Thursday, February 05, 2009

A Verse Falls in the Forest

The Irish Times has an interesting article today on the most recent batch of Irish-language poetry prizes. Given that few people speak the language, even in Ireland itself, the question was raised whether these poets feel they're writing in a vacuum. Áine Uí Fhoghlú, who won the Michael Hartnett Poetry Award for her collection An Liú sa Chuan, responds "sometimes you wonder if there's anybody out there. But like any art form [writing poetry] is not something you particularly set out to do. It kind of comes over you. For me personally, it's as if a poem comes in spite of me and it's my job to shape that into something that I consider art. So it's something that happens. It's like a well that bubbles up and you can't stop it and if you plug it up it comes out somewhere else." It shows an almost Kierkegaardian faith, a propulsion to expression, that could be said to reside in all poets. But the question remains: what can one make of contemporary poets in languages such as Irish? And even more pressing, I think — what happens when the most giften translators of this language pass away?