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Cáit O'Neill McCullagh

An experienced archaeologist, curator, educator and essayist, Cáit started writing poetry in December 2020. Since then, she’s had numerous poems published in journals, anthologies and exhibitions, including: Northwords Now, Poetry Scotland, Ink Sweat & Tears, Howl: New Irish Writing, New Writing Scotland, The Storms, The Poets Republic. Her poems and essays, literary criticism and reviews have appeared in anthologies: ’Beyond the Swelkie’, ‘Bella Caledonia: An Anthology of Writing from 2007 – 2021’, ‘Not the Time to be Silent: Collected Works’, and the forthcoming ‘We Need to Talk About Knives.’ She’s been a guest reader at festivals and gatherings throughout Scotland and Ireland.

In 2022, Cáit was Co-winner, with Sinéad McClure, of Dreich’s ‘Classic Chapbook Competition’ for their co-authored pamphlet 'The songs I sing are sisters'. Her first full collection will be published by Drunk Muse Press in early 2024. A trustee of Moniack Mhor Creative Writing Centre, and The Wee Gaitherin she is committed to supporting opportunities for fellow poets, including those who, like herself, come from backgrounds where becoming a poet seems an unimaginable possibility. She continues to outrun a diagnosis of cancer identified spring 2022, and writing her PhD research carried out with communities throughout Orkney and Shetland. This has included co-creating new writing and films exploring how people co-curating their own cultural expressions can counter previously marginalising narratives, and contribute to imagining more possible futures.


Cáit O'Neill McCullagh

For the mothers, babies, and the unborn of Tuam

to remind me that the sun will return
I paint ochre onto your body
this unruly loll of limbs and hair
and I chew the deer’s hide soft
to make a shroud of teeth and hooves
for you, birthed but never borne
wings clipped at your moment of flight
I bury you among these mounds
they circle the turf like beads of coal

your body, I give to oil and quartz
to this necklace of jet and bog
cradled upon the wing of a swan
stories swarm like beetles from your grave
carved between the care of earth and stars
torn from this throat, tarred with tears
they fall like arrows from a bow
and they tell of swans and geese
and hungry women who hunt
each tale is like a fawn lost in the forest
in the quietening, we hear its pulse

people, who will always be poets
will search the whole world’s ebb for your stories
they will tell how the fire-ochre sun opened-up your wings
and how you fanned its flames all about the earth

First published in Bella Caledonia, then in ‘The songs I sing are sisters’,
Co-winner of Dreich’s ‘Classic Chapbook 2022’.

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