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[Book Reviews] "Soirbheas/Fair Wind"

Sat, 2015-03-28 21:28
Hello, Internet! I have just finished savoring the first book of a new-to-me delightful poet, Meg Bateman. (Yes, still the book of poetry that I bought when Mayhem was changing our tire on Harris.) Her "Soirbheas/Fair Wind"is a marvelous eye, a song of aging and loss, gentleness and discovery as old things pass away, having touched the world as they moved through it. It acknowledges the passing of an old lifestyle while not declaring that everything is doomed forever now, it allows itself to mourn without gathering a future bleakness. She follows it up with poems on love and on friendship that keep a similar overwash; there's often change and loss in there, but it doesn't remove the closeness. Her intimacies are often in negative space, and the facing-page translation seems to help with that. (My Ghàidlig is minimal at best, and comes from what Gaeilge I have. For Romance language readers, imagine that you speak tourist Spanish and you're trying to read poetry in Italian. About like that. You... know what some of the words mean! You have some idea of how it's meant to sound when read out loud! But you're missing nuance and texture and sometimes correct grammar. Better than nothing, but you're keenly aware of what you don't see in the original. Still, the only way to get better is to keep on.) So my sense of usage there might be due to my deficiencies as a reader, rather than something she intended as a poet... but I don't think she'd grudge me it. I will definitely be hunting up her subsequent "Transparencies" the next time I want to immersively treat myself. In the meantime, here's her final poem of the collection, so you can see what I mean.


Chunnaic mi eadar-theangachadh de dhàn leam
ann an duanaire de bhàrdachd ghaoil à Alba
agus bu neònach leam gun robh an càirdeas
nach do mhair agamsa ach trì seachdainean
(ged a luidir an t-uisge-stiùir mi fad bhliadhnachan)
an sin an ainm a'ghaoil a mhaireas.

Bu neònaiche buileach na h-ìomhaighean --
cuid a ghineadh ann an òrain Ghàidhlig eile,
cuid a tharraing saighead a' chomhardaidh a-nuas --
is iad nan seasamh gu borb sa Bheurla,
gun iomradh fiù 's gum b' i a' Ghàidhlig
a' bhean-ghlùine dhaibh no am bogha.

Bitheadh an tàcharan ag imeachd --
tha a chaolan dhòmhsa air sgaoileadh;
ma labhras e ri feadhainn mu chàirdeas sìorraidh
gach beannachd leotha 's guma fada beò an gaol ac',
nach ionann fìrinn na beatha is fìrinn na bàrdachd.



I saw one of my poems translated
in a book of love poems from Scotland,
and it felt strange that an affair
that only lasted three weeks
(but in whose wake I floundered long after)
was there in the name of eternal commitment.

It was stranger yet to see the images --
some born of other Gaelic songs,
some brought down by the arrow of rhyme --
standing naked and incongruous in English.
with no mention that Gaelic
was either the midwife or the bow.

But let the changeling make its way --
its umbilical cord with me is cut;
if it speaks to some of enduring love
may theirs be the blessing of love that lasts,
but let this particular revelation be mine
that reality and poetic truth are not the same.

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