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Where's Katie?
June 2010

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The Radio was Gospel
November 2013


Elaine Feeney

ISBN: 978-1-910669-83-9

Page Count: 110

Publication Date: Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Cover Artwork: Design & Artwork: Ray Glasheen Design

About this Book

‘Feeney’s poems have a pounding physical presence yet they run away with the mind.’
Mike McCormack

‘Elaine Feeney is a poet for today—a bold, direct voice unafraid to speak to global politics past and present, to men, to Ireland, to the multi-edged experience of being woman, body, mother, daughter, worker. In Rise, Feeney unabashedly excavates personal and political trauma and experience with a frank tenderness and a mighty imagination, her signature scalpel-like lines boldly laying open the many-storied private worlds of the poet’s mind. A poet of deep intelligence, who implicitly understands the interconnectedness of everything, in Rise Feeney graciously maps out those connections for us. Whether walking through Dublin or lying on an operating table, imagining herself a Degas dancer or arguing in a Belfast bar, Feeney’s empathic and honest verse is both a documentation of and a transgressive counter-narrative to the accepted “norms” around her. Audacious, rhythmic, and brilliant, this collection is a triumph, con rming what many of us already know—that if anyone can open our eyes to the world, it’s Elaine Feeney.’
Katie Raissian

‘In the jumbled up world and words of a near-death experience, Elaine Feeney has found the perfect pitch for her new profound poetry. She continues to explore the fragility of now, but she never loses sight of the inhumanity of our recent past, as in ‘Harvest’, which relates to the Mother and Baby Home in Tuam, or in the state’s treatment of women in ‘History Lesson’ and ‘Wrongheaded’. Feeney really de es what we know to be the formal look of a poem and her risk-taking and courage certainly pays off. In Rise she wields endless poems of resistance and vigour.’
Rita Ann Higgins

‘Elaine Feeney is the freshest, most engaging, and certainly the most provocative poet to come out of Ireland in the last decade... a very important Irish voice.’
Fionnula Flanagan

‘Her poetry is a full-blooded assertion of womanhood with no holds barred and de nitely no apology.’
Des Kenny

‘Extraordinary... in the world of Kate Tempest meets Warsan Shire and we’ll throw in Tom McIntyre for the rural in uences... Brilliant.” 
RTÉ Radio 1’s Arena

'Out of a bog of Dylan, Degas, & Heaney, up from the wizened path of female poeisis that once stretched, miserly, between Dickinson’s solitude and the suicide of Sylvia Plath, rises Elaine Feeney, with poems that tell history like the gossip it really is, giving body to a world of moments that in this late age still struggle to be told. Reading RISE has resurrected my sense of sound, of the dignity of all labor, and the mystic, enervating work of motherhood and girlhood and even rhyme. I’m so grateful for it.'
Ariana Reines

Author Biography

Elaine Feeney is an award-winning writer from Galway. Rise is her third full poetry collection following Where’s Katie? (2010) and The Radio was Gospel (2014), all published by Salmon. She published her first chapbook, Indiscipline, with Maverick Press in 2007. Feeney’s work is translated into over a dozen languages and is widely published. In 2016, Liz Roche Company commissioned Feeney to write for a national production to witness and record through dance, film and narrative, the physical experience of being a woman and bodily choice in Ireland. Entitled Wrongheaded, a film of the same name, directed by Mary Wycherley, accompanies the production. It premiered at Tiger Dublin Fringe Festival and is currently touring.  Feeney has just finished both a pilot comedy series, The Fannypack, with writers Aoibheann McCann and Aoife Nic Fhearghusa, which was highly commended by BAFTA, and her first novel, SIC[K]. She intends to take a break now and perhaps keep bees or make furniture.

For readings, interviews or review copies contact

Tweets @elainefeeney16

Read a sample from this book


night so dark         the clouds were 
coming down on us
and she said
we can cut them back with scissors
and a day so black    the night was 
always present
and she said
we can slice it with this          knife
alive                    I have one 
in my apron pocket
and   all   the   while   of  tumbling
        we sliced 
day   to   night   to   day   to  night
and the child in her belly
would too be safely sliced
to air
                       to a thick fog
of the world         a suet of activity
a sludge    they think world
resembles  womb   but   it   doesn’t

there  is  no  such  thing  as womb
there is woman and organ
uterus       brain       lung        skin
heart               they can 
do good                        or
sometimes they can           kill her
till you all know this         
we will carry sharpened
blades in our            apron pockets


When the fourth doctor said

your son is an egg cracked by a hammer

I thought how no-one makes an 
without cracking

you heard the vicious 
onomatopoeic word 
as a terrible screaming
so now darlings

let us break everything up 

(like she did to a life’s work)

I offer you this

crack is needed to be born

ed is somewhat unfixable 

therefore let us settle on the 
hammer’s potential 
to build

In Montmartre with Degas

Who owns these hips                             these awful saucer over-lacquered eyes 
and abandoned pink-jellyfish-on-the-rock lips             this harsh-one-layer-mono 
does nothing for my double chin                                but you already know that
I’m no ballet dancer       my delusions a smelting loss|love      me ever on parole 
but that mendacious muff and wiggle-butt is way off                                stuff it
down your tight pants         I note though        how a citrine sun makes me smile

              and I softly come at midnight                   once in a while on Beaujolais 
and someone’s hard hands to roll up my             dried tiny tobacco leaves
leaves a yellow-after to stain to my teeth                     your fingers crunch-roll it

