The Gaelic Garden of the Dead

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THE GAELIC GARDEN OF THE DEAD

"You are holding in your hands a spell of sibylline leaves." — Ishion Hutchinson     

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"‘Violent and formal’ - the phrase is John Berryman’s - in a language both lupercal and arboreal, MacGillivray’s THE GAELIC GARDEN OF THE DEAD is magnificent. It is neither violent or formal for its own sake, but rebels against complacent, lyrical histories in voices compressed to a haunting and haunted diamond precision. What vivid strangeness, for instance, to hear again the unsung recusant poet, Mary Queen of Scots, in our secular millennium? The chromatic lines balance splendidly on the razor-edge between imaginary and real time, making her a high modernist in the tradition of her great voice-walkers and forebears Burns, Scott, and MacDiarmid.You are holding in your hands a spell of sibylline leaves."

- Ishion Hutchinson

 

"MacGillivray’s poems come at us with one language wearing the pelt of another, and in the affray that follows it is hard to tell whether dead or living mouth carries the fiercer bite. Blood-boltered, thrawn and unco, her work is a Samhain of unexorcised historical memory, ventriloquized with the ‘cognition of bone’. Here the blasted landscapes of the pre-forgotten present give way to the richer patternings of the tree alphabet, all under the sovereignty of our highland Orpheus, the executed Mary Queen of Scots. Not since Sorley MacLean hymned the woods of Raasay have the ghosts of the Gaelic past bestrode the present more imperiously."

- David Wheatley