Caitríona O'Reilly

Caitríona O’ReillyCaitríona O’Reilly’s first collection of poetry, The Nowhere Birds, was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for best first collection and won the Rooney Prize in Irish Literature. Her second collection, The Sea Cabinet, was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation and was shortlisted for the Irish Times Literary Prize. Her 2015 volume, Geis, was chosen as one of The Guardian’s Best Books of 2015. Between 2008 and 2011 she was editor of Poetry Ireland Review, and she currently sits on the editorial board of Poetry Salzburg Review. She lives in Lincolnshire, Ireland.

II. The Mermaid

Between the imaginary iceberg and the skeletal whale
is the stuffed and mounted mermaid in her case,
the crudely-stitched seam between skin and scale

so unlike Herbert Draper’s siren dreams, loose
on the swelling tide, part virgin and part harpy.
Her post-mortem hair and her terrible face

look more like P.T. Barnum’s Freak of Feejee,
piscene and wordless, trapped in the net of a stare.
She has the head and shrivelled tits of a monkey,

the green glass eyes of a porcelain doll, a pair
of praying-mantis hands, and fishy lips
open to reveal her sea-caved mouth, her rare

ivory mermaid-teeth. Children breathe and rap
on the glass to make her move. In her fixity
she’s as far as can be from the selkie who slips

her wet pelt on the beaches of Orkney
and walks as a woman, pupils widened in light,
discarding the stuffed sack of her body.

Without hearing, or touch, or taste, or smell, or sight
she echoes the numb roll of the whale
in a sea congealed with cold, when it was thought

no beast could be a nerveless as the whale.



Seminar | October 18, 2016

Reading | October 18, 2016