Haikiú – Gaoth

oíche chiúin anocht
agus mé ag éisteacht;
an ghaoth ag athrú

© Alison Ní Dhorchaidhe 2011

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W.B. Yeats – Daire Mhór na Filíochta

W.B. Yeats in New York in the early ’20s
[Scríofa 13 Meitheamh 2011]
Rugadh Yeats ar an lá seo sa mbliain 1865. Breithlá sona, a Gheataigh! 🙂
Tá ‘fhios ag mo chairde uilig go bhfuil ról tábhachtach ag Yeats i mo shaol – is mór an tionchar atá aige orm, go háirid ó thaobh mo chuid scríbhneoireachta dhe. Eiseamláir amach is amach é dom. Tháinig mé air don chéad uair nuair a cheannaigh mé leabhar dá chuid, cnuasach dá dhánta roghnaithe, sa siopa leabhar Chapters nuair a bhí siad suite ar Shráid na Mainistreach. Níl ‘fhios agam cén fáth a bhraith mé tarraingthe dá shaothar, ach is cosúil gur thaitin na híomhánna a bhí á léiriú ós comhair shúil m’intinne nuair a léigh mé cúpla dán sa siopa roimh an cnuasach a cheannach. Bhí draíocht ag baint lena chuid focla… Tá sé deacair dhom a mhíniú, ach bhí sé ar nós go raibh láimh dhíchollaithe ag cur greama orm as na bileoga! Bhraith mé an rud ceannann céanna nuair a chuaigh mé i dtaithí ar litríocht na Gaeilge. Anamacha a bhí marbh le fada ag caint liom, dom’ impí, agus bhraith mé coibhneas nó aifinideacht leo… Pé scéal é. Ansin, chas mé ar Yeats aríst nuair a rinne muid staidéar ar a chuid filíochta le haghaidh na hArdteiste, agus b’shin an uair a thosaigh an oibseisiún seo i gceart! Bhí spéis ag Yeats sa ndraíocht agus san osnádúr, agus measaim gur seo an príomh-rud a tharraing mé dá shaothar. Agus mé i mo dhéagóir, bhí sórt spreagadh nádúrtha ionam chun na págántachta; d’aimsigh mé mo chreideamh ionam fhéin, agus as sin amach deimhníodh mo fhealsúnach sa domhan mórthimpeall orm trí smaointeoireacht agus fealsúnach daoine eile. Ach ba Yeats an chéad duine a aontaigh liom beagnach go huile ‘s go hiomlán.
Léigh mé chuile leabhar ar Yeats a raibheas in ann a aimsiú chun a thuilleadh eolais a fháil, ag lorg mé fhéin oiread agus mé ag iarraidh dul in aithne ar Yeats féin! Cuireadh tús le mo shaol acadúil i gceart nuair a fhreastal mé ar an Scoil Samhradh Yeats i Sligeach sa mbliain 2006, th’éis dhom m’Ardteist a chríochnú. D’fhill mé ar ais chuile bhliain, ar nós fáinleoige. (Chaill mé amach ar an scoil anuraidh, óir go raibheas i mbun mo thráchtais Mháistreachta.)

Chas mé ar chairde agus smaointeoireacht den chéad scoth ag an scoil sin, agus caithfidh mé a rá go bhfuilim go mór faoi chomaoin na scoile, agus murach í ní bheinn mar atáim inniu. Tá an-chuid deiseanna ag baint le hinstitiúid dá sórt do dhaoine acadúla óga. Ní raibh sé chomh deacair dul isteach ar an ollscoil i ndiaidh taithí caite agam don chéad bhliain sa Scoil Samhradh Yeats; ní raibh faitíos orm mo chuid smaointí a roinnt leis na ranganna i UCD óir gur bhraith mé go raibh siad deimhnithe agus spreagtha i measc acadóirí a thaistil ó chuile chúinne na cruinne thuas i Sligeach.
Bhraith mé, agus braithim fós, go bhfuilim go mór faoi scáth Yeats agus mé ag déanamh iarrachta ceird na filíochta a chleachtadh. Is maith an rud é go bhfuil meán na Gaeilge agam chun mo ghuth a scaoil amach, nó bheadh na focla tachta i mo scornach! Is deacair an rud é a bheith i mbun scríbhneoireachta agus tionchar mór ort ag scríbhneoir cáiliúil eile. Bíonn an-chuid scríbhneoirí ar fud an domhain ag dul i ngleic le Yeats. Mar a dúirt an file Austin Clarke,

“So far as the younger generation of poets are concerned, here in Ireland, Yeats was rather like an enormous oak-tree which, of course, kept us in the shade, and did exclude a great number of the rays of, say, the friendly sun; and of course we always hoped that in the end we would reach the sun, but the shadow of that great oak-tree is still there.” (Rodgers [ed.], “W.B. Yeats” in Mikhail [1977], W.B. Yeats: Interviews and Recollections, pp. 316-33, at p. 330)

