In this collection Medbh McGuckian invokes the caul, once preserved above hearths as a charm against drowning and an enduring potent symbol and material reminder of the birth-bond. Justly treasured for an elaborate richness of language and the originality of her metaphorical perspectives, here she focuses on the illnesses and deaths of friends and on her mother’s long, painful decline.
This moving book examines ‘the holy land of the body’ and represents ‘a search for a safe place’, the psychological acceptance of such losses. Spells abound in it, as do Biblical references. Art helps resolve intense emotional and mental disturbance as, by the adventure of her threads of thought and the stepping stones of images, she perfects a balancing act. Through the alchemy of her art Medbh McGuckian transmutes lament into love song.
‘This latest collection contains fifty-four poems, the central one giving its title to the book. The High Caul Cap is both the name of a traditional Irish air and a symbol for the birth connection between mother and child. Here McGuckian invokes both meanings, offering the book as both a lament for the death of her mother and an acknowledgement of the connections which continue between the living and the dead, and between the living and the children just about to be born.’ — Ann Fallon, Anna Livia Review