Burren Series

The Burren Series is a facing up to the way in which my ancestors created safety for themselves… with walls, with dominance, with imposition.  And how this impulse still lurks in me.  The Irish are now reclaiming their mother tongue and their traditional music.

Inspired by my artist residency in North Clare Ireland at the Burren College of Art, and Margaret Atwood’s poem:

Marsh Languages

by Margaret Atwood

The dark soft languages are being silenced:

Mothertongue Mothertongue Mothertongue

falling one by one back into the moon.


Language of marshes,

language of the roots of rushes tangled

together in the ooze,

marrow cells twinning themselves

inside the warm core of the bone:

pathways of hidden light in the body fade and wink out.


The sibilants and gutturals,

the cave language, the half-light

forming at the back of the throat,

the mouth’s damp velvet moulding

the lost syllable for “I” that did not mean separate,

are all becoming sounds no longer

heard because no longer spoken,

and everything that could once be said in them has

ceased to exist.


The languages of the dying suns

are themselves dying,

but even the word for this has been forgotten.

The mouth against skin, vivid and fading,

can no longer speak both cherishing and farewell.

There is no more longing.


Translation was never possible.

Instead there was always only

conquest, the influx

of the language of hard nouns,

the language of metal,

the language of either/or,

the one language that has eaten all the others.