Lewis Mack­in­non re­leases fourth Gaelic po­etry col­lec­tion

Of­fer­ing in­cludes first-ever Gaelic trans­la­tion of Per­sian poet Rumi

The Victoria Standard - - Arts - CAROLYN BAR­BER

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.

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