Poetry in Three Languages – Irish, Welsh and English

multi-lingual poetry event poster

A Guest Post by Ailbhe Darcy

On Monday 3rd December, two Irish poets, Aifric Mac Aodha and Celia de Fréine, will read at the Flute and Tankard in Cardiff alongside the Welsh poet Llŷr Gwyn Lewis. Poet and academic Ailbhe Darcy explains why she’s organised this multi-lingual event…   

Throughout 2018, Culture Ireland has been hosting events to nurture cultural and artistic links between Ireland and Britain. When I was asked to organise a poetry reading in Cardiff as part of the programme, I knew immediately that I wanted it to involve poets working in the Irish language.  It seemed a fantastic opportunity to focus on the linguistic link between Ireland and Wales, since this link is what makes the relationship between Ireland and Wales special. (That, and rugby.)

Like Welsh poets, Irish poets inherit what the poet Thomas Kinsella once called “a dual tradition” – though you might equally think of it as a threefold tradition, encompassing the Irish-language tradition and the English-language tradition, but also the hybrid tradition that exists where the two come into conversation. I asked Aifric Mac Aodha, Celia de Fréine and Llŷr Gwyn Lewis to present bilingual readings – readings that would give English speakers some access to the traditions these three poets are working in and against.

poets - Celia de Fréine, Llŷr Gwyn Lewis and Aifric Mac Aodha

Celia de Fréine, Llŷr Gwyn Lewis and Aifric Mac Aodha

Carol Rumens writes that poetry in translation “adds to the sum total of human pleasure obtainable through a single language.” Much more eloquently than I can, she argues that poetry in translation “opens up new language worlds within our own tongues” and “revitalises our daily, cliché-haunted vocabulary. It disturbs our assumptions, jolts us with rhythms flatter or stronger than we’re used to. It extends us in the way real travelling does, giving us new sounds, sights and smells. Every unique poetry village sharpens us to life.”

We can all discover the fresh joy Rumens describes here, but it’s especially important for those of us living, reading and writing in English, the stompy great majority language that sometimes seems to drown out everything else. We should make it our business to seek out not only poetry from far away but also poetry in other languages closer to home.

Poets in the Cities: Cardiff/Caerdydd is at 7pm on Monday 3rd December at the Flute & Tankard, 4 Windsor Place.

Supported by Culture Ireland, Poetry Ireland, Cardiff University School of English, Communication and Philosophy, and Poetry Wales

Ailbhe Darcy is lecturer in creative writing at Cardiff University.