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Patrick Cotter reviews Clíona Ní Ríordáin's newest translated anthology






pat cotterBorn Cork, 1963. Writer and publisher. Educated at UCC, he has published several chapbooks of his poems including The Misogynist’s Blue Nightmare (Raven Arts Press), A Socialist’s Dozen (Three Spires Press), and The True Story of Aoife and Lir’s Children & other poems (Three Spires Press). His first collection, Perplexed Skin, was published by Arlen Press in 2008. His second collection, Making Music, was published in early 2009 by Three Spires Press.

His translations of the Estonian poet Andres Ehin are collected in the book Moosebeetle Swallow (Southword Editions). His play Beauty and the Stalker was produced at the Granary Theatre, Cork in 2000. In 1984 he was shortlisted for a Hennessy Award. Cotter was runner-up in the Patrick Kavanagh award in 1988 and won the Keats-Shelley Prize for Poetry in 2013. He is currently the Director of the Munster Literature Centre.








Femmes d'Irlande en poésie 1973-2013

Edited by Clíona Ní Ríordáin

(Éditions Caractères, 2013)

ISBN: 978-2-85446-512-9


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A proper review of this book would deal with the quality of the translations – as I am unqualified for such an exercise the following piece necessarily takes on more the character of a notice than a review. This anthology came about as one of the many welcome cultural endeavours during Ireland’s EU presidency earlier this year. It is published to mark the fortieth anniversary of Ireland’s accession to the European Union and has been funded by Culture Ireland, Ireland Literature Exchange and The Irish Cultural Centre in Paris.  It’s instigator, Clíona Ní Ríordáin is a tireless promoter of contemporary Irish poetry in Paris and elsewhere through having organised a number of conferences/seminars at the New Sorbonne where she is professor and also through her involvement with the journal Édtudes Irlandaises and her contributions to international conferences on Irish literature.

Here she is again promoting poetry by twenty-five Irish women poets from Máire Mhac an Tsaoi born in 1922 to Ailbhe Ní Ghearbhuigh born over half a century later in 1984. There’s a good cross-section of poets writing in Irish and English; of the poets writing in English there is a nice balance struck between poets appearing from the major Irish publishers (Gallery, Dedalus, Salmon) and those published in Britain and also a good geographical spread with the four provinces represented in an egalitarian fashion. If I had quibbles about anyone being absent from this anthology it would be Irish language writer Celia de Fréine and the émigrés Sara Berkeley (California) and Martina Evans (London).  The book describes itself as bilingual but there are three languages represented here Irish, English and facing French translations. I can’t be the only Irish person who, regrettably, finds French easier to read than Irish so it has been a pleasure to access many of the Irish-language poems here which have not yet been translated into English, particularly those of Biddy Jenkinson.
The anthology’s editorial committee reflects the funding organisations. It includes the book’s translator Paul Bensimon, ILE’s Sinéad MacAodha and the Irish Cultural Centre’s Sheila Pratshke (now moved on from that institute). An introduction in French is credited to both Clíona Ní Ríordáin and Paul Bensimon. The introduction deals with the changing place of women in Irish society during the forty years focus of the anthology, but also mentions the legendary liberties Irish women were said to enjoy under Brehon Laws. Eibhlín Dubh Ní Chonnail and Charlotte Brooks are named as literary precursors to the contributing poets. Eavan Boland is singled out for special mention as a facilitator of Irish women poets and along with Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin and Paula Meehan credited with dismantling the barriers of implicit censorship. The publishing debacles (i.e not enough women) that were Kinsella’s Oxford anthology, Crotty’s Penguin anthology and the Field Day Anthology also get a mention. The N.I. Butler Education Act and the efforts of Donagh O’Malley in our own country to widen access to education in the 1960s also receive the credit they deserve in allowing many poets, (both men and women) to emerge more easily from certain social classes. The book is a beautiful production with great quality paper, crisp typography and a beautiful colour cover.

©2013 Patrick Cotter



Author Links


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'Madra': First Prize in Keats-Shelley Prize for Poetry 2013

Three poems by Cotter in Kritya






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