Luminaries in the Literary Firmament

by Emily Cullen

Shoulder to shoulder we fought with the men
Inghinidhe na hEireann, Cumann na mBan
Irish soldiers, Irish citizens
many of us artists, wielders of the pen
like Dorothy Macardle or Grace,
who sketches astute political cartoons
but they’re trying to limit our public space
confine us to that domestic place
as they define the parameters of the new Free State
and we will never be luminaries in the literary firmament
if we wait for the flame of De Valera’s benevolence
like some presiding Angel of Charity
because The Chief cannot envision parity
nor will we be read in The Field Day Anthology.

He is drafting a Bunreacht
for the betterment of our country
now decades of women will have to embark
upon a different fight for freedom
for he says we’ll be required by the Republic
to honour our duties at home to our families
and they’re bringing in a Marriage Bar
to limit our mobility, we’ll have to
relinquish our independence
defer hopes of a quick release
from the internment camp of the home
where our deadlocks or difficulties
dissolve in official invisibility

Oh Article 41.2
it’s high time we abolished you
but in the meantime
from my kitchen station:
When life in the home seems filled with care
and worries crowd you everywhere
be brave – give way not to despair
Do not let your spirit be curbed

Do not waste your time here!


Reproduced with kind permission of the author. This poem was composed in a Poetry as Commemoration workshop at the Museum of Literature Ireland (MoLI) on 12th of October, 2023. The workshops were led by poet Christodoulos Makris.

Inspired by a mash-up from ‘Ná Bac Leis’, 1921.
Collection: UCD-OFM Irregular News
Reference: 2 OFM 0042A
Archive: UCD Special Collections