The Irish poetry that rescued me from radio hell… and then vanished.

hags with the bags, dublin

photo credit: infomatique via photopin cc

Yesterday I was driving through radio hell. You know radio hell. It’s that strange piece of highway that separates one region’s radio stations from another’s. I was headed into New York and had left Connecticut’s frequencies behind me, and I was trying to find anything to listen to that wasn’t a duet by Fun. or a baseball game. Then I heard a woman’s voice speaking in Irish.

I don’t speak Irish. The last words of Gaelic in my family died with my grandmother, and I suspect those were swears (when I was a little girl I begged her to teach me and she always changed the subject.) But I know Irish when I hear it, so I kept listening.

Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill, poetryIt was a radio show about women Irish poets and the divine feminine, and I’d come in on the program half-way through, and was listening to the voice of Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill as she turned the tables on the men who objectified women with a lovely poem called “Nude.” I listened to her work, and the work of others whose names I didn’t quite catch, although I heard the name, and possibly the voice, of Medbh McGuckian and a younger poet also named Nuala, but I was checking my directions and didn’t get her family name.

Medbh McGuckian, poetryThe show ended and I reached my destination at the same time. I didn’t think to check the station, I just leaped out of the car. Big mistake. Because when I came home hours later, I remembered the show and I wanted to listen to the beginning of it, but I could not find it on the Internet. I don’t have call letters. I don’t have the number on the dial. I have nothing but what I think is the title: “Women Irish Poets and the Divine Feminine.” That’s probably not even it. It’s the Brigadoon of radio shows; when I turned the car on later, the station was broadcasting in Spanish. It just wasn’t there.

I’m generations away from Ireland on both sides of my family; my great grandparents came to the U.S. one hundred years ago and my grandparents married French Canadians and Italians, and so we have all kinds of different blood in the family.

Despite that, the radio show and that poetry were so familiar to me; I couldn’t understand the language, but I could understand the sentiments and attitude, and most of the subject matter. I know that particular brand of Catholicism and also, that brand of paganism that lives (denied) in even the most devout Irish Catholic. Mostly though, I recognized the tone of the women; romance and passion and poetry mixed with a kind of spare, practical, matter-of-factness that I remember hearing in the voices of my grandmother and her cousins, and that I often hear in my mother’s voice.

So this is where I beg for help. I’m going to keep searching for this phantom radio show, but if you know what I’m talking about, if you know the station or heard the show, please, please, please leave a comment and tell me where I can find it! I’m desperate to hear the parts I missed and read the poetry for myself (but in English.)

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4 thoughts on “The Irish poetry that rescued me from radio hell… and then vanished.

  1. We broadcast several Celtic shows on WFUV 90.7 FM in New York, we’re located in the Bronx (formerly known as Radio Hell) at Fordham University. We may or may not be what you were listening to, but either way, it sounds like you’re sure to find something you want to hear, like Mile Failte or A Thousand Welcomes (Saturday mornings) and Ceol na nGael (Sunday afternoons) plus Fiona Richie’s Thistle and Shamrock. There’s also some pretty great music the rest of the week.

    • Oh wow; Laura, I don’t know if I’ve actually heard your voice on the radio, but I know your name. I don’t think that the show I heard was on your station (you guys are super organized and it would have been archived for me to find) but I want you to know that I love me some WFUV! I love your Celtic programs, especially the Thistle and the Shamrock and A Thousand Welcomes and I love Dennis Elsas, Darren DeVivo, Rita Houston and of course, Corny O’Connell. Thank you so much for commenting.

  2. Pingback: Mysterious Irish poetry: FOUND. | The Garret

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