Leabhar na hAthghabhála / Poems of Repossession
Leabhar na hAthghabhála (Poems of Repossession), edited by Irish-language poet and scholar, Louis de Paor, is the first comprehensive and critical anthology of modern poetry in Irish with translations to English. It is a sequel to Seán Ó Tuama and Thomas Kinsella’s pioneering anthology, An Duanaire 1600-1900 (Poems of the Dispossessed). Leabhar Na hAthghabhála continues the 1981 anthology’s feat by featuring many more poems that cover the work of twenty-six poets from the past century.
In this new anthology, there are poems by Pádraig Mac Piarais and Liam S. Gógan from the revival period (1893-1939); a generous selection from the work of Máirtín Ó Direáin, Seán Ó Ríordáin and Máire Mhac an tSaoi who transformed writing in Irish in the decades following the Second World War; and the Innti poets – Michael Davitt, Liam
Ó Muirthile, Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill, Cathal Ó Searcaigh, Biddy Jenkinson—and others who developed new possibilities for poetry in Irish in the 1970s and 80s. More recent poetry in Irish is represented by the work of poets such as Colm Breathnach, Gearóid Mac Lochlainn, Micheál Ó Cuaig and Áine Ní Ghlinn. Translations to English complement the Irish, with some coming from Ireland’s most distinguished poets and translators including Valentine Iremonger, Michael Hartnett, Paul Muldoon, Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, Bernard O’Donoghue, Maurice Riordan, Peter Sirr, David Wheatley and Mary O’Donoghue. Many translations of the poems—some commissioned for this ground-breaking anthology— have not previously been available in English, including Eoghan Ó Tuairisc’s anguished response to the bombing of Hiroshima, ‘Aifreann na Marbh’ (Mass for the Dead).
Presenting a critical selection of the best poetry written in Irish since 1900, this anthology challenges the extent to which writing in Irish has been underrepresented in collections of modern and contemporary Irish poetry. In his introduction, Louis de Paor argues that Irish language poetry should be evaluated according to its own rigorous aesthetic rather than as a subsidiary of the dominant Anglophone tradition of Irish writing.
The Manchester Review, David Cooke
Louis de Paor’s bilingual Leabhar na hAthghabhála, Poems of Repossession, is the first major anthology of Irish language poetry for a quarter of a century since Dermot Bolger’s Bright Wave: An Tonn Gheal (Raven Arts Press, 1986) and An Crann Faoi Bhláth, The Flowering Tree(Wolfhound Press, 1991), edited by Declan Kiberd and Gabriel Fitzmaurice. It includes work from twenty-five poets ranging from Pádraig Ó hÉigeartaigh (1871-1936) to Gearóid Mac Lochlainn (b. 1966). The volume also includes a substantial critical apparatus. Alongside the introduction, in which De Paor charts the history of modern poetry in Irish, elucidating its social and linguistic contexts, there are also detailed biographies of the poets, useful notes on many of the poems, and a fascinating selection of comments by the translators on how they have approached their work.
Concentrating, by and large, on the most significant figures, De Paor has been discerning in his choices. A dozen poets chosen by Kiberd and Fitzmaurice have not been included here, presumably because they didn’t make made it across De Paor’s critical threshold or, like Breandán Ó Beacháin, aka Brendan Behan, may be considered to have made their mark more substantially in English or in a different genre. Most significantly, perhaps, only two poets have been added who were too young to be included in The Flowering Tree: De Paor himself, who has included just three of his own poems, and Gearóid Mac Lochlainn who has five. Moreover, as if to enhance the canonical status of his anthology, De Paor’s title echoes that of Thomas Kinsella’s monumental An Duanaire. 1600-1900; Poems of The Disposessed (Dolmen Press, 1981) and even takes as its opening poem Pádraig Ó hÉigeartaigh‘s ‘My Sorrow, Donncha’, which was the latest poem chosen by Kinsella and considered by him to be ‘a moving end to the high literary tradition of three centuries’.
