Friday, May 30, 2014

Léirmheas de/Review of Ní Ghríofa


Cnuasach gearr dátheangach is ea Dordéan, do Chroí / A Hummingbird, your Heart (Smithereens Press, 2014) le Doireann Ní Ghríofa.  Is cosúil go bhfuil na dánta seo scríofa as Gaeilge i dtús báire agus ansin aistrithe ag an údar féin.  Is suimiúil an rud é nach ionann na bunleaganacha agus na haistriúcháin (sé sin le rá, thar na difríochtaí a bheadh ann in aon aistriúchán ar bith).  Mar shampla, sa teidealdhán, níl sé follasach sa leagan Béarla cé hé an duine a “sleep[s] in a tangled nest of wires” in “a plastic box” — cé gur cosúil go bhfuil an té sin san ospidéal.  Tá sí, lena croí mar dhordéan meafarach, idir beatha agus bás.  Duine aosta, b’fhéidir.  Ach sa leagan Gaeilge, is léir láithreach gur leanbh í: “An bhfanfaidh do dhordéan linn, a leanbh bán?”  Ceist mhór a tharraingíonn an léitheoir isteach.

As the poems in this collection appear to be loosely linked, it is clear that, unfortunately, the hummingbird, e.g. this baby’s heart, does in fact “seek the freedom of the skies.”  In the poem immediately following the above (“Swallows”), the speaker describes herself in the aftermath of this horrible event: “Stretched and stitched, / I lie empty, raw, alone / in the cold corridor of the hospital,” hope disappearing like swallows at sunset.  Thus, it quickly becomes known that death and grief are the overarching themes of this collection.  The poems in it rely heavily on metaphor (especially those of birds) and simile, as the speaker seeks solace in folklore (“Solace”) and poetry and art itself.  There is for example a short homage to Frida Kahlo, who lay “between life and death / . . . in her sickbed.”

Dán suntasach é “Crann” ina bhfuil an cainteoir amuigh sa bhforaois, tite in éadóchas, mar chineál Shuibhne Gealt: “Maisím mé féin le réalta reatha / idir ghéaga garbha.  Sáim mo chuid fréamhacha / i gcré na hóiche, súim súilíní drúchta.”  Sa bpíosa seo, tá gairis fuaime chun tosaigh — uaim agus comhfhuaim ghutaí.  De bharr nádúr na teangan, tá seo níos follasaí sa Ghaeilge, cé go ndéantar iarracht garmheastachán de a chruthú trí mheán an Bhéarla.  Agus éiriónn le Ní Ghríofa sa dá theanga, sa dán seo agus ar fud an leabhair.

Her attention to poetic craft is further emphasized in “Hagfish,” which is almost something like a short manifesto.  Here, she likens poets — female poets in particular — to “ancient snake sisters of the Delphic Sybil” and depicts them
devour[ing] rotting remains,
we scavenge on the strange,
stripping morsels of consonants
from crumbling corpses.
Again, soundplay is the fore, and this is a good example of it in an English version, where usually the Irish lends itself to this just slightly more readily.  Dordéan, do Chroí / A Hummingbird, your Heart ends with the short poem “Grandmother,” where death and new life meet (“Now I stand at your funeral, / newborn nestled into my neck”), and despite the gloomy circumstances there is some sense of hope realized after all.

Is file crógach tréitheach í Ní Ghríofa, agus is féidir an cnuasach iomlán seo a léamh ag an nasc thíos.

This collection can be read in its entirety, for free, here:

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