D’éirigh mé sórt scartha ó Yeats nuair a thosaigh mé ag leanacht bhóthar na Gaeilge. B’fhéidir gur maith sin, chun mé fhéin a fheabhsú lasmuigh de scáth na darach móire sin! Ar ndóigh, tá sé tábhachtach teorainneacha do goirt a fhairsingiú. Bhí sé i gcónaí ann, áfach, i gcónaí ar chúl m’intinne cibé a bhí ar siúl agam. Feictear dom go raibh tionchar ag traidisiún na Gaeilge air, agus cé nach raibh sé in ann an teanga a fhoghlaim (rinne Bantiarna Gregory cúpla iarracht an teanga a mhúineadh dó!), rinne sé a seacht ndícheall spiorad an traidisiúin sin a chur chun cinn, agus é a spreagadh ar stáitse an domhain. Sílim go bhfaca mé an spiorad sin ina shaothar, agus sin an fáth nach mbraithim gaol ceart idir mé fhéin agus scríbhneoirí Béarla eile, seachas eisean. Ba é Yeats duine de na chéad scríbhneoirí a chur aird ar thábhacht an bhéaloidis, agus cuireann sé as dom nach dtugann lucht an Bhéaloidis in Éirinn meas dó mar gheall ar sin. D’aithin Yeats an chumhacht atá ag baint leis na scéalta agus deas-gnáthanna a bhí (agus atá, in áiteacha) ag “na gnáthdhaoine”, agus b’ionann dó creidimh seo na ndaoine agus an nóisean aige de spioradáltacht choiteann ag an gcine daoine. Chonacthas dó go raibh siombailí agus móitífeanna i neamhchomhfhios an chine dúchais (tagtar orthu i mbrionglóidí), agus go raibh siad ar fáil d’ fhilí agus do scríbhneoirí chun litríocht “náisiúnta” a chruthú ar son na tíre. Sin a bhí ar láimh aige nuair a bhunaigh sé Amharclann na Mainistreach le Bantiarna Gregory agus Edward Martyn. Mhol sé nach mbeimis in ann fíor saoire na tíre a bhaint amach gan dul ar ais i dtaithí ar chultúr na tíre chun spiorad agus dearcadh dúchais an chine a mhúscailt. Agus b’shin roimh chritic an iar-choilíneachais!
Ní raibheas ag plé le Yeats le fada, áfach, óir go raibheas ag díriú ar an nGaeilge agus ar an nGàidhlig, go dtí mí nó dhó ó shin nuair a chuaigh Tile Films i dteagmháil liom mar gheall ar chlár teilifíse ar TG4, Cé a Chónaigh i Mo Theach-sa?, clár ina dtugtar cúlra dúinn de thithe cháiliúla ar fud na tíre. Nílim chun mórán a rá faoin tionscadal sin go fóill, ach abraimis gur bhraith mé ag an am go raibh an file mór ag dul ar ais i dteagmháil de shórt eicínt liom, go raibh sé ag teacht ar ais i mo shaol, ach i gcomhthéacs na Gaeilge ar an mbabhta seo. Ba mhór dom an deis sin a tharraing Yeats agus an Ghaeilge le chéile; tá sé i gceist agam an nasc sin a spreagadh sa todhchaí. Táim ag filleadh chuig an Scoil Samhradh Yeats i mbliana chun ceardlanna teanga na Gaeilge a thabhairt do na mic léinn eile, agus beidh mé ag freastal ar an scoil agus na hócáidí uilig. Rud suntasach freisin ná go mbeidh Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill i láthair i mbliana, file a ndearna mé iniúchadh ar dhánta dá chuid dom’
thráchtas. Is cinnte go mbeidh mé bainteach le Yeats aríst amach anseo…

Ted Hughes – “Imagine what you are writing about. See it and live it.”

Ted Hughes
I’m currently reading Ted Hughes’ Poetry in the Making, a collection of the talks that he wrote for and read on the BBC series “Listening and Writing”, which was directed towards an audience of schoolchildren (and no doubt the big children who are writers and poets!).
I LOVE Ted Hughes’ poetry, because he has think knack of capturing the sensuality of the subject in his words, and his images are always striking. He’s on a par with the Old Irish nature poets with his gift for portraying landscapes, animals, birds and the elements. It’s pretty cool of him to intimate his secret to poetlets/poetlings through his talk entitled “Capturing Animals”. I’m going to share a lengthly quote from this chapter in the book:

How can a poem, for instance, about a walk in the rain, be like an animal? Well, perhaps it cannot look much like a giraffe or an emu or an octopus, or anything you might find in a menagerie. It is better to call it an assembly of living parts moved by a single spirit. The living parts are the words, the images, the rhythms. The spirit is the life which inhabits them when they all work together. It is impossible to say which comes first, parts or spirit. But if any of the parts are dead… if any of the words, or images or rhythms do not jump to life as you read them… then the creature is going to be maimed and the spirit sickly. So, as a poet, you have to make sure that all those parts over which you have control, the words and rhythms and images, are alive.


