Dé hAoine 28 Deireadh Fómhair 2011

Air thòir Somhairle!

It's quite frustrating for an Irish person when it comes to celebrating Somhairle MacGill-Eain's centenary birthday. I could only propogate his image and his words online through my Tumblr blog and Twitter, continue reading about Highland history, read some of his poems and have a glass of Scotch in his honour at home. I realise that there was a lecture given on Somhairle with an evening of Gàidhlig poetry and Scottish music as part of the IMRAM festival, but unfortunately I was unable to make it as I had to return to Louth. As a new Somhairle scholar, I feel like I should be at everything to do with the man, and everything to do with Gàidhlig. This, of course, is impossible. I'm only delighted that I could attend Ainmeil thar Cheudan at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig earlier this year, which was all the more fitting with the bona fide Highland backdrop and the Gàidhlig all around me. This is more comfortable (to me) than having Gàidhlig in the context of Gaeilge anyway; the time has come for Gàidhlig to stand in its own right, for the Gàidhlig voice to take precedence in describing itself and its culture, not English and not Gaeilge. (I can't wait for the day when I can write this in Gàidhlig!) Of course, speakers of Gaeilge and speakers of Gàidhlig will always be supportive of one another, and have a special friendship of mutual understanding. They should do, anyway. I would say that it's frustrating for Scottish people to celebrate Somhairle's centenary birthday! I'm only beginning to fully understand how marginalised the Scottish Gael is in Scottish discourse. The people of the Gaeltacht in Ireland may feel marginalised and at odds with the prevalent 'Irish' culture in the rest of the country, but at least they are cherished as keepers of Ireland's (true) culture. I think the people of the Gàidhealtachd still have a long way to go until they can feel like they can shout from the hills and rooftops with pride for the celebration of their artistic voice. It astounds me how many people have never even heard of Somhairle MacGill-Eain (or Sorley MacLean, for that matter...) That said, I took delight in the enthusiasm of those who work with Polygon (and Birlinn), who are based in Edinburgh and are the publisher of Somhairle's new collection of poetic writings. They had tweeted to wish Somhairle a happy birthday, and I tweeted back in Gàidhlig saying how I can't wait for my copy to arrive. They replied "Worth waiting for, it's sublime. All madly in love with Sorley at Polygon Towers!" Aww. :)

I think that I have literally been standing back and gaping in awe at Somhairle since I studied his poetry quite thoroughly during my Masters. I've been reveling in the passion, throwing myself into learning the language and acquiring the knowledge and understanding of the context of Highland history and culture. Whenever I pick up by copy of Dàin do Eimhir or O Choille gu Bearradh, my eyes widen at the richness and complexity of the language, and I feel ashamed that I have to take a glance at the English on the facing page. (Though I am happy that I can recognise when the English translation pales in comparison to the original in terms of meaning!) It is arrogant to think that an Irish speaker can just pick up a book written in Gàidhlig and understand it. You think you're getting the gist, then you realise that there are many 'false friends' and that you actually don't get it! At this stage, I can pick up a book of short stories by Iain Mac a' Ghobhainn and read away happily, understanding nearly every word. But Somhairle - wow. He is a true modern poet, writing about the complicated subject of the human condition in the complexity of poetic language, armed in the richness of the Gàidhlig and tradition that he inherited by birthright. You don't take up a book of Somhairle's poems lightly; you're literally picking up the weight of the human condition and the richness of Gaelic (and European) culture into tentative hands. This was a man who admitted to being an avid reader of history and philosophy, and who came from a long line of tradition-bearers.

Dé Luain 24 Deireadh Fómhair 2011

Secular morality, 'being good' and harnessing the dark side (basically people should have more sense)

The actions of my fellow people have hurt me over the past two days, and as a result I am entering hermit mode, forsaking society for the solace of books. But before I go, I just want to share a few jumbled thoughts. Yesterday I watched a film about poachers in Africa slaughtering and mutilating elephants and rhinos for ivory, because a lot of money can be made out of it. Today I hear of a much-beloved young man in Scotland who was tied to a lamp-post, beaten and scorched, possibly as an attack on his sexuality. In recent times, there is a general feeling amongst 'ordinary folk' that the people with positions of power are deliberately selling out their fellow people just so they can keep the wealthy wealthy (which has prompted 'the 99%' to come out and protest against the injustice of 'the 1%'). I am not saying that things are getting worse in our time, because I know that these types of horrors have been a reality forever. What I am suggesting, however, is that things should be getting better.

