I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

Home Uncategorized Affinity with Far Away

Affinity with Far Away

Amanda Bell
Northern Lights: Poems in Irish, by Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill with translations into English by Eiléan Ní Chuilleaneán, Peter Fallon, Eamon Grennan, Bernard O’Donoghue and Dennis O’Driscoll, The Gallery Press, 104 pp, €18.50, ISBN: 978-1911337522 The fifth bilingual volume of Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill’s work to be published by Gallery Press, Northern Lights, consists of twenty-eight poems from across her illustrious international career. A small number of new poems is included, but the majority have already been published and translated. The editorial decision to use new translations, suggesting that there is no definitive way of translating a poem, will no doubt give food for thought to students of translation studies; so too will the choice of cover image – Diarmuid Breen’s “The Dilemma”, which cannot but be interpreted as a comment on the translation process. However, this is a book for a much wider audience than is to be found within the academy, spanning a continuum from fluent speakers of Irish through to the Anglophone and possibly monoglot readers who have only ever read the poems through the prism of translation, as Ní Dhomhnaill writes poetry exclusively in Irish. Such a book invites a type of triangulation: to appraise the original poems, the translations, and the tension in the space in between. There is also the temptation to compare the approaches taken by different translators: for this reader at least, Ní Chuilleanáin’s translations seem to be seamless reflections of the originals, whereas others introduce a different voice and tone. Even for a reader with no knowledge of Irish, the parallel presentation draws attention to aesthetic or linguistic choices, highlighting differences in lineation, stanzas, and more substantive variations, such as the introduction of epigraphs. It would be a waste to focus on the intricacies of translation to the neglect of the poems themselves though, for here, in both languages, is poetry striking in its sensuality, its ferocity, its interweaving of the personal with the universal, the sexual with the spiritual, the corporeal with the transcendental and mythological. The relatively small selection gives a good overview of Ní Dhomhnaill’s themes and devices, and proceeds chronologically from early love poems through the complexities of world citizenship and inexorably onwards towards bereavement. The opening poem, “Fáilte Bhéal na Sionna don Iasc”/“The Shannon Mouth Welcomes the Fish”, exquisitely melds the human body with the landscape as the waterway/poet welcomes her salmon/lover in a lyric that builds to an…

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