[I]magine what you are writing about. See it and live it. Do not think it up laboriously, as if you were working out mental arithmetic. Just look at it, touch it, smell it, listen to it, turn yourself to it. When you do this, the words look after themselves, like magic. If you do this you do not have to bother about commas or full-stops or that sort of thing. You do not look at the words either. You keep your eyes, your ears, your nose, your taste, your touch, your whole being on the thing you are turning into words. The minute you flinch, and take your mind off this thing, and begin to look at the words and worry about them… then your worry goes into them and they set about killing each other. So you keep going as long as you can, then look back and see what you have written. After a bit of practice, and after telling yourself a few times that you do not care how other people have written about this thing, this is the way you find it; and after telling yourself you are going to use any old word that comes into your head so long as it seems right at the moment of writing it down, you will surprise yourself. You will read back through what you have written and you will get a shock. You will have captured a spirit, a creature.

                                                [Ted Hughes, Poetry in the Making (2008), pp. 17-19]

He’s a magician. But here’s a question: is he talking about purely focusing on a subject that you hold in your mind’s eye, your imagination, or does he also mean actually studying a subject in front of your eyes? I would argue for the former, as I believe the imagination is what has the power to create life through words. Yeats would agree. He argued that a poet should meditate on a subject, after a possible true encounter has happened. It needs to burn in your mind for a bit before you can process it. I find personally that the object in front of me make me mute, it steals any words from my mouth. Only when I’m away from its gaze can I string together words. The intensity of experience casts me into silence. However, I did stand on the beach with my notebook and wrote about the waves once…
Another question I have – what if you’re writing in your second language, and you work with dictionaries to hunt for the right word? That sort of kills the focus on the subject doesn’t it? A question to ponder on, I suppose.

Redstarts – living ‘wholly and enviably to themselves’

John Andrew Wright

I was watching BBC’s Springwatch last week, and Chris Packham read an extract written by ornithologist John Buxton in 1943 while he was a prisoner in a war camp in Bavaria. Apparently much of what we know about Redstarts (pictured) has been gained from this man’s observations. I was really struck by the extract, and thought I’d share it.

‘One of the chief joys of watching these birds in prison was that they inhabited another world than I. They lived wholly and enviably to themselves unconcerned in our fatuous politics, without the limitations imposed all about us by our knowledge. They lived only in the moment, without foresight and with memory only of things of immediate practical concern to them.’

Imagine being in prison, and living your life through the birds you see flying free out of your window? It would keep me sane, I can tell you. I often do it from my own bedroom window! I can’t explain why I love birds so much, but I would say it is because they seem to have this sort of philosophy as described above. Philosophy is the wrong word here, as Buxton has just said that it is in fact our ‘knowledge’ and ‘love of knowledge’ that imposes the limitations on us… Their way of life then, the way they live only for the moment, and deal with things as they happen. To take every day as it comes, and to enjoy it. To sing, to fly, to eat!

Basic functions, but so delightful. We don’t take delight in these basic functions ourselves, not really. We think too much for our own good, and we’re always in a hurry to get to something that is always ahead of us. I think we should take a leaf out of the Redstart’s book, and enjoy every day, and concern ourselves only with our own little patch. If everyone looked after their own patch themselves with patience and dedication, the whole world would be a much better place.
See this blog by Squeak’s Wheel for another meditation on the same extract.

Caoimhín Naofa agus an Chéirseach

Le teacht an Charghais,
imíonn Caoimhín leis
chuig bothán caol,
leac ghlas mar leaba dó;

Glacann sé faoiseamh
ó chomhrá na ndaoine,
i bhfabhar machnaimh
i bhfochair éan ‘s ainmhithe.

Leabhar ina lámha,
úlla bána ‘na thimpeall
ar na sailí cromtha,
siúlann an fear naofa –

Ar chiumhais na coille
a shroicheadh, stadann sé –
Ciúnas. Corp beag dubh
leagtha ar an talamh:

Lon dubh bocht, marbh.
A chlúmh lonrach fós,
gob néata buí, balbh.
Tost ar an gceol go deo.

An guth chomh glinn sin,
‘s é ag gairm ón tsailleach!
Bhí an lon grinnsúileach,
díograiseach mar chomharsan.

Trua ina chroí dó,
guíonn an naomh ar a shon,
a lámh mhothálach
sínte uaidh amach.

Tagann céirseach ón gcoill
chun tuirlingt ar a bhos;
baintreach úr, cumhach
i ndiaidh a céile.

Is foighneach an fear,
‘s caomh, go deimhin –
coinníonn sé a lámh mar sin
go ndéanann sí nead inti.

Mar lomán faoin éan
a lámh anois, go dtabharfaidh
amach an líne; is géar mór
pian na comaoine.

10 Aibreán 2011

© Alison Ní Dhorchaidhe 2011

Breakfast Crows

Crows lift dog food
chisel it with beaks:
hammer hammer hammer
munch munch munch
caw caw caw
swift glossy flight
swoop
clink of beak on ceramic
crunchy food in clenched foot claws
hammer hammer hammer
munch munch –
squabble!
clash of wings and scrapes
swagger –
munch.

© Alison Ní Dhorchaidhe 2011