Read the full review online on The Manchester Review website, copy and paste this link into the browser bar: http://www.themanchesterreview.co.uk/?p=6607
Iris Comhar, Review by Dónall Ó Braonáin, July 2016
* Foilsíodh an léirmheas seo den chéaduair san iris Comhar i mí Iúil, 2016. Is féidir cuairt a thabhairt ar shuíomh idirlín na hirise 'Comhar' ag an nasc seo: http://iriscomhar.com/
Duanaire mar thionscnamh an foilseachán seo. Nod láidir don eolach an teideal a fhéachann le snáth leanúnachais a spíonadh idir 'Duanaire 1600-1900: Poems of the Dispossessed' (1981) agus 'Leabhar na hAthghabhála: Poems of Repossession. Sprioc liteartha an chnuasaigh léitheoirí an Bhéarla agus éadáil na héascaíochta cultúrtha atá sna haistriúcháin dá réir. Tráchtann Louis de Paor ar fhilíocht Ghaeilge an 20ú haois i dtéarmaí feasachta agus láithreachta i margadh smaointeachais atá faoi bhois an Bhéarla agus is cás leis go dtabharfaí a cheart don fhilíocht seo i gcomhthéacs a haestéite agus a traidisiún féin.
Chun bonn intleachtúil a chur faoin áiteamh seo tá réamhrá leathan láidir curtha ar fáil ag an eagarthóir a chuimsíonn filíocht an chéid seo caite ar bhealach ealaíonta agus scolártha. Lonnaítear an togra i gcomhthéacs shaothar Sheáin Uí Thuama agus Thomas Kinsella sa gcéad alt den réamhrá. Ní mórán a insítear dúinn faoi bhunús na gcinnithe eagarthóireachta ach gurb í sprioc an chnuasaigh '...a selection of the best poems produced in Irish in the last century with English translations...'
Ina cheann ar an réamhrá, is iad buaiceanna 'Leabhar na hAthghabhála' ná caighdeán na n-aistriúchán, na míreanna comhthéacsaithe ar na filí agus na nó√aí ar na dánta atá roghnaithe. Luaim nótaí Colbert Kearney ar 'Aifreann na Marbh' le hEoghan Ó Tuairisc ach go háirithe. Gné thar a bheith tairbheach den saothar nótaí na n-aistritheoirí. Is iontu atá an tráchtaireacht seo de chuid Kearney (503) ar gníomh 'pietas' agus léirmhínithe araon é: '...he is everywhere in the poem, from the superstructure to the syntax, instantly identifiable as himself, a unique imagination finding extraordinary forms of expression.'
Tá ord na bhfilí de réir mar foilsíodh na chéad chnuasaigh a tháinig uathu cé go gcuirtear ord cróineolaíoch agus leabhareolas ar fáil freisin. Áis ransaithe d'allagar fileata an 20ú haois é seo, mar a léiríonn 'Gné na Gaeltachta' de chuid Uí Airtnéide ar caoineadh stáidiúil ar Chaitlín Maude é. Déanann Liam Ó Muirthile an chúirtéis chéánna le Michael Davitt in 'Na deilgní broid'. Dá laghadh iad nótaí aistritheora a scríobhann David Wheatley agus Mary O'Donoghue faoi Sheán Ó Ríordáin is iontu atá géarchúis íogair chriticiúil. Ró-annamh a thugtar a leithéid de dheis agus ceart d'aistritheoirí liteartha.
Déantar filíocht Mháire Mhac an tSaoi a chur i láthair go cumasach agus, cé go n-áitítear go bhfuil an teannas idir luachanna a linne agus an t-áilíos baineann ina bhunsraith den chuid is fearr dá saothar (23), is cuid suntais freisin an léargas tráthúil polaitíochta a nochtaítear sna dánta 'Cam Saothraíonn Biddy Jenkinson an pholaitíocht phearsanta agus domhanda in éineacht in 'Eanáir 1991'. Díol nuachta eile sa gcnuasach go bhfuil a cead tugtha ag Biddy Jenkinson aistriúcháin phróis a dhéanamh ar dhánta léi nár cuireadh ar fáil cheana trí mheán an Bhéarla. Ní amháin sin ach tá sárleaganacha Béarla déanta ag Jenkinson ar dhánta bunaidh freisin. Thabharfainn suntas ar leith do 'Cad is bean?' le Máire Mhac an tSaoi (141), 'Mo dháimh' le Caitlín Maude (235) agus 'Marbhghin' le Deirdre Brennan (357).
