Her works never fails to draw her readers into an intense engagement and this is done through her reflection on universal themes that transcend any social construct that man has ever created- her use of the narrative in her poetry always manages to capture her readers with the promise of a deeper insight into human nature, into the ways of life and of death. These promises are what make her readers so enthralled with her work and they simply cannot help but want to know more.
Eilean Ni Chuilleanain, an Irish Poet, was one of my favourite poets as a Leaving Certificate student. I know that because the above was the introduction to an essay that I had written on her for my English teacher. I found it while I was going through my old papers, looking for an old quote that I had jotted down many moons ago. I remember now that I had kept it because my teacher had called it “an examiner’s dream”
I had to pause when I found it and read this essay because it reminded me of something that had chilled me to the bones about Eilean ’s poetry.
One poem in particular stood out- “Deaths & Engines”
I had a sort of an uncomfortable romance with the poem “Deaths and Engines.”
I liked it because it spoke nothing but the truth and I hated it for that same reason.
The description of a plane coming into land immediately incites the universal human fear of being airborne and the dread of not being in control. There is an urgency to her discussion of mortality and the unpredictability of human lives. A sense of impending doom permeates throughout the poem.
I remember the example that she used in the poem. The man who survived his accident serves to reinforce this wholly human fear. The man in the poem had escaped death this time but she emphasises that his luck would run out “some time” and he would find himself faced with the eventuality of death.
Death, which is described as an acceleration “down a blind alley”.
But life, like death, is also an acceleration down a blind alley. You really never know when you will hit the wall at the end of that alley.
The poem serves as a reminder of how little control we have when we place our lives in the hands of engines.
It was a reminder that death is imminent in all our lives, it is something that we have no control over. It is nobody’s friend. It is a trickster that comes, like a thief, in the dead of night.
“You will be scattered like wreckage,
The pieces every one a different shape
Will spin and lodge in the hearts
Of all who love you”
I needed to be reminded of this poem. I had been looking for the words to describe what I had been feeling but words had failed me. I saw everyone putting up pictures and many times, I had loaded the pictures up on my phone too, captioned them.
But I always ended up deleting them.
You truly were revered by all that knew you.
You were kind, gentle, humble, generous. All of the good things.
But death happened to you. You were taken from us way too soon, and we were left standing in the wreckage of your death, realising the pain of our own mortality.
The acute awareness of how truly fragile life is.
You had an impact on every single person that you met and now that you are gone, it still feels weird to write in the past tense because you were simply so full of life.
I see now what Eilean was talking about.
I understand now that when death happens, it scatters the pieces of a person, the experiences that they gave people, the kind words that they spoke- we all remember different pieces of you and so we all have a different shaped shrapnel of grief lodged in to our hearts.
Death does not just happens to the person that dies.
It happens to the people around them, the people that love them, know them.
That is how my city feels right now. The city is heavy with dread as we all stand in the wreckage of your death.
Each mourning your loss and reeling with the fear of our own mortality.
May your beautiful kind soul rest in peace, my brother.
You will indeed be missed.