I recall a conversation with a friend of mine about morality; he studies philosophy and is an atheist, while (as you may know) I identify as a pagan, with a belief in some force that interconnects every living thing. We basically came to the agreement that a 'secular morality' is a higher form of morality, in the sense that a person who does good just for the sake of being good is far more noble than a person who 'does good' because they fear the wrath of a god who watches their every move. You do not need a religion to be moral. The Dalai Lama has suggested that qualities like love and compassion are human values that are independent of religion, and so can be promoted without the basis of a religion. If anything, religious organisations have propagated more hate and intolerence against certain groups throughout history. The manner in which they preach from 'holy texts' is negative, as they express morality (for the most part) in terms of prohibitions. This method merely discourages people from being their very worst, as opposed to encouraging people to be their very best. We're all here at this present moment, and the existence of everything under the sun is dependent on everything else, this is all we know. Though I don't agree with Objectivism, I'll quote Ayn Rand: "existence exists". Why would you want to hurt and exploit your fellow humans, your animal friends and your environment when all it does is cause suffering? We all came from the same basic source, we're inter-related. How could someone take pleasure in torturing and killing? Even people with a god looking over their shoulder do this. Perhaps this belief in 'the next life' has caused humankind to have so little respect for the life we're living now.

Dé Máirt 18 Deireadh Fómhair 2011

Siompóisiam ar Bhlagadóireacht na Gaeilge

© Pól Ó Duibhir, 2011
Bhí an deis agam páirt a ghlacadh sa siompóisiam ar bhlagadóireacht na Gaeilge in City Arts (suite ar Ché an  Bhaitsiléara, BÁC) chun tús a chur le IMRAM Féile Litríochta 2011 ar an Aoine seo caite (14ú Deireadh Fómhair). I dtosach, caithfidh mé buíochas ar leith a gabháil le Scott de Buitléir agus Liam Carson as an bpribhléid seo a thabhairt dom.

Ní raibheas ag tnúth le go mbeadh an méid sin daoine i láthair! Amharclann beag is ea í in ionad City Arts, ach bhí teach lán againn, le daoine ag teacht isteach agus ag seasamh ar chúl in aice leis na doirse. Meascán de chuile shórt duine a bhí ann, idir sean agus óg, idir fhir agus mhná, agus bhí sin an-spreagúil. B'fhéidir gur clísé seo, ach bhraith mé go raibh 'an-ghrá' sa seomra! Cé go mbím cúthaileach os comhair slua d'ardchaighdeán Gaeilge, bhíos ar mo shuaimhneas de bhrí na cuideachta tharam; bhí Scott de Buitléir ina fhear an tí, agus tá muid inár gcairde le blianta anois; ar an bpainéil liom, bhí Aonghus Ó hAlmhain, cara liom ar Twitter; Máire Burns, riarthóir an leathanaigh Facebook "Gaeilge Amháin"; agus Alex Hijmans, úrscéalaí den chéad scoth a bhfuil cónaí air sa mBrasaíl. Bhí sé chomh deas liomsa bualadh le hAonghus agus Máire ann, toisc nach raibh ach 'ríomhaithne' againn ar a chéile go nuige sin. (Goidim an focal sin ó Aonghus - is iontach an comhfhocal é!) Sa ngrianghraf thuas (tógtha ó bhlag 'An Cnagaire'), ó chlé go deas tá Alex, mé féin, Máire, Aonghus agus Scott. Cheap muid go raibh sé feiliúnach go raibh Alex inár láthair 'go fíorúil' trí Skype ar an scáileán galánta Mac agus muid ag plé le teicneolaíocht na Gaeilge! 

