The Muted Blade
Many these poems respond to current events of the past twenty years, others take a longer view, exploring how the past and the recent past resonate in the most mundane aspects of everyday life; a kind of condensed open conversation with the turbulent times we live in.
The Heron on the Lake
These poems are about love and loss, the burden of memory, culture and ancestry. They journey through bereavement and heartbreak and back eventually to normality. The gloom is leavened here and there with occasional humour, as in life.
The Lament for Arthur O’Leary
The last poem in Sí-Orphans of the Plaintive Air is a translation of the lament by Black Eileen O’Connell (Eibhlín Dubh Ní Chonaill) for her murdered husband Art O’Leary. It is one of the great poems of the Gaelic eighteenth century, and probably the greatest by a woman poet in the Irish language before the twentieth century. I studied it for two years in secondary school and for a further year at university and eventually made a translation in the mid-nineties for a friend who is a distant relative of Eileen’s. I came back to it some years ago, aware that mine is one of several modern translations available, some by very distinguished poets.
In An Oubliette
War is the linking theme in this patchwork of poetic monologues. Historical figures from the Crusades to the Napoleonic Wars are interspersed with fictional characters in a meditation on the pity and relentlessness of human conflict. This collection started life as a conventional novel and gradually morphed into poems making up a novella.
Black Woman and Other Poems, by Nancy Morejon
The Grenadian playwright and poet Joan Anim-Addo asked me to translate a selection of the work of the internationally-renowned Cuban poet Nancy Morejón for her Mango Press series on Caribbean writers in translation. Nancy chose the poems herself, approved my translations and advised me as the work progressed. It was a very fruitful collaboration from my perspective, especially as Nancy and I did not meet face to face until the book launch in London.
These poems are little landscapes, the intimations of a moment, capturing the small things we might glimpse out of the corner of an eye, and then forget a minute later.
Si-Orphans of the Plaintive Air
The Irish language disappeared from Co. Clare at the beginning of the twentieth century but its rhythms and sensibility lie behind much of our speech and ways of thinking and with it the resonance of the old Gaelic tales of heroes and supernatural beings. Sí-Orphans (fairy orphans) gives voice to the female figures, real and mythological, who feature in that heritage but whose stories are not usually told from their own point of view.
While the Men Are Dying
I came across Carmen Conde’s collection of prose poems, written in the midst of the Spanish Civil War, when I was putting together a course on Spanish literature in 1993. They were all but forgotten in Spain. I published an edition of these poems with Manchester University Press in 2009, with notes on each of the poems, for university students. I felt, however, that this very important testimony needed to be introduced to a non-Spanish speaking readership.