A Present for you! – Woodcuttings – New and Selected Poems 10 February 2013 – Posted in: Uncategorised, Writing
Pre-publication (Spring 2013) copies of the bilingual An Fuíoll Feá – Rogha Dánta / Woodcuttings – New and Selected Poems by Liam Ó Muirthile are available now in our on-line shop here>
This is the first substantial bilingual selection of the work of this major poet and Gabriel Rosenstock is the chief translator. The publication includes a CD of Ó Muirthile reading a number of poems and artwork Marie Foley provides another reason why this is a very special publication.
The book is available in both harback and softback (€30/€20).
AUTHOR’S NOTE – Liam Ó Muirthile
Ireland, or that part of the island I call home, is a country of two languages historically, Irish and English. My life’s work has been defined by the relationship between those two languages. I am anative speaker of English but a poet and writer in Irish, which I learned at school, in the Gaeltacht and from reading extensively. As a youngster, too, it was still possible, among my own extended family and the wider community in West Cork, to hear the Irish language through English or more properly Anglo-Irish, which is both an unnerving and exciting sensual and aural experience. It is like listening, fascinated, in stereo, to what is presented as a mono mix, with the stereo breaking through all over if our ears are attuned to listen at depth. I am still drawn to the patchwork margins where colours clash but somehow form a whole.
When a literary project began to dawn on me as a young man, the challenge of a project in the Irish language was alluring, but daunting. Why it didn’t present itself in Anglo-Irish, or in the English of Cork city, is another question, which will remain unanswered for the present. But it is probably mainly due to the prevailing cultural values of my own formative years, the hammering home in all spheres of the purity of the deep seam. A French speaker, also, I considered resolving what appeared to be unresolvable by opting for the Beckett solution and heading for Paris. I didn’t have the means to take that step, and I also felt that I would always be pulled and dragged home.
We follow threads in our lives. More than many of my contemporaries in Irish language poetry, I had resisted translation as a solution to the issues of a wider audience for a small language. This was not due to any ideological position, any idée fixe, but a sense in my inner being that the only translation that really matters for a poet is translation at depth, in the unconscious. I had a task to complete, and I would know when the time came. For any work to have the possibility, at least, of being meaningful, an integrated language must emanate from the unconscious. This may take the form of two or more or many languages, a creolised mix, but a form which in itself has a wholeness of being of its own. Somehow. How, in any sense, can language become fully alive to the poem, can the poem become fully alive in its only possible existence, without an enormous investment, a persistent attention, a constant nurturing of its presence both in our minds and in the world? We create our own language over time, where we can feel truly at home.
I had worked, to a certain extent, with other poets in translating some poems. I am deeply grateful to them for their work, and their patience with an often reluctant participant. I had always felt uneasy about the deconstruction process.
It was a terse email from Gabriel Rosenstock which finally sprang the release mechanism. He suggested we undertake the task of translating the work. An eminent poet in Irish and a renowned translator in his own right, a friend from college and INNTI days, I would no longer have to provide literal translations, often glossed word by word. He would translate from Irish, and I could focus on
my primary task without feeling that I was merely journeying deeper into the tangled undergrowth. This, in itself, released a huge surge of creative energy. Gabriel Rosenstock’s generosity of spirit, in that respect, has been crucial. As another poet remarked, the only danger was that Gabriel might provide a translation for a poem as yet unwritten!
I acknowledge, of course, my original debt to the poet Seán Ó Ríordáin (1916–1970). Without his presence in my youthful landscape, none of this would have been possible. I also acknowledge the poet Michael Davitt’s (1950–2005) major contribution as a catalyst in co-founding with Gabriel Rosenstock and others the poetry journal INNTI, and as a close friend.
Liam Ó Muirthile