Níor mhair an phlé ach ar feadh uair a chloig, ach in ainneoin sin chlúdaigh muid cuid mhaith den ábhar. Rinneadh tagairt don 'Bhlagtacht', .i. 'blagaisféar' na Gaeilge, nó 'an Chiberghaeltacht', áit a bhfuil an deis ag Gaeilgeoirí ar fud na cruinne an teanga a úsáid go laethúil. Tá blagadóirí eolach ar a chéile, agus bíonn siad ag cur tráchtanna ar a mblaganna nó ag leanacht leis an bplé ar Twitter. Mar sin, téann Gaeilgeoirí in aithne ar a chéile, agus bíonn neart teagmhála agus comhrá ar siúl ar líne. Freisin, tá tionchar ag blagadóirí ar na meáin óir bíonn níos mó muiníne ag daoine i ngnáthdhuine eile, seachas in iriseoirí. Thug Aonghus léirmheasanna ar litríocht na Gaeilge mar shampla - bíonn léitheoirí ag roinnt a dtuairimí ar leabhair nua ar a mblaganna, agus spreagann sin plé ar an litríocht i bhfoirm tráchtanna ar an leathanach blaga nó i bhfóraim eile. Cuireadh an cheist orm faoin gcaidreamh idir an bhlagadóireacht agus an litríocht, agus dúirt mé gur céim eile atá sa mblagadóireacht chun nua-litríocht a chur chun cinn, agus as sin tá seans ann go bhfaighidh scríbhneoirí óga an deis chun a gcuid saothar a chur i gcló. Cé go bhfuil do chuid scríbhneoireachta 'foilsithe' de réir an dlí ar bhlag, d'aontaigh chuile dhuine go bhfuil rud eicínt 'oifigiúil' ag baint le leabhar nó alt i nuachtán. Maím go dtugann an bhlagadóireacht an seans do dhaoine óga muinín a bheith acu ina gcuid scríbhneoireachta féin agus í á roinnt ar líne os comhair pobail fairsinge, áit a bhfuil léitheoirí á léamh agus á spreagadh. Ní hamháin go bhfuil an bhlagadóireacht mar chéim do dhaoine óga lena ngairm scríbhneoireachta, ach tá sí mar bhreisiú don litríocht freisin; tá blag ag Alex Hijmans ag gabháil lena leabhar Favela, le caibidle nua nó ábhair nua a bhaineann leis an leabhar á roinnt air. Tá beatha nua tugtha do leabhair fiú amháin agus iad le fáil i riocht eile ar líne; tá léitheoirí in ann dul i ngleic le leabhar le cuidiú meáin eile. Mar a mhol Aonghus, tá blagadóireacht ag chur litearthacht na Gaeilge chun cinn chomh maith leis an litríocht, agus rinne Alex cur síos ar bhlaganna "mar fhuinneoga ar shiopaí liteartha na Gaeilge."

Dé Luain 10 Deireadh Fómhair 2011

Planet Word: Stephen Fry agus ceist na mionteangacha

Cheapas go roinnfidh mé cúpla smaoineamh ar an darna eipeasóid den tsraith Planet Word, ina dtéann Stephen Fry ar thuras teanga. Bhíos ag tnúth go mór leis an eipeasóid áirithe seo, toisc go raibh sé ag plé le cruachás mhionteangacha an domhain, an Ghaeilge ina measc. Bhreathnaigh mé air faoi dhó; ar an gcéad turas, d'fhág sé le blas searbh mé. Bhraith mé go raibh Mr. Fry ciotach le muintir na Gaeltachta; chuir sé as dom nach ndearna sé a dhícheall an Ghaeilge a fhoghrú i gceart, agus go raibh sé drochbhéasach nuair a bhain sé leas as intriachtaí as Fraincis le cainteoirí Bascaise agus Ocsatáinise (Occitan). Ar an darna turas, bhraith mé níos fearr, ach tá cúpla rud le rá agam faoi.

