Lewis Mackinnon releases fourth Gaelic poetry collection
Offering includes first-ever Gaelic translation of Persian poet Rumi
Not long ago, poet Lewis Mackinnon released his fourth collection of Scottish Gaelic poetry entitled Ràithean airson Sireadh/seasons for Seeking through Bradan Press.
The bilingual collection contains Mackinnon’s own poems in company with Gaelic translations of early thirteenth century Persian poet Rumi. As the title suggests, Mackinnon believes readers in a “seeking” frame of mind may identify with the verses within. He wishes to share the “wisdom, perspective and enjoyment” that he himself has found in Rumi’s words.
“I think there's a way of being that Rumi is encouraging. There's a way of being that embraces those things that are challenging to us, and we can see beyond them to see that this is part of the human experience. Also, there’s a sense of deep connection beyond labels, and whenever we meet another human being, it's that deep connection I think that Rumi is getting at.”
“In the poem Aidich e agus atharraich a h-uile sion/ Admit it and change everything, he talks about being defined by religion, which would have been an important consideration in his time. In some ways, it is becoming a consideration again in our time – religious perspectives, and hard and fast positions based upon religious difference. Rumi says at the end of the day, ‘we’re the same, there isn't a division based upon our religion.’”
Rumi’s poetry was popularized in much of the English-speaking world by renowned American poet and Rumi interpreter Coleman Barks. Mackinnon’s Gaelic translations of Rumi’s poems are drawn from Barks’ interpretation of Rumi’s work.
To Mackinnon’s knowledge, Ràithean airson Sireadh/seasons for Seeking contains the first-ever Gaelic translations of Rumi’s work. Gaelic speakers may find resonance in Rumi’s words.
“People might know Coleman Barks and therefore might know some of Rumi's poetry. But, I think there is quite an awareness gap in terms of Rumi's poetry. I think that if we look at some of the wisdom in the Gaelic tradition, there's actually echoes of that wisdom in some of Rumi's poetry.”
Mackinnon chose to use the Gaelic cultural calendar as a framework for presenting the collection. He found themes in Rumi’s work mapped well to the seasons of the calendar.
“There are times of light and there are times of darkness. In the Gaelic calendar, we tend to divide up the yearly calendar in two phases, the light and the dark. We’ve been in the light period of the calendar year for a little bit, and then we move into the dark period with Oidhche Shamhna, or Halloween, the first day of the new year in the Gaelic cultural calendar. Some of the selections of poetry spoke to those contrasts of light and darkness, and so positioning them in that perspective seemed a good fit.”
Each of the book’s nine sections begins with a cultural sharing, some of which come from the Carmina Gadelica composed by Gaelic folklorist Alexander Carmichael (1832-1912).
These selected passages, says Mackinnon, allow the “people’s wisdom” to shine through.