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When Eilean Ni Chuilleanain was awarded the Griffin Prize for Poetry in 2010, her judges concluded, "She is a truly imaginative poet, whose imagination is authoritative and transformative. She leads us into altered or emptied landscapes... Each poem is a world complete." Such is the case with her poem "Street":
And the stairs were brushed and clean,
Her shoes paired on the bottom step,
Each tread marked with the red crescent
Her bare heels left, fading to the faintest at the top.
In one simple quatrain, Ni Chuilleanain creates a thought-provoking, intriguing scenario--a world complete in four somewhat vague lines. Who is the girl? Where is she going? Where has she come from and why are her feet bloodied (as is the interpretation one can make by the "red crescent" her footprint leaves on the stairs)? Ni Chuilleanain leaves only clues to a story, and yet the story is profound. This type of poem is usually alarming to its readers; it is startling how much one can feel when so little is revealed to us.
Take for example Ernest Hemingway's "six-word novel":
For sale: baby shoes, never worn.
Similar examples for you to look up are William Carlos Williams' "The Red Wheelbarrow," and Ezra Pound's "In a Station of the Metro." All are disarming in the way they say so much by telling so little. I would say that this is the unique approach to poetry Ni Chuilleanain takes in "Street."
Pay especially close attention to the last two lines of the poem as evidence of the very subtle clues the poet provides. She relies on the imagery of the "red crescent" left on the clean stairs, fading away as she climbs to the top, to tell this character's mysterious story.
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