Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

Cailleach: The Hag of Beara

Rate this book
An Cailleach Bhearra. Hag of Beara, is a wise woman figure embedded in the physical and mental landscape of western Ireland and Scotland. The Cailleach's (pronounced Ca-lock or Cay-luck) roots lie in pre-Christian Ireland, and stories of her relationship with that rugged landscape and culture still abound. She had a love affair with a sea god and her petrified body overlooks the Ballycrovane Harbour, from which she is reborn at the beginning of each of her many lives. These poems explore the human origins from which the legend grew.

62 pages, Paperback

First published April 30, 2009

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Leanne O'Sullivan

6 books9 followers

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
22 (57%)
4 stars
10 (26%)
3 stars
4 (10%)
2 stars
2 (5%)
1 star
0 (0%)
Displaying 1 - 4 of 4 reviews
Profile Image for Julie.
Author 6 books1,699 followers
March 19, 2014
Perched on hill overlooking Ballycrovane Harbor, in the wild, remote Beara Peninsula of West Cork, sits a humped, ragged block of stone. One edge resembles the profile of a woman, her furrowed brow arched over a proud nose, staring out to sea. She is An Cailleach Bheara, the Hag of Beara, the mother of Ireland. Her story is Ireland's story, her survival the enduring drama of a tortured land of legendary beauty.

Into the stormy legends wends the sublime poetry of Leanne O'Sullivan, like a cool silk ribbon whispering over fevered flesh. This slim volume of sensuous language takes the supernatural myths behind the Hag's many lives and distills them to human form, presenting a woman in love, not with gods from the sea, but with a humble fisherman. Her images are full of longing of the body and mind, emotional resonance woven with sensual pleasures. We experience the Old Woman as a young girl, vulnerable, vital, yearning, but already wise and sad.

I did not want a glance or a sound,
only the sight of you -- the mouthing space
the absence of language; only to watch you
turn through the shimmering coils of light,
the river siding around me, describing to me
the dark that would be cast over the body,
violent, liquid, salt and calm --
the darkness that would be cast
between the moment when I could destroy
and the moment when I would devour

O'Sullivan, a native of the Beara, has blood brimming with the brine of the North Atlantic and its feral winds howl in her mind. Her words pulse with the southwest's moody weather that ripples from cruel and cold to docile in the time it takes to read one of her enchanting verses:

Morning, the touching of the moon
on the oval-line of light, the sun low,
its fire like liquid over the ocean
where the wading gulls hunt. I toed
the foam and smooth sand as a rattle of salt
rushed against my skin, the pebbles,
the water's joyful touchings.

Best read aloud, with a glass of Jameson 18-year-old close at hand.
Profile Image for Jenny (Reading Envy).
3,876 reviews3,040 followers
August 26, 2010
I read this because it was on the long list for the Dylan Thomas Prize for 2010.

Well, more skimmed really. I'm not a huge fan of concept poetry, and all the poems related back to Cailleach, a Celtic wise-woman figure.
Profile Image for Martha.O.S.
122 reviews1 follower
October 22, 2017
This book of poems is one I picked up after going to a reading by Leanne O'Sullivan recently in Kinsale of a new collection she is working on. Her beautiful words washed over the listeners like music, and I was so struck that I decided to seek out more.

This collection, based on the legendary figure of "an chailleach", the hag of Beara, (a peninsula in deep West Cork), reimagines the human life of the hag, some in keeping with the many retellings and iterations of her life as it came down in the rich oral storytelling tradition that this country has always enjoyed, and some new and imagined from O'Sullivan's own experience of growing up in the wild and rugged landscape of beautiful Beara, receptacle of the many generations that lived here.

Connection to nature and a true gift of seeing and being able to translate this into beautiful, lyrical and meaningful language that sings from the pages, is O'Sullivan's rare gift. Here we have poems that describe the vibrant and vital life of this old "hag" as a young woman, loving and living with exotic flair and abandon in the wilds of West Cork. She is at home with nature and at home with herself. What can possibly connect this old legendary figure with the reader? Nature and landscape tells the story of its people but it takes a special type of looking and a special type of seeing to read this story and carry it forward. These poems do just that.

The language echos the wild nature out of which it was borne and the images are vibrant and evocative.
"I tell you there it happens;ocean, salt, sky,
a tent of words, eyes open, each wave
sweeping out like bursting glass."
These poems are best read and re-read aloud, to capture the gushing landscape and flow of feelings that brings "an chailleach" to life and connects her to us defying time and space.
Profile Image for Caroline.
95 reviews
May 12, 2014
This is, if not my favorite, then certainly one of the most influential books of poetry I have ever read. A friend lent his copy to me a little over a year after I returned from a semester studying in Ireland, and it spoke to me so strongly, that I immediately went and bought my own copy to carry around with me and re-read so I could return my friend's copy. It is Irish poetry, and that is hard for me to qualify, but if you know anything about Irish history, culture, and the Irish people's connection to nature, then you should read this book.
Displaying 1 - 4 of 4 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.