Ainneoin na mbuanna seo, agus cinn iomadúla eile nach iad, tá ceisteanna orm faoi ghnéithe eile den saothar. Tuigim d'áiteamh na hathghabhála ach an mbeadh ábhar mearbhaill ann sa teideal don té a thuigeann cúlra miotaseolaíoch agus bréagstaire 'Lebor Gabála Érenn?' Tá na míreanna beathaisnéise ar Bhiddy Jenkinson agus Seán Ó Ríordáin ar fheabhas ach d'fháilteoinn roimh chomhthéacsú breise ar Áine Ní Ghlinn agus Deirdre Brennan ar mhaithe le cothromaíocht sa mhódh eagarthóireachta. Anailís chaoch atá san áireamh cainníochtúil, tuigim, ach is líonmhaire dánta Mhichael Davitt sa gcnuasach ná dánta Uí Dhireáin nó Uí Mhuirthile nó Uí Airtnéide.
Is minic a chastar le léirmheastóirí gur scáinte iad a gcuid scrupall. De ghrá na heitice, amhdaím gur comhghleacaí liom é Louis de Paor ar acraí acadúla cois Coiribe. Creidim go mbeidh an-fháilte roimh an gcnuasach ach sílim go dtarraingeoidh rogha an eagarthóra caint, conspóid agus cantal in áiteacha. Is minic nach mbaineann léirmheas ar chnuasach lena bhfuil de dhánta i mbailiúchán ar leith ach na dánta úd nó na filí úd, nach bhfuil saothar leo sa díolaim. Agus tá airde acu ann, idir dhánta agus filí.
Is é bun na ndúshlán agus na ndeacrachtaí seo go léir nach lia eagarthóir ná leagan den chanóin. Is cuma cén fráma tagartha, cén comhthéacsú cultúrtha, cén teoiric liteartha a leagtar amach i réamhrá cnuasaigh, beidh filí áirithe sa gcomhaireamh ceann agus fágfar filí eile ar lár. Tugtar cinneadh eagarthóireachta ar a leithéid agus is ceart a thuiscint go mbaineann cinnithe eagarthóireachta litríochta le réim ghuagach na braisteana.
San am céanna cuidíonn slata tomhais. Claí cinnte teorann amháin ná nach bhfuil file ar bith a saolaíodh tar éis 1966 sa gcnuasach seo. Is iad Luois de Paor féin, Colm Breathnach agus Gearóid Mac Lochlainn ionadaithe ghlúin na seascaidí. Tráchtar ar fhilí eile a bhfuil gealladh fúthu, 'emerging poets' (28), ach ní thugtar a n-ainmneacha. Cé hiad? Tairsigh spéisiúla atá sna líomatáistí idir filí bunaithe, filí aitheanta, filí roghnaithe agus filí atá ag teacht in inmhe. An mbeidh 'Leabhar na Forghabhála' de dhíth dá bharr?
Meabhraíonn Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin dúinn (505) gur minic leis an aistritheoir filíochta Gaeilge a bheith i dtuilleamaí léitheoirí atá inniúil ar an dá theanga. Beidh sin amhlaidh i gcás 'Leabhar na hAthghabhála', go háirithe má luaitear an saothar ar chláir Ghaeilge ag leibhéal fochéime agus iarchéime. Is furasta a thuiscint cén fáth. Téacs iontaofa é a bhuíochas den scoláireacht liteartha, den fhearas tagartha treallúsach, de na haistriúcháin agus na léirmhínithe líofa Béarla.
