Death of an Irishwoman by Michael Hartnett is a poem that splits opinion. It appears to be a tribute to a woman that has died, but the comparisons and descriptions are not the most flattering.
Death of an Irishwoman was voted inside Ireland’s 100 favourite poems by readers of the Irish Times in 1999.
Death of an Irishwoman
Ignorant, in the sense
She ate monotonous food
And thought the world was flat,
And pagan, in the sense
She knew the things that moved
All night were neither dogs or cats
But hobgoblin and darkfaced men
She nevertheless had fierce pride.
But sentenced in the end
To eat thin diminishing porridge
In a stone-cold kitchen
She clenched her brittle hands
Around a world
She could not understand.
I loved her from the day she died.
She was a summer dance at the crossroads.
She was a cardgame where a nose was broken.
She was a song that nobody sings.
She was a house ransacked by soldiers.
She was a language seldom spoken.
She was a child’s purse, full of useless things.