Anois, tá an-mheas agam do Stephen Fry - go deimhin, tá sé mar eiseamláir dom. Tá sé furasta an locht a chur ar Shasanach agus muid ag plé le hábhar íogair mar mhionlú teangacha. Is léir go bhfuil an cheist seo gar dá chroí, agus tá sé ag déanamh an-jab í a léiriú do lucht féachana coitianta. Sin ráite, measaim gur fiú dó a bhéal a choinneáil dúnta anois is aríst. Uaireantaí, tá cuma ar an scéal go bhfuil sé ag iarraidh a scileanna óráidíochta a chur in iúl seachas a bheith ag tabhairt na deise do na haoichainteoirí ar an gclár labhairt ar a n-ábhar. Labhraíonn sé thar an méid atá á rá acu go minic, agus ba cheart dó a gcuid tuairimí agus smaointí a ligean. Nach í an aidhm atá aige ná guthanna na ndaoine a chur i láthair ionas go mbeidh tuiscint níos cruinne ar cheist na mionteangacha? Is íorónta an rud é go bhfuil sé ag plé le teangacha á gcur i dtost, agus ní thugann sé an seans do na daoine a dtaithí a roinnt!

Is iad na rudaí a chur as dom go mór mór ná nár labhair na hÉireannaigh/Gaeil as Gaeilge, agus nár luadh Gàidhlig na hAlban nó Gaelg Mhanann. Rinne Fry tagairt don Bhreatnais (agus don Choirnis fiú!), ag cur TG4 i gcomparáid leis an méid atá ar siúl ag BBC Cymru. Bhí samplaí maithe tugtha dúinn de bhlas na Bascaise agus na Ocsatáinise, ach níor thug siad dúinn blas ceart den Ghaeilge á labhairt ag cainteoirí dúchais. Tosaíonn Fry lena phlé ar an nGaeilge agus é amuigh ar bhád i gConamara le hiascaire. Bhí cuma chiotach air nuair a fhiafraigh sé den iascaire an raibh sé dóchasach faoi thodhchaí na Gaeilge. Touchy subject a bhí ann, ag teacht ó Shasanach, gan amhras, agus bhí sé comhfhiosach faoi sin. Rinneadh an t-agallamh go hiomlán as Béarla, le seatanna gairide den iascaire agus a mhac ag obair ar an mbád agus ag caint as Gaeilge, ach go han-chiúin agus gan mórán á rá acu. Ceapaim gur chuala mé "just tóg é" i measc a gcuid cainte. Chun a bheith cothrom do Fry, bhí sé an-fheasach ar stair na tíre seo, agus dúirt sé féin "Imperialist Brit that I am, they're kind enough to speak English to me, which, given the history, is quite an ask." B'fheidir go bhfuilim ró-mhíleata uaireantaí i leith na teanga, agus b'fhéidir go mbeadh sé seafóideach duine a bheith ann ag caint as Gaeilge dó, agus duine eile á haistriú go Béarla, ach... Bhraith mé gur cheart do na hÉireannaigh agallamh a dhéanamh trí Ghaeilge, ar mhaitheas sampla a thabhairt don lucht féachana ar an teanga, agus chun é a chur in iúl gur teanga bheo bhríomhar í in áiteachaí áirithe, nó i measc pobail áirithe, ba chóir dom a rá. Bhí díomá orm. Tá taithí agam fhéin lena bheith ag obair ar chlár faisnéise leis an mBBC, agus iarradh orm freagraí a thabhairt sa dá theanga (aríst, chun blas na Gaeilge a thabhairt dá lucht éisteachta).

Déardaoin 6 Deireadh Fómhair 2011


Jasmine tea gifted
to me in green summertime
keeps my hands warm now

© Alison Ní Dhorchaidhe 2011

Poetry of the self - an avian song

I’ve been asked what kind of bird I would be if I was of the feathered brethren. As a complicated person, I’m a shape-shifter, and wouldn’t be just one bird…

I can be high & mighty and fierce as a hissy swan, with thunderous wings.
I can be as brutal and exact as a barn owl, tearing prey to shreds without mercy.
I can be as lyrical and shy as a blackbird, fleeing when someone stops to listen.
I can be as mournful as a curlew, knowing my kind is dying away.
I can be as friendly and inquisitive as a robin, and just as scarlet!
I can be as flighty and airy as a wagtail, delighting in nonsensical things.
I can bawl like a peacock, and can be fond of my own plumage.
I can be consumed in my own path like a swallow, having to dodge an obstacle in my path at the last minute.
I can be as pensive as a crow, but need to acquaint myself with that darkness…
I can reforge myself as a phoenix, having been burned, but then so can everyone.

© Alison Ní Dhorchaidhe 2011