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poetry Translations

Finding Voice: Eimear MacBride’s ‘A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing’

Another writing exercise to do with finding the voice in a text (and making it our own) came in two stages. The first was to copy out a section of the page with no punctuation at all. Then, we had to take ourselves away from the original text completely and read it to ourselves, looking for the natural breaks and patterns our mind would reorganise the text into. Then, we rewrote the text in free verse with our own punctuation and line breaks. I’ve added or taken away a few words and phrases in the process to streamline my poem.

The original, taken from the first page of MacBride’s highly experimental novel:

I wrote out the first two paragraphs completely without punctuation:

For you you’ll soon you’ll give her name in the stitches of her skin she’ll wear your say mammy me yes you bounce the bed I’d say I’d say that’s what you did then lay you down they cut you round wait hour and day walking up corridors and stairs are you alright will you sit he says no I want she says I want to see my son smell from Dettol through her skin mops diamond floor tiles all as strong all the burn your eyes out if you had some her heart going pat going dum dum dum don’t mind me she’s going to your room see the Jesus what have they done Jesus bile for tidals burn shhhh all over mother she cries oh no oh no no no

And turned it into a free verse poem:

For you,

you’ll soon,

soon give her name in the stitches

and folds of her skin.

She’ll wear them,

and you’ll say:

“Mammy, me?”

and I’ll say:

“Yes, you.”

“Bounce the bed,” I’d say.

I’d say that’s what you did

when you laid down

and they cut you round.

I waited hour and day,

walking up corridors and stairs.

“Are you alright? Will you sit?,” he says.

“No, I want,” she says,

“I want to see my son.”

The smell from the Dettol leaking through her skin

mops diamond floor tiles,

as strong as the burning in your eyes.

If you had some-

her heart going

pat

going

dum dum dum.

“Don’t mind me.”

She’s going into your room

she sees the Jesus.

“What have they done?”

Jesus, bile

for the tidal’s burn

which creeps softly

like Dettol down the throat-

shhhhh.

“It’s all over, Mother,” she cries,

“Oh, no. Oh no no no…”