Eilean Ni Chuilleanain has apparently been accused by one past reviewer of lacking “killer instinct”, whatever that is supposed to mean when one is crafting poetry. (At any rate, Ni Chuilleanain turns that phrase to striking advantage in one of the most vibrant pieces in this collection.) The poems in The Sun-fish are dense, demand undivided attention and are often understated, sometimes to a fault. However, Ni Chuilleanain’s simultaneously grounded and transcendent verse pays off with fresh, sometimes pointed insights into human resilience.
Deserving winner of the 2010 International Griffin Poetry Prize, The Sun-fish even shades into the acerbic with selections such as the delightfully sly “Vertigo” (“How did such smart women acquire such a mother?”). “The Sister” is a haunting selection, which Ni Chuilleanain read at the Griffin Poetry Prize readings in the spring of 2010:
Reflective reading will reward the patient reader of this deceptively slim but surprisingly rich and deep collection.