Poem by English Ph.D. Student and Creative Writing MFA Ailbhe Darcy Featured by The Guardian

Author: Mary Hendriksen

A poem by University of Notre Dame English doctoral candidate Ailbhe Darcy is this week’s Poem of the Week in The Guardian.

Given that last week’s featured poem was William Shakespeare’s “The Phoenix and the Turtle,” Darcy’s “Silt Whisper” is in good company.

Ailbhe Darcy

Born in Dublin, Ireland, Darcy entered Notre Dame’s doctoral program in English in Fall 2008. While completing coursework in her Ph.D. program and beginning her dissertation research, she earned an MFA in poetry from Notre Dame’s program in Creative Writing, working with Joyelle McSweeney.

Imaginary Menagerie book cover

“Silt Whisper” is included in Darcy’s first full-length collection of poetry, Imaginary Menagerie (Bloodaxe Books, 2011), which was shortlisted this year for the Strong Award. Previously, she published a chapbook of her poetry, A Fictional Dress, with tall-lighthouse press (2009). She co-edits the Irish e-journal Moloch and writes critically for The Stinging Fly in Ireland and The Critical Flame in the US.

In this week’s column, The Guardian‘s poetry editor Carol Rumens noted that Darcy’s work "is funny and stylish, with an agile, zesty erudition and no lack of political fire. But the quieter poems are appealing, too – poems like ’Silt Whisper,’ which is oblique and tender, and reminds us that poetry’s language needn’t always strive to say it all.”

As a doctoral student, Darcy’s focus is on contemporary Irish poetry and recent lyric theory. She pursues these topics under the direction of Prof. Briona Nic Dhiarmada and Prof. Romana Huk.

“In my doctoral work I’m looking at how poets have responded to breakneck developments in Irish society using strategies specific to lyric’s arsenal,” Darcy explains. “In the last few years, the sudden affluence of the Celtic Tiger period gave way to recession, unemployment and emigration. Meanwhile, a society that had relied on the Catholic Church to provide structure lost faith in the Church as an institution. My dissertation examines how lyric has been retooled by poets such as Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, Justin Quinn, Peter Sirr and Vona Groarke to think through the role of the individual in a society undergoing such massive change.”

Yet, Darcy is first and foremost a poet.

“More than anything else, poetry is what I do,” she says. “I came to the PhD in search of the time and the space to think about poetry – poetry’s ends and its means, and the Irish tradition in particular.”

Before entering Notre Dame, Darcy studied English and French at University College Dublin, which included a year at Université Paris X, Nanterre, and received her BA (International) in 2004. She went on to receive a master’s degree in publishing from the University of the Arts, London in 2005, as well as a master’s of science in development studies from University College Dublin in 2006.