Cnuasach fiúntach fóinteach an breithmheas uaimse mar sin ach feicim síol aighnis sa rogha freisin. Ach narbh fhearrde an cnuasach, an fhilíocht agus na filí an t-imreas ná an t-uaigneas? Ceis, ní hansae ach a bhuíochas den eagarthoir, de Chló Iar-Chonnacht agus de Bloodaxe, níl lá amhrais ach go mbeidh ceannacht ar an duanaire.
Leabhar na hAthghabhála / Poems of Repossession: edited by Louis de Paor, review by John McAuliffe, The Irish Times, June 2016
Poetry is a slow art, its practitioners emerging into the light every three or four or 10 years with new, polished books which begin to circulate, slowly finding readers and responses, through booksellers, reviews and Ireland’s distinctive festival culture of readings and workshops. It is an ecosystem that feels not just slow but adventitious and incremental, with up-and-coming and original voices constantly in dialogue with more experienced writers.
Every so often, though, a book arrives which shows the possibility of reconsidering and reconceiving the way poetry works in Ireland: Leabhar Na hAthghabhála: Poems of Repossession (Cló Iar-Chonnacht/Bloodaxe, £15/€20) is one of those books. Editor Louis de Paor brings together more than 160 poems in both Irish and English – more than 500 pages of poetry from the past century, much of the translation newly commissioned (and at an eminently reasonable price).
Anthologies are fraught, question-begging enterprises, as are translations. Who is in? Who isn’t? Is this or that poem (not) included? Does this translation truly capture that great summit of X or Y’s writing? And de Paor’s book will prompt its share of healthy conversations on those topics, but the overwhelming response of most readers to this anthology will be that a brilliant and various century of writing has been assembled.
This variety will strike most readers first. De Paor chooses to begin with short aperitif-like selections from Pádraig Ó hÉigeartaigh, Patrick Pearse and Liam S Gógan, three poets whose aesthetics could not be more different, the first drawing on song structures, the last far more technical and literary in impressive poems such as Liobhárn stáit/Ship of state, whose mood and disillusioned clarity will remind readers of his contemporary, Austin Clarke. Pearse’s mixture of heroic prophesying and idealism – about the nation and about adolescent boyhood – are not shirked in Maurice Riordan’s lucid translations.
Many readers will already have favourites among the major mid-century talents Máirtín Ó Direáin, Máire Mhac an tSaoi and Seán Ó Ríordáin, and here, certainly, de Paor’s editorial choices and prefaces are decisive and, to say the least, stimulating. Their poems are seen as representatives or even curators of an aspect or region of the language: while de Paor recognises the modernist echo chambers of the later work, Ó Direáin is praised for his “ability to give symbolic resonance to the spoken language of his own [Inis Mór] community”. De Paor writes of Mhac an tSaoi that “the deep conservatism of language and form, particularly in the earlier work, provides a cover for the more transgressive aspect of her work” and Biddy Jenkinson’s translations of that early work do indeed present us with poems that are musing, dramatic and vividly articulate.
De Paor strikes a more sceptical note in relation to the language of Ó Ríordáin’s more experimental, iconoclastic and sometimes bastardising poems. Ó Ríordáin is a reference point for both Irish- and English-language poets, and a wealth of translations of his work already exists which makes selection a trickier matter. De Paor chooses not to include, say, Ó Ríordáin’s own English versions, or Ciaran Carson’s classic translation of Malairt as Switch, or Maurice Riordan’s version of Reo as Frost, choosing or commissioning instead new, often freer versions in their place by a wide range of poets and translators. The consistency with which Ó Ríordáin’s contemporaries are translated seems to strengthen our understanding of their work, but, notwithstanding the original brilliance evident in Adhlacha mo mháthar, Cúl an tí and Saoirse, de Paor’s inclusion of so many disparate translators will probably send readers looking for more Ó Ríordáin elsewhere. Though, in time, maybe those of us used to other versions may find ourselves, like users of new mobile phones, coming around to his way of thinking.
