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date: 26 January 2021

Abstract and Keywords

Before Medbh McGuckian published her first full-length collection of poetry, The Flower Master, in 1982, her poems had already appeared, and attracted attention, in pamphlets and anthologies. Her Single Ladies: Sixteen Poems and Portrait of Joanna, published in 1980, were both preoccupied with traditionally feminine activities such as marriage, childbirth, and flower-arranging. This pervasive interest in gender often struck reviewers such as Tim Dooley, Alan Jenkins, and Paul Muldoon. McGuckian was the ‘only girl’ selected for inclusion in Muldoon's Faber Book of Contemporary Irish Poetry of 1986 and the only high-profile woman among the generation of poets from Northern Ireland that include Muldoon himself, Ciaran Carson, and Frank Ormsby. Nevertheless, she clearly rejects the poetically ‘sexless’ voice and instead shows a concern with female authorship of female subjects. From masturbation to married relations and maternal loneliness, McGuckian's themes specifically relate to women. For all its ironies, The Flower Master has often been read back towards a fairly traditional identity politics. McGuckian has sometimes been viewed as the woman poet rather than a woman poet.

Keywords: Medbh McGuckian, woman poet, women, gender, identity politics, Flower Master, Paul Muldoon, Northern Ireland, Irish poetry

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