In a novel partnership between Poetry Ireland and The Gallery Press Calling Cards introduces a new generation of Irish-language poets to a wider audience. This vibrant anthology includes prize-winning authors of several collections as well as three who have yet to publish a book. The translators include some of Ireland’s finest poets.
Poems in Irish
Máirtín Coilféir • Proinsias Mac a’ Bhaird • Aifric Mac Aodha • Marcus Mac Conghail • Caitríona Ní Chléirchín • Ailbhe Ní Ghearbhuigh • Doireann Ní Ghríofa • Caitlín Nic Íomhair • Simon Ó Faoláin • Stiofán Ó hIfearnáin
Colette Bryce • Ciaran Carson • Peter Fallon • Alan Gillis • Medbh McGuckian • Paul Muldoon • Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin • Peter Sirr • David Wheatley
A bilingual treat from younger Irish poets. This new anthology should be welcomed, purchased, read and celebrated.
The anthology Calling Cards is a joint venture between Poetry Ireland/Éigse Éireann and The Gallery Press, co-edited by Peter Fallon and Aifric MacAodha. Its subtitle, Ten Younger Irish Poets with Translations into English, highlights the tension between Ireland’s two official languages, where Irish is sometimes seen as a marker of nationality and English, a linguistic flag of convenience. The dichotomy continues in the opening sentences of the preface: “Calling Cards is the latest in a distinguished line of Irish poetry anthologies. It includes 10 Irish-language poets, a carefully selected group of poems by each of them and translation into English by some of Ireland’s finest poets.”
All this is true, and the anthology offers a remarkable range of voices and dialects, because the Irish language, Irish Gaelic, “an Ghaeilge”, Irish, is not monolithic but offers the magic of place, what Seán Ó Ríordáin called “ceol cheantair”. And so we read the Ulster Irish of Caitlín Nic Íomhair, whose poem Doineann – literally bad weather – is translated as This Weather by Colette Bryce. The first line goes as follows: “Fágann achan Geimhreadh/ a lorg” (translated by Bryce as “Each winter takes its toll”). “Achan”, meaning “each/every” would be “gach aon” in “an Ghaeilge chaighdeánach”, the standardised Irish of the norm set in the 1950. Yet, in Calling Cards, the poet and the editors have allowed this linguistic variation to flourish.
The raison d’être of this anthology is variety. The 10 poets come from all four corners of Ireland – from Down and Donegal, from Galway and Kerry, from Dublin and Meath. The oldest was born in 1970, the youngest in 1994. Many of these poets could be viewed as what linguists call “allophone” poets, in other words they write in a language that is not their mother tongue. Some were born into Irish-speaking families outside the Gaeltacht (this is the case of Ailbhe Ní Ghearrbhuigh), others such as Caitlín Nic Íomhair learned the language as teenagers, while Simon Ó Faoláin grew up in the west Kerry Gaeltacht. Their differing urban and rural backgrounds are reflected in the subject matter of their poetry: the love poetry of Caitríona Ní Chléricín, the strange surrealist poem Do Chara Liom (“For a Friend of Mine”) by Máirtín Coilféar, about a giant fish “fathach d’iasc”, called Éamonn. Each poet’s work is teamed with the voice of a sympathetic translator, forming a bilingual duet. It will come as no surprise, for instance, to discover that the weirdly wonderful fish poem is translated by Paul Muldoon, who manages to rhyme “Éamonn” with “aquarium”.
Of course the question remains, why are these younger poets writing in a “dead language”? One assumes that all of them are quite competent in this island’s other official tongue. In fact one of them, Doireann Ní Ghríofa, writes in both of Ireland’s official languages. She could easily ditch the minority, dead, “leprechaun” language and write in what the French philosopher Pascale Casanova termed “la langue mondiale” – that is, English. But she hasn’t and she and the other nine poets stubbornly persist, perhaps because of the haecceitas – the thingness – of the language itself. It can be felt in the smack of the consonants, the lovely throaty “ch” sound that you roll at the back of your throat, the span of rhymes available, which are far broader than those available in English. These rhymes allow Ailbhe Ní Ghearrbhuigh to write Grasse Matinée, with its complicated, intricate rhyming scheme. The literary tradition of the language also extends back centuries to allow Aifric MacAodha to produce modern retellings of ancient Irish lore, as she does in the extract from Echtrae Chondlai.
Irish anthologies have long occupied a political space. Like so many anthologies they are prescriptive, determining the canon, saying who is in and who is out. However, aside from this question of inclusion and exclusion, Irish anthologies, be they monolingual or bilingual, have also occupied a space that examines questions of linguistic identity and heritage. We can trace this back to Charlotte Brooke’s Reliques of Irish Poetry (1789) where her “comparatively feeble hand” recorded for the Anglo-Irish, in translation, the wealth of bardic poetry that the “native” Irish population possessed, hence transmitting what she considered should be a shared heritage.
Brooke and later Hyde, Lady Gregory or WB Yeats – or in the twentieth century, Seán Ó Tuama and Thomas Kinsella, or indeed Dermot Bolger in his ground-breaking AnTonn Gheal/The Bright Wave (Raven Arts Press, 1986) – wanted both to preserve the riches of Irish-language poetry and make it available for those who could not read the original versions.
In our new Ireland, where we seek to celebrate inclusiveness and diversity, this new anthology should be welcomed, purchased, read and celebrated. Like Charlotte Brooke, Fallon and MacAodha are fighting a rearguard action – displaying the wealth, variety and resilience of Irish poetry in the Irish language and presenting it to English-language readers. The anthology is a calling card that will introduce these young poets to poetry lovers the world over. For this, the editors deserve our thanks.
— Clíona Ní Ríordáin,The Irish Times
Tristan Rosenstock speaks with Maitiú Ó Coimín (editor, Nós)
TR: And this lovely poetry collection, Calling Cards. Poets who came to the fore at the beginning of this century. Ten, in total, and they’ve been translated to English by well-known Irish poets. How did you like that book?
MOC: We hear a lot about the important Irish language poets and maybe we forget sometimes that there’s a new generation coming up. This is a nice way to show that there are new poets coming up doing their bit for Irish poetry and that the language still has creativity and life. — Léirmheas Leabhar, TG4
Calling Cards Peter Fallon & Aifric Mac Aodha (Eagarthóirí), The Gallery Press/Poetry Ireland €12.95 bog
Nach pras freagra na bhfilí ar a chéile? Ar shála Leabhar na hAthghabhála (Bloodaxe/CIC, 2016, €16) seo chugainn barr an bhainne ó ghlúin na comhaimsire. Dánta le deichniúr, maille le haistriúcháin agus cothromaíocht chomhionann inscne, a chuirtear os coinne an tsaoil. Is maith liom go dtugtar aitheantas do Mharcas Mac Conghail go háirithe, ar foilsíodh sárchnuasach leis, Ceol Baile, in 2014. Fág faoi Mháirtín Coilféir cuimsiú cumair a dhéanamh ar ghnó misniúil an dáin: ‘Cad eile a dhéanfainn go deimhin/ ach an mianach atá ionam a fhógairt?’ — Tuairisc.ie
Year Published: 2018
ISBN PBK: 978 1 91133 755 3
ISBN HBK: 978 1 91133 756 0