Among the recurring notes of The Brazen Serpent, is an excavation of Irish family secrets and strategies. Folk motifs and religious legends are still prominent; the poems also address certain absences of feminine images in tradition, and the task of filling in ‘the blank sheets of women’s history’. By echoing and connecting with her earlier books, a whole body of work comes into focus. These poems will last.
‘Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin employs a poetic point of view that is displaced, unspecified, and often enigmatic; her poetry resonates with ancient rites and presences from a spiritual otherworld. She is a unique poet who has influenced younger writers, broadened the scope of Irish poetry, and earned her place among the very best poets of her generation.’ — O’Shaughnessy Award citation, 1992
It’s the quiet confidence of her voice, its modesty, its convinced seriousness and toughness, its thoughtful discretion and its refusal of easy options that I especially like, as well as the kind of hard but at the same time (and in every sense) careful light in which she bathes her scenes. Her work has a fine intellectual clarity, but also a lucidity of image and narrative . . . which lends a lyrical finesse to whatever she says. In volume after slim volume (she is the most exacting pruner of her own work, or she has the patience to wait for the poem that’s right) she has accumulated a body of exquisite and substantial work that places her among the most accomplished poets now writing in, or out of, Ireland . . . The Brazen Serpent contains the work of a poet at the top of her bent, in the mature fullness of her power. It is a book of unaggressively presented mysteries, a stirring mixture of the practical and the numinous, in touch with this world and its sensuous paradoxes . . . she keeps alive, by living through in gleaming splinters of her own kind of narrative, a whole zone of our collective experience, of which her poetry is, and will be, a reliable record. —Eamon Grennan, Poetry Ireland Review