Louis de Paor is one of Ireland's leading Irish-language poets, and was a key figure in the Irish language literary renaissance of the 1970s and 80s. At that time he didn't want his poetry to be translated into English, believing it should be judged solely on his own original words and 'not critically assessed through the distorting prism of English' (Pat Cotter). But living in Australia for ten years gave him a different perspective, and he began publishing his work in bilingual editions. Since his return to Ireland in 1996, he has worked closely with poets Kevin Anderson, Biddy Jenkinson and Mary O'Donoghue on English translations of his poetry, with his co-translators fully engaging with the original poem in Irish, but never publishing bilingually 'until the poems have reached their first audience among Irish speakers'. This new bilingual selection of his poetry takes its title from Gerry Murphy's haiku 'Translation and its discontents', a reminder of the more destructive aspects of translation: Stark moonlit silence the brindled cat is chewing the nightingale's tongue.
Here 'the translator appropriates material from another language to sustain the appetite of his own, devouring the original in the process. The danger of suffocation has led to some unease among Irish language poets.' Keenly aware of that ever-present danger and related anxieties, he and his trio of translators have eschewed the modern fashion for so-called "versions", producing English translations which are as close as possible to the original Irish poems without sacrificing their tone, energy, clarity and lightness of touch.
'This is an energetic, even boisterous, body of poetry, enlivened with a gift for the unexpected but compelling metaphor, ever ready to invite the reader to look afresh at the world of the everyday. These are poems that effectively combine emotion and intellect, sensuousness and insight, humour and melancholy. Louis de Paor is a poet who has inherited that peculiar strand of reasonable unreason that has marked much of best modern and contemporary poetry in Irish' - Caoimhin Mac Giolla Leith.
Louis de Paor was born in 1961 in Cork, and educated at Colaiste an Spioraid Naoimh. He is one of Ireland's leading Irish-language poets, and was a key figure in the Irish language literary renaissance of the 1970s and 80s, editing the influential Irish-language journal Inti. He spent time as a lecturer in Irish at University College Cork and Thomond College, Limerick, before moving to Australia in 1987, where he worked in local and ethnic radio in Melbourne and taught evening classes in Irish language and literature at Melbourne University and the Melbourne Council for Adult Education. He was Visiting Professor of Celtic Studies at Sydney University in 1993 and Visiting Fellow in 1992. He returned to Ireland in 1996 and worked as proof editor of the Irish language newspaper Foinse before being appointed Director of the Centre for Irish Studies at NUI Galway in 2000. He was Jefferson Smurfit Distinguished Fellow at the University of St Louis-Missouri in 2002 and received the Charles Fanning medal from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale in 2009. His published works include a monograph on the work of Mairtin O Cadhain, Faoin mblaoisc bheag sin: an aigneolaiocht i scealta Mhairtin Ui Chadhain (1991); an anthology of 20th-century poetry in Irish, Coisceim na haoise seo (1991), co-edited with Sean O Tuama; a bilingual edition of the selected poems of Maire Mhac an tSaoi, An paroiste mioruilteach / The miraculous parish (2011); and a critical edition of the selected poems of Liam S Gogan, Mioruilt an chleite chaoin (2012). His most recent bilingual editions of his own poetry are Ag Greadadh Bas sa Reilig / Clapping in the Cemetery (Clo Iar-Chonnachta, 2005), Agus Rud Eile De / And Another Thing (Clo Iar-Chonnachta, 2010), and The Brindled Cat and the Nightingale's Tongue (Bloodaxe Books / Clo Iar-Chonnachta, 2014). De Paor has collaborated with Cork singer John Spillane under the name Gaelic Hit Factory, and with piper Ronan Browne and Irish-Egyptian sean-nos singer Naisrin Elsafty. The CD accompanying Agus Rud Eile De / And Another Thing and the enhanced ebook with audio edition of The Brindled Cat and the Nightingale's Tongue draw on his collaborations with Ronan Browne.