Poetry Book Group - Selected Poems/Rogha Dánta, Máirtín Ó Direáin

June 2023 Poetry

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Máirtín Ó Direáin was born and raised on the Aran Islands—a world made famous by the writers of the literary revival, chiefly J. M. Synge—but worked in the civil service, first in Galway and then in Dublin for the rest of his adult life. This became the basis of a tension in his work between the rural and the urban. Editor Frank Sewell writes that Ó Direáin’s “most important theme” was “the conflict and contradictions (for individuals and nations) that derive from the exchange between tradition and modernity. … He frequently favored rural values over modern city modes of living,” while “in politics, he was (unsurprisingly) an anti-imperialist internationalist. But what this means is that, in practice, he was open to receiving art and ideas both from his own culture (past and present) and also from a wide range of languages and cultures.”

Simple in style, but deep in reflection, these poems beautifully convey the dilemmas of a poet of a minority language and traditional culture in a rapidly developing era.

Edited and translated by Frank Sewell, with an introduction

“What draws us to Ó Direáin’s work are its many inconsistencies: the clash between the large, authoritative canvas that the poet paints of twentieth-century Irish-speaking Ireland and the glimpses of an alienated, questioning mind whose principal motivation is the wish to belong and to encompass. Despite being a respected public figure, Ó Direáin felt he had failed on the former ground and turned to the world of his poems to search for a place in which he could come to terms with himself. The present volume brings us a multifaceted portrayal of the man, the poet, and his time. Sewell’s formally controlled yet natural-sounding translations retain the strong rhythm of the originals and serve to bring Ó Direáin’s poetry close to the twenty-first-century anglophone reader.”
— Daniela Theinová, New Hibernia Review

Máirtín Ó Direáin

About the Author
Often called “Ireland’s unacknowledged poet laureate,” Máirtín Ó Direáin (1910–1988) was one of the foremost poets of the Irish language in the 20th century. Born and raised on Inis Mór, the largest of the Aran Islands, he grew up speaking Irish only. He later lived in Galway and Dublin and worked as a civil servant. His poetry often deals with the tension between the rural and the urban, the traditional and the modern, and though deeply rooted in the Gaelic tradition, shows influence from wider European writers.

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