Something similar happens with the poems of the poet who is most substantially represented in the anthology, the much-translated Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill. Paul Muldoon’s versions in The Astrakhan Cloak, in particular, made a mark on many readers (and deeply influenced Muldoon’s subsequent work), but de Paor chooses here to present Ní Dhomhnaill only in Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin’s translations. I miss some of Muldoon’s touches, but the result vindicates de Paor’s choice: Ní Dhomhnaill’s black wit and exuberant description carry her readers with her. Her range of tones, from poem to poem and from line to line, is a marvel of recent Irish writing. It is difficult to think of another writer who could carry off the high Romantic situation of Éirigh, a éinín/Rise up, little bird, whose wide-angled, populous scene drifts towards its clinching final phrase: “I see the smile and I prefer it to the source of her tears /and I know that you well deserve praise, for a thing so small, / your ardent twittering evidence of the fun and the pain / that are part of being alive, my dear little bird, my own image.”
Like Ní Dhomhnaill, Biddy Jenkinson writes with forceful originality and her poems engineer memorably awkward situations – watching praying mantises in Alabama, the moon as a knife, cockroaches on a hostel ceiling – whose applications and suggestiveness proliferate the more they are dwelt on. Éiceolaí/Ecologist imagines “a woman next door who keeps her house, her man, her son, as neat as can be and she tries to keep her garden as tidy as she keeps them” and ends, with great relish: “There’s woman next door who’d keep her garden in order but it won’t take us long to make a hash of her borders.”
This is a terrific, open introduction to a century of Irish-language poetry and its connections and conjunctions animate the debates and breakthroughs and experiments, successful and otherwise, that comprise our living tradition. It is illuminating to read Tomás Mac Siomóin alongside Jenkinson, but their precise, metaphysical poems are then set off nicely by a powerful extract from Seán Ó Corraoin’s biographical long poem Beairtle/Bartley and the colloquial, observant steadiness of Sean Ó Tuama, which itself seems to beget the buoyant conversational elan of the tales and schemes of de Paor, Liam Ó Muirthile, and Michael Davitt, whose astonishing elegy for his father An Scathán/The Mirror, as translated by Paul Muldoon, offers an image for the productive mirroring this book makes available to its readers:
When I took hold of the mirror
I had a fright. I imagined him breathing
I heard him say in a reassuring whisper:
I’ll give you a hand, here.
And we lifted the mirror back in
above the fireplace,
my father holding it steady
while I drove home the two nails.
Proudly repossessing the Irish language in niche poetic circle
Review by Colette SheridanThe Irish Examiner, 26 Nov, 2016
You don’t expect to find a poem entitled ‘Didjeridu’ in an anthology of poetry in Irish with English translations. This poem, referencing the Australian wind instrument more commonly spelled ‘didgeridoo’ is by the editor of this weightly book, Louis de Paor.
He spent time in Australia and tapped into the Aboriginal experience, its uniqueness and how it has been oppressed. In broad terms, a parallel could be drawn regarding the historical suppression of the Irish language.
De Paor, determined to adopt Irish to his own contemporary suburban experience (he writes about growing up on the Model Farm Road in Cork) and his impressions of Australia, is refreshingly rooted in a recognisable world that isn’t always associated with Irish.
At least, that is the perception of people uninterested in Irish language poetry, assuming that its subject matter is primarily from the Peig Sayers’ school of misery.
But that is an ill-informed view, writing off the scores of contemporary Irish language poets such as the controversial Cathal Ó Searcaigh whose influences include the Liverpool poets and the Beats. Then there’s Biddy Jenkinson who has described being “in the present among the outnumbered and beleaguered but determined survivors of Gaelic Ireland.” In ‘A Female Student in Paris’, she writes amusingly of a woman who is on her uppers and can only afford to spend the night “fully dressed in a one star hotel.”
There is no paucity of voices in this anthology. De Paor features more than 160 poems in Irish and English in more than 500 pages of poetry from the 20th century. Biographical notes on each writer are given, as well as the names of the various translators, many of whom have been newly commissioned.
