Máighréad Medbh


ISBN: 9781851322473

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Time plays a major role in Imbolg, Máighréad Medbh’s eighth book of poetry, which represents a period of gestation, in this case culminating in attempted personal change. Parts One, Two and Three were written between 2009 and 2016, but kernels of theme and tone resonate with her ‘Lockdown Diary’, in Part Four, written during March and April 2020.

The fifty days of ‘Lockdown Diary’ constitute a book in themselves, but are published here because the moment is apt. Arriving to them feels like the continuation of a story, except that there is no plot. As we read earlier in ‘Act’, ‘There is continuous arrival’. These are poems of movement, and arrival happens over and over as part of the nomadic thrust. ‘I walk./ Home is in repeated kisses of foot and ground’ (‘history’). In ‘Lockdown Diary’, these feet walk around a quiet housing estate, past the empty buildings of Airside Business Park.

The nomad travels a smooth space, where time becomes ‘a torn net/ intention slips through’ (‘Before the Knife’). The poems marking specific moments or periods – ‘the end of august’, ‘the second of april’, ‘Easter 2016’ – inhabit other, concentric moments, from prehistory to ‘time neither night nor day’. The moment of ‘the second of april’ involves the Fukushima disaster, which is not yet past. The same time and timelessness inform the almost Gothic narratives of ‘The Boat’ and the ‘murder poem’ with its ‘delible time’.

Change and choice with their shadows, doubt and fear, inhabit the book in differing forms, but sensual pleasure is always in the frame, and an abiding element of play. The entire is a kind of performance with a strong element of discourse, especially in ‘Lockdown Diary’. Beginning with a defiant re-birth from a womb of mirrors, the book’s action ends ironically – in the last lines of ‘Easter 2016’, where history is being forgotten, and in ‘Lockdown Diary’s’ final stanzas, where the promises of a new Gilead are complicated by the huge, intricate dynamics of the contemporary world.


But as usual there is no need to travel. These elements
transcend geography. I may sit and eat my bread

because merchants will come from Gilead laden with
balm and myrrh. And they will pause at my tent.
And there will be silver.