Despite the fact that Irish is an endangered language, poetry in Irish is experiencing a remarkable resurgence. In No Egos No Divas: New Poets in Irish, on BBC Radio 4 on Sunday 28th July at 16:30, Louis de Paor meets young poets defying the odds.
He meets Aifric Mac Aodha, co-editor of the bilingual anthology Calling Cards, published by the Gallery Press and Poetry Ireland in 2018, which contains a range of work by ten poets.
Simon Ó Faoláin, who runs the wonderful poetry festival An Fhéile Bheag Filíochta, explains how he ended up moving from Dublin to the Gaeltacht village of Ballyferriter in west Kerry, and what sparked his first poem. Marcus Mac Conghail, who seamlessly blends poetry and music, tells Louis that he sees no difference between the two.
Doireann Ní Ghríofa, a member of Aosdána, talks about poets who have inspired her, like Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill and Biddy Jenkinson, and refutes the suggestion that men are absent from the current resurgence of poetry in Irish.
Ailbhe Ní Ghearbhuigh and Caitlín Nic Íomhair share their love of other languages, in addition to Irish and English, and Séamus Barra Ó Súilleabháin shows off his skills as Ireland’s first ever All-Ireland poetry slam champion in Irish.
We hear a flavour of Irish all through the programme, with most poems, for the benefit of BBC Radio 4 listeners, in English translation, and they range in theme from Cú Chulainn and the bones of the ancestors, to mothers-in-law and morning lie-ins.
Presenter Louis de Paor discovers that the poets’ love of Irish has often been fostered by family links or Irish-medium education. While the young poets acknowledge their debt to their predecessors, they are also forward-looking, open to other languages and cultures, and both benefit from, and contribute to, the surge in popularity of live poetry and spoken-language events run by organisations like Ó Bhéal in Cork and REIC.
Presenter Louis de Paor is an acclaimed poet in the Irish language and Professor of Irish Studies at the National University of Ireland, Galway. He says of the young poets featured: ‘Their confidence in a language that has been threatened for almost a millennium is remarkable and fully vindicated by the quality of their work. For listeners who have not yet heard them and their work, you have a treat in store for you on BBC Radio 4!’
Presenter: Louis de Paor
Producer: Claire Cunningham
Exec producer: Julien Clancy
A Rockfinch production for BBC Radio 4.
BBC Radio 4, Sunday 28 July, 16:30
Repeat Saturday 3 August, 23:30
Louis de Paor (Credit Amanda Gentile)
Ailbhe Ní Ghearbhuigh (Credit Máire Uí Mhaicín)
Aifric Mac Aodha (Credit Tony Dillon)
Doireann Ní Ghríofa (Credit Bríd O Donovan)
Caitlín Nic Íomhair
Marcus Mac Conghail
Séamus Barra O Súilleabháin
Simon Ó Faoláin