Art for the eye and the ear
Pól Ó Muirí
Louis de Paor’s latest collection of poetry, agus rud eile de/and another thing (Cló Iar-Chonnacht) was launched in Galway over the weekend. I say “collection of poetry” but perhaps “collections” would be more appropriate as the book is entirely bilingual with poems in the original Irish and translations by Kevin Anderson, Biddy Jenkinson (herself a writer of note in Irish), Mary O’Donoghue and the author. Traditionally, the format for Irish-language collections has been to publish in Irish only and then offer translations at a later date. Cló Iar-Chonnacht have adopted a different approach of late; the work of another of their poets, Dairena Ní Chinnéide, is also published bilingually and I should mention that poet Celia de Fréine’s latest book, Imram (Arlen House) is also bilingual.
Given that Kavanagh’s standing army of poets was never greater in either of the two official languages, it is perhaps not surprising that commercial and, arguably, artistic needs, dictate this new approach for Ireland but one which I think – and I stand open to correction – is common in the Scots Gaelic tradition. One understands the necessity but does it help the work? Well, the book is very well produced and this reader, who did not want the subtitles, had little difficulty in avoiding them. (I should mention that I have a book published by the same publishers, though not poetry.) That said, will the ‘TG4’ approach result in a step-down for the original Irish and pity the poor prose writers in Irish, most of whom will have to plough their lonely language furrow in Irish only for the foreseeable future. Are they being left further behind?
As to the work itself, de Paor has won more prizes than you could shake a stick at – or bata scoir. The dust jacket’s assertion that de Paor’s other work is “rife with asides and turns and subtleties that plead reading and re-reading” is one that also holds true for this collection.
The book is not simply a text-driven undertaking either. The art by Kathleen Furey offers something for the eye while the accompanying CD by Ronan Browne gives a musical interpretation of 11 of the 28 poems. The CD is a stand-alone artistic enterprise, one in which the poet reads his work in Irish and Browne composes striking music that re-imagines the poetry.Writes Browne: “In fact, the musical setting is effectively a translation into a third language. As with any translation, it reflects the original poem while allowing it to resonate further in another dimension.”
Three languages and another dimension? That should offer something for everyone.