MEDBH MCGUCKIAN Biography - Famous Poets and dancers


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Medbh (pronounced "Maeve") McGuckian is a poet born on August 12, 1950 into a         
Catholic family in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Due to the fact that she is a           
northern Irish, Catholic woman, McGuckian must deal with severe social,               
political, and religious tensions. She says,                                           
I know being a woman for me for a long time was being less, being excluded,           
being somehow cheap, being inferior, being sub. I associated being a woman with       
being a Catholic and being Irish with being from the North, and all of these           
things being not what you wanted to be. If you were a woman, it would have been       
better to be a man; if you were Catholic, it would have been a lot easier to be       
Protestant; if you were from the North, it was much easier to be from the South;       
if you were Irish, it was much easier to be English. So it was like everything         
that I was was wrong; everything that I was was hard, difficult, and a                 
punishment. (Sered)                                                                   
It is these inherent tensions that form the basis for much of her poetry.             
McGuckian is the third of six children. Her father worked as the headmaster of a       
school and as a farmer, and her artistic mother served as an early influence on       
McGuckian. For her secondary-school education, she attended a Dominican convent,       
where she came to the conclusion that she wanted to be a poet. Consequently, she       
went on to attend Queenís University, Belfast in 1968. There, she studied             
English, met and took classes from Seamus Heaney, and received her B.A. in 1972.       
McGuckian continued her education and did postgraduate work in the English             
department of Queenís University until 1974 when she received an M.A. During           
that time, she began to write for local papers and magazines. One of her poems         
was first published in 1975. After graduation, she went back to her secondary-school   
to teach English. She also taught at St. Patrick's Boys' College in East Belfast.     
In 1977, she married John McGuckian, also a teacher. They have three sons and         
one daughter and currently reside in Belfast.                                         
Since the publication of her first volume of poetry, The Flower Master in 1982,       
she has written six more collections. She became the first woman to be named           
writer-in-residence at Queen's University in 1986, and has received many other         
honors as well. Commonly known among critics as one of the most obscure poets of       
the twentieth-century, McGuckian uses a rich, lyrical style and well-defined           
grammatical structure to hold together her mysterious feminine imagery. Although       
McGuckian's poetry focuses on many subjects common to the female experience, it       
is written in a voice so undeniably private, that it is almost impossible to           
gain an understanding of her personal experiences with femininity and motherhood.     
McGuckian's secrecy serves both as a protective barrier for her and as a               
seduction of the reader. Commenting on poetry, she writes,                             
I feel that you're going public--by writing the poem you're becoming a whore.         
You're selling your soul which is worse than prostitution--in a sense you're           
vilifying your mind. I do feel that must be undertaken with the greatest               
possible fastidiousness. (Wills 63)                                                   
Such beliefs leave McGuckian's poetry open to a variety of different                   
interpretations and meanings.