This bilingual anthology is aimed at readers of English “who do not otherwise have access to material in Irish, and for those with some knowledge of the language who may find the English versions helpful as a bridge towards a fuller engagement with 20th century poetry in Irish.”
De Paor writes that more than three decades after Seán Ó Tuama and Thomas Kinsella introduced a new readership to poetry in Irish from the 17th to the 19th century in “their groundbreaking An Dunaire: Poems of the Dispossessed 1600-1900, an ‘act of repossession’ is still required for Irish language poetry produced between the cultural revival of the Celtic Twilight and the economic insanity of the Celtic Tiger that brought the second millennium to a close.”
This well laid out book “takes its title and inspiration from Ó Tuama and Kinsella’s landmark publication, offering a selection of the best poems produced in Irish in the last century with English translations…”
The poets selected “reflect a defining aspect of 20th century Irish life and identity in the aftermath of language change and destruction, following centuries of colonialism.”
De Paor writes that “whether the commitment to Irish is motivated by aesthetic or cultural political reasons, or both, the choice of a minority endangered language over a majority world language represents a significant act of cultural repossession in post colonial Anglophone Ireland.”
Poets represented include Pádraig Pearse, Liam S. Gógan (who writes about the tension between religious belief and physical desire), Máirtín Ó Direáin, Seán Ó Tuama, Máire Mhac an tSaoi, Micheal Davitt, Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill, Deirdre Brennan and Liam Ó Muirthile.
Nearly half of the poets in the anthology were born in Munster, Cork city and the various Gaeltachtaí provided “periods of incubation for many poets who produced their best work after moving to Dublin and its environs, as well as for those born there.”
This well thought out anthology proves that in a niche poetic circle, the Irish language is being proudly repossessed.
My picks of the year
John McAuliffe’s choice of poetry in 2016The Irish Times, 17 December 2016
Finally, Louis de Paor’s contentious revelatory Leabhar na hAthghabhála / Poems of Repossession (Cló Iar-Chonnacht/Bloodaxe Book) selected well from a rich century of Irish-language poetry, with some terrific newly commissioned translations into English.
Leabhair na Bliana, Comhar, Nollaig 2017, an excerpt from an article by Máirín Nic Eoin.
Is seoidleabhar é 'Leabhar na hAthghabhála / Poems of Repossession: 20th-century poetry in Irish (Cló Iar-Chonnacht / Bloodaxe Books), díolaim filíochta ó thogah agus rogha na bhfilí Gaeilge ó aimsir na hAthbheochana i leith, mar aon le leaganacha snoite Béarla ó scoth na n-aistritheoirí. Is mait liom an leagan amach, suas le dosaen dán nó níos mó ó na filí is iomráití agus ceann nó péire nó trí cinn ó fhilí cumasacha eile, rud a thugann léárgas do léitheoirí ar chanóin na filíochta Gaeilge agus ar an mórilghnéitheacht ábhair agus stíle atá le fáil inti. D'fhéadfadh roinnt filí eile a bheith i gceist ina leithéid de chnuasach, ach is dóigh liom gurb é an rud is tábhachtaí faoin leabhar seo ná go n-osclaíonn rogha an eagarthóra Louis de Paor doras na filíochta Gaeilge do léitheoirí nach roghnódh leabhar filíochta mar ábhar léitheoireachta de ghnáth. Ag an am céanna, tugtar léargas sách cuimsitheach ar nuafhilíocht na Gaeilge ann don léitheoir filíochta nach léann ábhar i nGaeilge de ghnáth. Cuidíonn an réamhrá, na nótaí beathaisnéise faoi na filí, agus nó√aí na n-aistritheoirí faoina modh oibre leis an bpléisiúr a bhainfidh léitheoirí as an dánta féin. Agus an leabhar seo faoi do lámh agat, tuigtear duit gur pobal dátheangach é aos dána na tíre seo, agus gur bua de chuid na cruthaitheachta liteartha in Éirinn i gcónaí an cros-síolrú liteartha agus an t-aistear trasteangach.