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 has lived in Dublin since 1987. She is a graduate of University College Cork, and studied Drama at Trinity College Dublin and at Central School of Speech and Drama, London. Catherine Phil MacCarthy’s awards include: the 2014 Lawrence O'Shaughnessy Award for Irish Poetry, the Dromineer Literary Festival Poetry Prize in 2012 and the Fish International Poetry Prize in 2010. She received a Bursary in Literature from the Arts Council of Ireland towards work on each of her collections, most recently in 2013 and 2020. Catherine Phil MacCarthy’s five poetry books are Daughters of the House (Dedalus Press, 2019), The Invisible Threshold (Dedalus Press, 2012), Suntrap (Blackstaff Press, 2007), the blue globe (Blackstaff Press, 1998) and This Hour of the Tide (Salmon Poetry, 1994). MacCarthy’s chapbook Sanctuary was joint winner of the Sense of Place Award, and was published in How High the Moon by Poetry Ireland (1991). Her novel, One Room an Everywhere, is published with Blackstaff Press (2003). Since 1990, her poems have been published in literary journals in Ireland, UK, USA, Canada, Australia, France, Spain and Slovenia. Catherine Phil MacCarthy’s poems have been translated into French, Spanish, Italian, and Slovenian. Her work is included in many anthologies in Ireland and abroad. She is a former editor of Poetry Ireland Review (1998/9). Catherine Phil MacCarthy’s essay, “The Island of Poetry”, on becoming a poet, is published in New Hibernia Review (Autumn, 2016). She was Writer in Residence at Centre Culturel Irlandais, Paris in the spring of 2013; at the Department of Anglo-Irish Literature, University College, Dublin (2002) and for the City of Dublin (1994). Catherine Phil MacCarthy has worked as guest writer at Dún Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design & Technology and at St Patrick’s College, and has regularly given workshops at the Irish Writers' Centre. She taught at The Drama Centre, University College Dublin, and at Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) before turning full-time to writing in 1999. Her website is: