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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Raiders and Settlers

The Coast Road, by Ailbhe Ní Ghearbhuigh, Gallery Press, 120 pp, €12.50, ISBN: 978-1852356903 The Coast Road is a landmark publication in the literary career of Ailbhe Ní Ghearbhuigh. It brings together a selection of poems previously published by Coiscéim: Péacadh (Germination) (2008) and Tost agus Allagar (Silence and Disputation) (2016) in a single volume issued by Gallery Press. In keeping with the traditions of a bilingual format, the original poems figure on the left-hand page and the translations on the right. Two poems benefit from a double-translation: “Bóin Dé”, translated twice by Justin Quinn, and “Irrintzina”, rendered in English by both Peter Sirr and Billy Ramsell. Ailbhe Ní Ghearbhuigh’s poetry, cosseted and curated within the pages of a Gallery volume, is a lovely thing. We witness the variety of her compositional talent. Her poems move between the traditional and the modern, drawing inspiration from the Irish language tradition, with a poem such as “Mac a Leanna”, and its nod to “Bean a Leanna”, or again in “Ceathrúintí na n-Éan”, a poem which echoes “Ceathrúintí Mháire Ní Ógáin”, the plaintive poem of disillusionment written by Máire Mhac an tSaoi. Yet “Ceathrúintí na n-Éan” also manages to summon up Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill’s versatile mer-women via Ní Ghearbhuigh’s swan-woman (éan-bhean), while reminding us also of the legend of the Children of Lir. The lines are filled with powerful assonances, and chillingly violent images, that both fascinate and horrify the reader. Ní Ghearbhuigh is also keen to ensure that the language is large enough to encompass jazz, New York, the French tongue, and, in a poem like the award-winning “Deireadh na Feide”, she reminds us of the fragility of the language in which she chooses to make her literary life. Ailbhe Ní Ghearbhuigh’s poems have been transported into English by no fewer than thirteen translators. One, Michael Coady, translates a single poem (“Eye of the Needle”). Others, like Peter Fallon, Alan Gillis, Billy Ramsell and David Wheatley, translate five poems each. There are also translations by women poets – Vona Groarke, Medhb McGuckian and Michelle O’Sullivan. Lurking in the background, with two translations to his name, is Paul Muldoon, conveyor par excellence into English of the poems of Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill. Such a variety of voices invites invidious comparisons. By what yardstick should one measure the translations? Should one invoke that hoary old chestnut that torments all reviewers of poetry in translation: how faithful are the poet-translators (the…

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