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GHOST WEEK: Doireann Ní Ghríofa’s A GHOST IN THE THROAT is a tremendously dark and varied and authentically raw exploration of contemporary motherhood married with archaic morals, plus a writing prompt, more

By Leslie Lindsay




Featured Spotlight: A GHOST IN THE THROAT by Doireann Ní Ghríofa

Doireann Ní Ghríofa is a poet and essayist. In addition to A Ghost in the Throaf, she is the author of six critically acclaimed books of poetry, each a deepening exploration of birth, death, desire, and domesticity. Awards for her writing include a Lannan Literary Fellowship, the Ostana Prize, a Seamus Heaney Fellowshop, ad the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature.


“When we first met, I was a child, and she had been dead for centuries.”

So writes Doireann Ní Ghríofa in A GHOST IN THE THROAT, a “…female text, a chat, a keen, a lament, and an echo,” and I love everything about it.

On discovering her murdered husband’s body, an eighteenth-century Irish noblewoman drinks handfuls of his blood and composes an extraordinary lament. Eibhlin Dubh Ni Chonaill’s poem travels through the centuries, finding its way to a new mother who narrowly avoided her own fatal tragedy. When she realizes the literature dedicated to the poem reduces Eibhlin Dubh’s life to flimsy sketches, she wants more: the details of the poet’s childhood, her marriage, her old age, her unique joys, sorrows, rages, and more. She wants the shape of her days–did she, too, make lists of minutiae as she does?

An Post Irish Book Awards Nonfiction Book of the Year A Guardian Best Book of 2020 • Shortlisted for the 2021 Rathbones Folio Prize • Longlisted for the 2021 Republic of Consciousness Prize • Winner of the James Tait Black Biography Prize • A New York Times New & Noteworthy Title • Longlisted for the 2021 Gordon Burn Prize • A Buzzfeed Recommended Summer Read

What follows is an adventure of puzzling out the pieces. It’s a bit like going on a genealogy search for a long-dead ancestor, excavating the paper trails, the crumbling ruinous headstones, and more. It’s about speculation and an elegy. I found A GHOST IN THE THROAT to be a truly shapeshifting narrative, like a fever dream, flow-of-consciousness with a dark, ghostly, almost witch-y obsession.

This is a viscerally gorgeous exploration of the erasure of people, language, women, a mediation on motherhood, and translation, an unforgettable journey of contemporary motherhood married with archaic times.

Photo by Artem Beliaikin on


Is there an author or poet or piece of literature that has stirred you as it did the narrator in A GHOST IN THE THROAT? Who or what text would you explore? Could you become as obsessed? What lengths would you go to find the answers you desire? Is it a matter of curiosity or is there something else niggling you? A theme or personal question that continually haunts you? Would you write it like Ní Ghríofa did in A GHOST IN THE THROAT? Perhaps you’d structure things differently. How? Photographs? Poetry? Letters? Maps?

Consider this statement from Ní Ghríofa when asked why she chose the structure, the form she did,

“[…] the form chose me. When I reflect on the path to writing this book in terms of craft, I’m struck by how often I felt driven by the book itself rather than vice versa. I felt as though the book were showing me the form it needed to be in.”

This is what I think it means to be ‘haunted into a manuscript.’ There’s something about the automaticity of writing, how the words and ideas flow from brain to fingertip, to screen (or paper).

What might you write if you were so driven? If the book showed you the form it needed to be? Tell me in the comments. Write your own essay, poem, or flash fiction.

For more information, to connect with Doireann Ní Ghríofa, or to purchase a copy of A GHOSTS IN THE THROAT, please visit:


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You might also like:

I was reminded of the work of Helen Phillips, particularly her novel, THE NEED, but also FEVER DREAM by Samanta Schweblin, there’s a touch of Julia Fine’s THE UPSTAIRS HOUSE, meets A MOUTHFUL OF AIR by Amy Koppelman, soon to be a movie from Sony Pictures only in theaters.


PURE FLAME by Michelle Orange, THE BOOK OF MOTHER by Violaine Hussman, more.

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Further Reading:

You might like this Paris Review interview with the author about her process and inspiration behind A GHOST IN THE THROAT.

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If you loved this interview, please consider sharing it on social media. Reviewing books and talking about them with others on-line and in-person is one small way to engage with & support the literary community.

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Doireann Ní Ghríofa is a poet and essayist. Winner of the James Tait Back Prize for Biography and Irish Book of the Year 2020, ‘A Ghost in the Throat’ was described as “powerful” (New York Times), “captivatingly original”​​ (The Guardian), “sumptuous” (The Sunday Times), and a “masterpiece” (Sunday Business Post). Doireann is also author of six critically-acclaimed books of poetry, each a deepening exploration of birth, death, desire, and domesticity. Awards for her writing include a Lannan Literary Fellowship (USA), the Ostana Prize (Italy), a Seamus Heaney Fellowship (Queen’s University), and the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature, among others.

Image retrieved from author’s website. Credit: Al Higgins


Leslie Lindsay is the creator and host of the award-winning author interview series, “Always with a Book.” Since 2013, Leslie, named “one of the most influential book reviewers” by Jane Friedman, ranks in the top 1% of all GoodReads reviewers and has conducted over 700 warm, inquisitive conversations with authors as wide-ranging as Robert Kolker and Shari Lapena to Helen Phillips and Mary Beth Keane, making her website a go-to for book lovers world-wide. Her writing & photography have appeared in various print journals and online, including Psychology Today, Mud Season Review, A Door = Jar, Mutha, Literary Mama, The Manifest-Station, among others. She is the award-winning author of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA: A Parents’ Guide to Childhood Apraxia of Speech, an audiobook narrated by Leslie from Penguin Random House. A former psychiatric R.N. at the Mayo Clinic, Leslie’s memoir, MODEL HOME: Motherhood, Madness, & Memory, is currently on submission with Catalyst Literary Management. Leslie resides in the Chicago area with her family.

Photo cred: K.M. Lindsay

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