who can pack suspense into a single line. Nor do I know anyone else who has so much fun with the tradition, even as she poses serious questions.
These poems are not confined – geographically, nationally, culturally, thematically or in any other way – a wind from the Russian Steppes blows through them, as a fisherman fights to bring his boat to harbour in a storm; storks perch on streetlamps in Sofia; an African girl enters an arranged marriage; a childhood friend is murdered. There are poems that explore the futility and savagery of war and poems where Shakespeare’s women answer back. There are poems about poetry, theatre, travel, friendship, families, sex. And the eerie, moody figures of the scarecrows at Newtownards brood over all of them. The poems are not always easy, but they’re all the more rewarding for that; they are witty and confident and they play with form and language in ways that let you know that you’re in the hands of a poet who knows exactly what she’s doing.
Celia de Fréine has won numerous awards, starting with the Patrick Kavanagh Award in 1994; and her poems have been widely anthologised, as in the recent New Irish Poets and Dancing with Kitty Stobling. Her Irish poems have been translated into Bulgarian and Romanian as well as English.
Faoi Chabáistí is Ríonacha (Of Cabbages and Queens), Cló Iar-Chonnachta, Galway, 2001
Fiacha Fola (Blood Debts), Cló Iar-Chonnachta, Galway, 2004
In Irish and English
Author page on the site of publishers Cló Iar-Chonnachta
Another author page on the site of publishers Cló Iar-Chonnachta