See, this is what happens when I actually do my job on Monday (and then again Tuesday!). I’ll try not to let it happen again.
We had the good fortune of reading our poet’s self-introduction during the special anniversary series: it is Mary O’Donoghue, resident of Boston and sometimes Tuscaloosa, AL, associate professor of English at Babson College. I also had the good fortune to hear Mary read her work at Boston College, about the time that her first collection of poems, Tulle, was published. She’s also written fiction, and has won awards and grants on both sides of the Atlantic for her work. Today we’re actually going to take a look at one of her translations, of the Irish poet Louis De Paor. De Paor (b. 1961) is director of Irish Studies at NUI-Galway, and also established himself as a public poet in Australia, where he lived for about 10 years.
Take a look at this one. Do I hear echoes of the Orpheus myth? -ed.
Is dóigh leis an mbeirt os mo
chomhair gur leosan amháin a labhrann
nuair a chanann a gholtraí ghrámhar is
fada le barra a méar
go mbeidh siad sa bhaile is cead
seanma ar a chéile acu go maidin.
Is ait le haonaráin is iarleannáin go
mbeadh fonn briste a gcroíthe ar bharr
a theanga ag fear nár casadh orthu
cheana. Nuair a bhuaileann na sreanganna síoda
a cheangail dá chéile an chéad lá riamh
iad, druideann an lánúin phósta dá mbuíochas
i leith a chéile. Nuair a chuimlíonn
uillinn a léine sin le gualainn a mhná, baineann
fear óg ar thaobh eile an tseomra a
gheansaí samhraidh de is iarrann
ar fhear an tí an teas a ísliú in ainm
dílis Dé. Guíonn an cailín a bhfuil áilleacht
an bhróin ina gnúis go mbeidh sé gan
chéile nó go bhfaighidh sé í. Tá an oíche á reabadh
ag foireann na gclog: scuaine
scuadcharr, otharcharr is inneall dóiteáin ar a gcoimeád
ón tine nach féidir a mhúchadh i gcuislí
dóite na bhfear mór laistigh
atá mall chun na sochraide arís. In aice
an droichid, tá nodaireacht an uaignis
ar chuilithíní an aeir os a chionn léite
go cruinn ag an bhfear atá díreach tar éis léimt.
Tá an t-uisce chomh mín le bráillín, is
tonn álainn an cheoil ina bhéa
á bhodhradh ar bhuaireamh an tsaoil.
Leanann an ceoltóir ag seinm
ar na sreanganna fola a shíneann ón
gcroí go dtí béal a ghiotáir. Tá a chaoineadh
chomh séimh le pluid na habhann á
tarraingt os ár gcionn go léir.
trans. Mary O’Donoghue
These two here in front of me
think he’s singing to only them
when he plays a loving lament,
their fingers ache to be home
where they can play on each
other till morning. The lonely
and old flames are amazed
a man they’ve never met
has the broken tunes of their dreams
off by heart on the tip of his tongue.
When he touches the strings
that tied them together the first time
ever, the married couple in the corner
move closer in spite of themselves.
When the sleeve of the man’s shirt
brushes his wife’s shoulder, a young fella
at the other end of the room
takes off his summer jumper and asks the barman
to turn the heat down for God Almighty’s sake.
The girl made lovely by sorrow prays
he’ll never rest until he finds her.
Outside, a fleet of sirens storms the night,
squadcars, ambulances and fire-brigades
running from the fire that can’t be put out
in the smoldering hearts of the men inside
who are late again for the neverending funeral.
Beside the bridge, the morse code
of loneliness broadcast on flurries
of air is clear as day to the man
who has just jumped. The water is smooth
as a sheet and he is deaf to the world
as the music fills his mouth,
washing away a world of worries.
The singer keeps on strumming
the strings that stretch from the heart
to the mouth of his guitar.
His cry is soft as the river, a blanket of water
drawn up over all our sleepy heads.