exploratory project (week 3): irish poetry, landscape and gender identity.

linking contextual study to exploratory project: having just made a structure for my contextual study based on landscape and gender. my research for my exploratory project overlaps with my contextual study.

landscape, identity, gender and irish poetry: last night i watched a programme on rté player discussing the irish poetry and its links with national identity, called ‘a rebel act: poems that shaped ireland‘. the programme discussed the status of the poet or bard in irish society and how their poems reflected and also challenged irish identity through words, language and its imagery.

the ‘aisling’: part of the discussion mentioned the ‘aisling’: a type of poem written in the irish language where a young man was visited in his dreams by a beautiful woman who represents ireland and whose beauty inspires young men to fight for freedom from british oppressors. like the figure of ‘cathleen ní houlihan’ or ‘roisín dubh’ which emerged a century later, an idealised woman represented the irish landscape and its people and was described in these poems as beautiful and perfect – a romanticised figure.

the female voice: the programme went on to discuss the absence of women’s voice in irish poetry and the silencing of poets, male or female, who referenced the sensuality of the female body, women’s sexuality and desire, through censorship, particularly from the early 20th century through the 40s and 50s as the irish free state formed its new identity, an identity tied up with promoting a womans identity as pure, passive, non-sexualised and perscribed in a role of the domestic sphere. one line of this documentry quotes a member of clergy at that time – ‘the future of ireland is bound up with the dignity and purity of irish womanhood’ there was some interesting exceptions to this censorship – brian merriman’s poem (because it was written in the irish language) from as far back as the 1700s ‘the midnight court’ describing a fierce woman, using sexual language and imagery. it seems a contradiction that the national language saved the sensual poem from censorship, a censorship tied up with a national identity. something about translation as a disguise might be worth exploring maybe?

merrimans ‘a midnight court’ ( http://midnight-court.com/current-version.html )

Mo chuma is mo chrá ba bhreá san éad
Ar lúbaire láidir lánmheas léadmhar
Shantach sháiteach shásta sheasmhach
Ramsach ráflach rábach rabairneach,
Lascaire luaimneach, cuardaitheoir cuimseach,
Balcaire buan nó buailteoir bríomhar,
Ach seanduine seanda cranda creimneach,
Fámaire fann is feam gan féile.

Bejasus, such jealousy could be understood
In a strapping, stout-hearted, sterling stud
Panting, pushing, pulsing, preening
Roistering, romping, rollicking, riproaring
A roving rogue, a sensitive searcher
A steadfast stalwart, a topnotch thresher
Not in an ossified oldster, a grumpy grunt
An incompetent idler, a reclusive runt

body and gender identity: more recently, the female poet freda laughton also escaped censorship in her collection ‘a transitory house’ written in english (1943), which uses sensual imagery and language to explore themes of womanhood and motherhood (although again referring to a ‘mother earth’ female identity).

The Woman with Child

How I am held within a tranquil shell,
As if I too were close within a womb,
I too enfolded as I fold the child
As the tight bud enwraps the pleated leaf,
The blossom furled like an enfolded fan,
So life enfolds me as I fold my flower.
As water lies within a lovely bowl,
I lie within my life, and life again
Lies folded fast within my living cell.
The apple waxes at the blossom’s root,
And like the moon I mellow to the round
Full circle of my being, till I too
Am ripe with living and my fruit is grown.
Then break the shell of life. We shall be born,
My child and I, together, to the sun.

link: rté’s ‘a rebel act: poems that shaped ireland’ –  https://www.rte.ie/player/ie/show/a-rebel-act-poems-that-shaped-ireland-30003222/10617435/ )

idealised / real landscape: in continuing my research on romanticised landscape and reality of a landscape, i have continued to collect sound recordings on the weather reports (a good week for it considering the snow!). i am not sure what / if anything might become of these recordings yet but am attracted to their sensual language and the implications these weather reports will have on the landscape.

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