Feb 3, 2014

People,

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.

An tAmhránaí

 

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.

 

 

 

The Singer

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.

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