A ghost in the throat by

21 April 2024

Call no:
Genre: , ,
Rated :

It is hard to categorise this book. It is an exploration of a poem. It is a memoir of a poet. It is an exploration of one woman’s life. The DDC lists it at 828.92 – English miscellaneous writing from 2000-. I guess that is as good a description as anything else.


It starts with the line “This is a female text.”

I’m never sure what I think about such exclamations. Because, yes, it is important to have women’s voices, and women’s writing, and that we look back at how women have been excluded from history. And we should celebrate the “innumerable chores” that have made up the life of half the population throughout history just as much as we celebrate so called great deeds. Without the everyday there is no opportunity to shine. Every great person is dependent on so much unseen and unvalued work and effort. We don’t think about it, or we devalue it. It’s just drudgery.

Ní Ghríofa celebrates this “drudge-work”, she loves her life as a mother and a home-maker.

Some part of me always thinks what does this person mean by “female”, because there is no universal experience of femaleness. Celebrating motherhood is important, but is being a woman tied up with with being a mother? For some, yes. For others, no.

And also, isn’t every experience different, even if they’re similar. So what does it mean to say that this is a female text?

Maybe it just means that this is a story that has been excluded from value. This is a work that points out that these things happen, and these things are important. They may not have been celebrated throughout history, and even now they may be shunted away into “women’s spaces”, but these things are important and deserve to be acknowledged and celebrated.

In which case I’m all for more female texts.

I’m also getting bogged down in this opening line, but it is such an important one. It’s also the final line. It means something.

And, as an exploration of Caoineadh Airt Uí Laoghaire this book is also a female text exploring and celebrating another female text.

For those that don’t know, Caoineadh Airt Uí Laoghaire was written in the 18th century by Eibhlín Dubh Ní Chonaill, it is a keening poem, a poem of grief and anger over the murder of her husband. I first read it in school, it was on the curriculum. And it has stayed with me since then, I even posted an extract on this blog way back in 2004,1 but I never really explored it much. It is a poem that grabs you, it is honest and so emotional, even over the centuries you can feel the loss and the love.

I can totally understand Ní Ghríofa getting obsessed with it. It is a poem that should have untold tumblr posts extolling it2

Anyway, I’d highly recommend this book, it is an absorbing, engrossing read. And I love the fact that the author talks about such normal every day things, because these are the things that are truly important and essential. Big gestures, grand actions, okay fine whatever, but the dedication to look after someone or something day in and day out, that’s what shows you really care.

  1. yes I am old 

  2. or tiktoks, I haven’t looked, maybe they exist 

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