By Catherine Phil MacCarthy

Daughters of the House

The fifth collection of poems by Catherine Phil MacCarthy


All Poetry, Poetry from Ireland


Daughters of the House, Catherine Phil MacCarthy’s fifth collection, opens with poems that arose during a residency in Paris. It begins with glimpses of that city in the present before reaching back to consider some of the many Irish artists who were drawn to and lived in the city, as well as the country they left behind.

The poems in Daughters of the House reflect on moments in Irish history from the 1880s through the early 20th century, and honour historical figures such as Maud Gonne, Michael Davitt and Sarah Purser.

The movement towards independence and the making of Ireland are preoccupations, as are the links between colonisation and globalisation.

Her poems flesh out the full layers of meaning in a simple moment that is flawlessly registered. At other times, and with the same concision, MacCarthy condenses the heartbreak of an Irish short story.
— O’Shaughnessy Award for Irish Poetry citation


Along Rue Lacépède, a window on shoes
and leather belts. Inside the door,
the rich odour.

A man, at a counter, lays aside his work,
displays shoes he makes himself
for dancing, classical jazz.

‘Pelure’ is the word that he suggests,
offering to fit a waist. I think of live calves.
Vellum. The Book of Kells. My father

choosing a belly-band for a horse
at Carews, William Street,
a new ‘winkers’ for the mare.

There, tools are clipped on a wall.
Here again, the gilt-embossed S
on a black sewing machine,

its wrought-iron treadle spells
S-I-N-G-E-R. Monsieur praises
the invention, shows the needle’s eye.

There’s my mother at the table
hand winding the wheel,
her mouth full of pins,

rat-tat-tat of the silvery metal foot
between mid-finger and index.
The needle drills a long seam

to sew a new dress, a summer shift,
a dancing skirt in green poplin,
the bobbin spinning. Fabric

cascades onto the floor,
a waterfall spilling from a bolt
across the table. All business,

new words drop from her lips,
‘muslin’, ‘chiffon’, ‘bias’,

Daughters of the House
May 2019
ISBN 978 1 910251 52 2 paperback
ISBN 978 1 910251 53 9 hardback
70 pp

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About The Author


Catherine Phil MacCarthy was born in Co. Limerick in 1954 and studied at University College Cork, Trinity College Dublin, and Central School of Speech and Drama, London. She taught at Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) and at The Drama Centre, University College Dublin, before turning full-time to writing in 1999. She is the author of four poetry books, This Hour of the Tide (1994); the blue globe (1998), Suntrap (2007) and The Invisible Threshold (Dedalus Press, 2012). She has also published a novel, One Room an Everywhere (2003). A former editor of Poetry Ireland Review, she has worked as Writer in Residence for the City of Dublin (1994), and at the Department of Anglo-Irish Literature, University College, Dublin (2002). She has also worked as guest writer at Dún Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design & Technology, and regularly leads workshops in Poetry at the Irish Writers' Centre. She won the National Women’s Poetry Competition in 1990, was a prizewinner in the 1992 Patrick Kavanagh Awards, and was shortlisted for the Austin Clarke Prize in 1996. The recipient of Arts Council bursaries for poetry in 1994, 1998, and 2007/8, she was the winner of The International Fish Poetry Prize in 2010. Catherine Phil MacCarthy is the recipient of the 2014 Lawrence O'Shaughnessy Award for Poetry, administered by the University of St Paul, MN, USA.