The first ever Warwick Prize for Women in Translation short list presents tough competition (not least with Memoirs of A Polar Bear and Second Hand Time) but The Coast Road (The Gallery Press, 2016) is extraordinary.
A host of translators offer their interpretations of one Irish poet, Ailbhe Ní Ghearbhuigh, sometimes giving different versions of the same poem. The thirteen of them are Michael Coady, Peter Fallon, Tom French, Alan Gillis, Vona Groarke, John McAuliffe, Medbh McGuckian, Paul Muldoon, Michelle O’Sullivan, Justin Quinn, Billy Ramsell, Peter Sirr and David Wheatley.
The original Gaelic is side-by-side with the translation, making comparisons of form and rhyme easy even for readers with no knowledge of Gaelic. With my limited Welsh, experiencing the language is like listening to a badly-tuned radio; flashes of recognition come and go.
There is a lot to tune into – and it’s worth it. The politics of language itself and the ways we can get that wrong are all too familiar to Welsh ears:
Ní Ghearbhuigh is not afraid to challenge the past. Turning away from Yeats, she finds peace in the city:
She reinterprets one of the best-loved and most ancient Irish poems of all, Pangur Bán, in a way to make any writer laugh in recognition:
But best of all, she captures the feeling of a moment. This poem is perfect for right now, as the first frost bites:
Take this book into winter with you.