                               like when I was much younger and could pivot like a dancer 
but you never believe that story                though I’ve told you a thousand times
like this stinking oily fish on the zaffre and white enamel dish is rotting in the sun

                     behind the Louvre doors I lie nude on the furs and wax coats
stinking of musk and man and dead and fowl and what
is past and to come is only the rapid                                  shortening of breaths 

and more certain of my last escape as I am left on your canvas            wobblyfull 
and whole           I keep thinking I should walk out                           or walk back

History Lesson  

The Stone Age began around 10,000 years before Jesus came 
and made the Christians. 
There were others too. Gods. Ages. Stones. 

In 2010, a man tells me I shouldn’t wear purple tights if 
I want to be middle management. 

It’s all about impressions and right now you’re giving off a purple 
kind of flowery one. 
Same with tattoos and piercings. Rotten teeth.

I keep the purple tights on my curved legs. I have no rotten teeth. 
He keeps power. Mostly in his pants. He has a mouth of silver fillings.

My mother was born in a three-bedroom terrace in 1955. 
She wanted to be the cowboy with a cap gun on the street,
Christmas Day.  
She wasn’t mad about the injians. 
She never knew her history and it drives her mad.
She’s a furious reader.
Taught me to be a furious reader. Read us endless stories. 
Even stories that matched our birth dates. 
They were my favourite. Her voice growing tired. 

People began to farm and lay down roots and make cheese and
they say the first farm men were very clever men, 
knew how to balance staying beside the sea and not getting wet.

My Nana brings digestive biscuits into the
London air raid shelter night after night. 
Somewhere near St. Thomas’s she said. 
She calls her first son Thomas. My Dad. 
He teaches me three things; 

always drive into skid marks on an icy road.
He is the most important person in the world. 
And when I’m not a cunt, I’m not too bad at all. 
Honestly.  All things considered. 

Nana is glad of the break from slopping out shit buckets 
in the hospital. 
She’s not a hundred per cent sure who’s dropping bombs 
on her, 
but she likes the evening company. They sing songs. 
She loves to sing.

Her mother died when she was four from a burst appendix. 
She’s never been very sure of anything since except how 
she loves to sing.
And how very very tall and very handsome her father was. 
She liked to drink brandy and smoke the odd cigarette. 

I spent one full hour convincing some friends that women 
said poems in Ireland before 
Eavan Boland.  The women friends are suspicious. 
They have English degrees.

It’s difficult to remember who first sailed around the 
Cape of Good Hope,
or of Storms, Diaz or Da Gama? But man’s stealing stuff 
takes a Frankensteinian turn. 
Or at least now some ass is keeping a logbook of all the 
bastarding things they can do to others.

This would appear to be a good thing. 
Silk and spice being basic human needs, 
like diamonds and bread and the internet and hoarding.

We can say for sure that Magellan proved the world was round even if;

a woman is laying under a sycamore tree 
and watches a dappled grey horse gallop towards her, 
steely long legs appear all of a shot, not making sense, 
she is a long time pregnant, her nipples thick and dark. 
Soon she will give birth, she knows the earth is round 
as she sees the horse over her large belly. 
It is all too sudden. It must be a ball. 

And besides, Magellan died through his experiment. 
But this is just a technicality. 
She keeps this information to herself. 
She doesn’t believe in the many of their any gods.
And besides, she doesn’t want to die for knowing stuff.

Christopher Columbus was a great man.

In the small salmon bedroom of her terrace house,
they put chloroform over my other Nana’s nose on one 
of her eleven labours.  
This child survives. She’s thankful for not losing another child.
Do your duty. You must do your duty.
It is sometime in the 60s, she’s not too sure. She was 
collapsed, she tells me.

Skip through Martin Luther, Jean Calvin, straight to the Jesuits. 

We are all Roman Catholic. It says it on the school door. 
We’ve cleaned up ‘the abuses’ with PR machines as
immovable as Croagh Patrick.  We will ruin you in this town. 
Protestantism allowed a randy king marry a younger woman, 
stands for nothing but leaving your toaster out on the sink.

There was never really a Civil War in Ireland. 
A few brothers had a fight, down in Cork or West Cork, 
or actually I think it was Mayo.
Give it five minutes class coverage at most. 
Actually I don’t think you need to teach it at all, there’s confession 
that day.
Michelangelo, Petrarch, Raphael, Dürer, now they were all great men.
I could go on.  And on.  And on.  And I will. 

2015 is the first year I read a comprehensive list of female 
Renaissance artists, Sofonisba Anguissola was a friend 
of Michelangelo. Bet he copied her.

The Industrial Revolution was a great time, lots of great inventions, 
made great by the Agricultural Revolution, lots of food to make 
the men great. 

