Despite the wide selection of books I brought with me to review—including, for example, Anne Carson’s incredible New Directions book in a box, Nox—it’s an inevitability that I will find, purchase, and be given books while I travel. This trip is no different, and I’m now in Mombasa reading books I stumbled upon over the course of the Poetry Translation Centre’s Mexican Poets’ Tour through the UK. Several of the titles I’ve acquired will be reviewed at full length soon, including Adam O’Riordan’s Home, for example, but I’d like to mention a few noteworthy titles now, in a more informal summary of what I’ve been reading.
The first is a small book I bought at the Scottish Poetry Library in Edinburgh, Dreuchd An Fhigheadair/The Weaver’s Task: a Gaelic Sampler, ed. by Crìsdean MhicGhilleBhàin/Christopher Whyte (Scottish Poetry Library, 2007. £5). In his introduction, Whyte describes the pairs of poems this pocket-sized volume contains as neither translations or versions, but as “responses,” describing them rather enigmatically: “A question rarely dictates the answer it gets and yet the answer must necessarily take account of the question being posed.” The collection includes original poems in Gaelic by Maoilios Caimbeul, Deòrsa MacIain Dheòrsa, Fearghas MacFhionnlaigh, and others, with responses by Tracy Herd, W.N. Herbert, Jacky Kay, and their English-language Scottish contemporaries. One of my favorite responses, by Robert Crawford to MacFhionnlaigh’s poem “An Sgìobhaiche Gàidhlig,” articulates the status of the minority writer—or indeed any poet—well. Here in its entirety:
The Gaelic Writer
Like Krusty the Clown from The Simpsons
taking a pinpoint plunge
from a mile-high divingboard thin as a skelf
into a dramful of water
out here in front of a tiny audience
of halfhearted seals applauding.
Others, all deserving more than a passing mention, include Pascale Petit’s chapbook The Wounded Deer (Smith/Doorstop Books, 2005. £3), the sequence of fourteen poems after Frida Kahlo that established her longterm interest in the painter, now more fully manifested in her new collection with Seren, What The Water Gave Me, to be featured here soon; Neil Rollinson’s Amphibians (2007. £5), from the Wordsworth Trust’s limited edition series of chapbooks by their poets in residence; and Andrew Forster’s brand new Territory (£7.50), his second with Flambard Press Poetry, which explores the rainy hinterlands of Cumbria and South-West Scotland, where, as he writes in “You Call This Rain…,” even what would be Los Angeles’ most epic storm “is a mere shortlived cloudburst/breaking the tension in the air.”