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.

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Dandelions And Small Beer

Reading Pearse Hutchinson. From Findrum to Fisterra, ed Philip Coleman and Maria Johnston, Irish Academic Press, 286pp, €45, ISBN. 978-0716530831 By way of introduction to the personality of Pearse Hutchinson I am prefacing my review of the first ever Irish collection of critical essays on this leading Irish poet with my translation of extracts from a recently published book on Connemara by the Gaelic-speaking Austrian writer/artist Richard Wall which offer a vignette of Wall’s encounter with Hutchinson in the year 2000. “Years ago I discovered the poetry of Pearse Hutchinson, including a poem called ‘Gaeltacht’ which was embellished with Irish-language quotes. The irony of these lines makes itself felt only to those who are acquainted with the mentality of the inhabitants and the situation of the Irish language in a societal context and who know about the contempt and arrogance of many city-dwellers and nouveaux-riches in relation to the ‘backward’ Gaelic-speaking farmers and fishermen. The title as well as the content of the poem relate to the Connemara Gaeltacht; the localities Carraroe and ‘the sunny quartz glory of Carna’ are mentioned by name. To make the stanza which I quote below more comprehensible let me offer some information on the traditions and ‘philosophy’ of the population of the West of Ireland: the unconversant stranger might wonder about the negligence or ignorance with which people allow empty houses or boats that have to belong to someone or other to rot away. Even if the heirs omit to intervene to stop this decay and deterioration or the owner seems to ignore the condition of his boat and the effects of the climate, it will not occur to anyone living nearby to take anything from the house (‘to rescue it from going to ruin’ etc.), or to use planks from a boat no longer capable of floating as firewood. These relics are, as it were, sacred, no-one touches them; they are someone else’s property until no speck of dust is left over from them. In Hutchinson’s poem a Dubliner turns up searching for firewood who begins to take a rotten boat apart, whereupon an old man from the locality shakes his head and calls to him: ‘Oh, son, don’t be breaking the boat!’ The original text reads as follows:   A Dublin tourist on a red-quarter strand hunting firewood found the ruins of a boat started breaking the struts out – an old man came…

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