Many women worked in the factories, 
I don’t know their names. 
They only teach about a Spinning Jenny. 
And I think this is named after an ass. 

In 2007 a doctor tells me I have a brain clot, 
I am pregnant, I ask him of the option of a termination. 
He tells me that I will change my mind when I am a mother. 
‘I am a mother,’ I say. 

I heard three women’s names mentioned in my History Class. 
Nano Nagle, Constance Markievicz and Mary Robinson. 
I try to imagine what they would do. 

My first boyfriend punches me seven times on Shop Street 
and we end up in the hospital because he puts his fist 
through the window of a shop my uncle works in 
(bad coincidence). But I am in terror in case anyone 
has recognised me. The shame. 

In 1927 women are banned from sitting on juries in Ireland.

History lessons. In 1935 contraception is banned in Ireland. 

The hospital give me a card for domestic violence abuse victims. 
I am embarrassed at how little they know about me. 
And how much I can raise a man’s temper. 
And my poor ability to mind my men.
I put the card in the bin and withstand another year 
for love. 

I cannot mind my men. I keep this secret. For now.
I think of Mary Robinson again. I feel a bit of a shit.

It will take a decade before I realise I do not rise temper 
in anyone. 
They rise all by themselves. This should be the first lesson.  

Mussolini’s rise to power was made easy by the colour of their shirts, 
the communists, 
the Treaty of Versailles and his March on Rome.  

I meet Ariana Reines for the first time in 2015. We drink 
ginger cocktails in a bar in Copenhagen, I promise I will 
use the word cock more in my work. 
I still cannot come up with a proper name for my own 
cock area. I like the word cunt, but I like to use it angrily 
at those I hate.  
I am blown away by Ms. Reines, 
and how the paper won’t refuse her ink. I only wish I met 
her sooner.

The 1916 Rising was neither a rebellion nor a revolution; 
it was a thing apart entirely. 
It was a glorious thing, with god and glory and rising.

And look at us all now. 
I ask my class why 1916 makes them happy?
They tell me it’s better than being fucking English. 
Although a few of them are English, but they like being Irish too.

The men often signed the Solemn League and Covenant in blood.

I correct the use of the word fucking as a race adjective.

I have never taught with an openly gay teacher. 

Medieval times meted out some cruel punishments, most of which 
are still being perfected and used in the world today. 
Though most kids will come away thinking knights are cool 
and castles had great shooting windows and the past is the 
past and The Enlightenment, oh how enlightened it made us all. 
Particularly the men, who in turn could chose what to do with 
enlightening the women, and all the other races they had to 
deal with too.

Savita Halappanavar dies in October 2012. I cannot stop crying.

2017, My London Bombing Nana is dead and the 
Salmon Bedroom Nana is trying hard to remember. 

All poems © copyright Elaine Feeney 2017


Review: Rise reviewed by Des Kenny for The Galway Advertiser, Thursday 11th May, 2017

LAST YEAR marked the 35th anniversary of the founding of Salmon press, during which its incredible contribution to Galway's cultural life was fully celebrated. Those heady days of the eighties were brought back to mind when Rita Ann Higgins, Mary O’Malley, and Eva Bourke were given a platform to present their challenging poems to a bewildered, if generally receptive, audience.

It is heartening to see Salmon continuing this tradition by publishing such equally challenging poets as Sarah Clancy, Kerrie O’Brien, Dani Gill, and Elaine Feeney. That such poets continue to question our perceived (and comfortable ) boundaries is amply demonstrated by Rise, Elaine Feeney's third, and by far most ambitious and ground breaking, collection.

In the second poem, her impatience to get the ball moving surfaces: “I dressed myself in the morning’s hawkish cold,/lit by my neighbour’s hand torch in the field over./Early rise makes flickering reels on the curtain hem./I painted on my face shadows in circles,/as he fed grazing silage to the cow on her knees,/full as a winter barrel of rainwater./And me, willing hard to keep my powder dry,/or at the very list, today, hold my whist."

Her effort to “hold my whist” doesn’t last long. The next poem opens with a more despondent note “There’s nothing holy about dying on a hospital ward./ There’s nothing at all about it./There’s no worship or heroics about it.” Her near death experience unleashes her anger, but her husband calms her: “And I respect him. Only him, he has a quiet way to silence me with his love.”

From then on, Feeney's holds nothing back, her anger, fear, and vulnerability expressing itself forcefully as she tries to come to grips with her womanhood in a hostile and uncaring world, courageously exploring the English language in trying to make sense of it all. Her frustration in not achieving this, results in a series of angry poems, sometimes descending to the level of ranting, until she resolves her personal dilemma by discarding her vulnerability and facing her demons.

The final poem 'Rise' is a rallying call, and not just for herself or her gender: “rise the love in your bed/rise your husband/rise her husband rise your boss/and keep doing it/make them earn you/rise them out of it/rise yourself into it”. She finishes the poem and the collection with: “rise out of their history books and into your history/ write it down yourself/bring it with you/ even on the back of your hand to remind you?/it’s there rising”.

Rise is a courageous, honest, and generous collection, a rallying call for all humanity to surmount the barricades of our fears and to face them down. It deserves our close attention.

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