How influential was your teaching background on your writing?
Hugely influential. I learned
many things through and with the children that I wouldn't have, had I been in
another profession. I was academically inclined but I had to learn all about
nature study, flora and fauna in order to teach it. I retired from teaching (at
age 55!) five years ago. People ask me do I miss it. The answer is yes and no,
a Kerryman's answer! I don't miss the endless form filling, I don't miss the
thought police, inspectors et al; but I do miss the children – their
inspiration and challenges.
What inspired you to
translate the story of Lucinda Sly from Irish?
Some years ago I translated
Maidhc Dainín's A Thig Ná Tit Orm,
his memoir, as House Don't Fall on Me.
It was very well received. Mike was anxious that I translate Lucinda Sly, his
historical novel and I was delighted to when Liberties Press expressed an
interest in publishing it.
The Irish version of The Story of Lucinda Sly won at Oireachtas na Gaeilge, 2008. Did you
feel under more pressure than usual to make the translation an equally
important literary work?
Yes. It is vitally important
to preserve the integrity of the original while at the same time making it work
in translation. A slavish, literal rendering isn't always the best way to go
about translation and Maidhc and I both realised that. By the way, Maidhc was a
great help to me when I was having trouble with English-ing some of his very
rich phrases in Irish.
What, if anything, can get
lost in translation from Irish into English?
I think that very little
gets lost in translation. Maybe an allusive phrase in Irish can't be translated
literally into English so a compromise has to be reached. But, remember, Irish
was spoken in my part of Kerry up to the early 1900s. The English I heard
spoken by the people of Moyvane (I grew up before television came to Ireland)
in the 1950s and 60s was as close in phrase and syntax as the English can get
to Irish. All I had to do was make a literary language of that.
Do you have different
personas when writing in English or Irish, or is it one and the same?
Do you feel that the Irish
language has a role in Irish society today?
Yes, definitely. It is part
of our soul, part of our culture. And it is a beautiful language.
You've written poetry for
both adults and children. Which do you find more challenging or stimulating?
They're both challenging and
stimulating. When I write for children, I enter a child's mind; when I write
for adults, I get to know my own.
You've been involved in
Listowel Writers' Week in the past. What do you feel are the main benefits of
this and other writing and literary festivals?
They give writers a forum;
they give writers a chance to meet; they bring different cultures together;
they give young and aspiring writers a chance to show their wares or to learn
their trade (through workshops, etc.). They give 'ordinary' people a chance to
meet and hear writers and they give writers a chance to meet some of their
You will be participating in
a walking tour of Carlow on Thursday 4 April. Tell us more about that!
I understand that we will be
visiting the places associated with the trial and execution of Lucinda Sly.
That's all I know! [For more details, click here.]
Can you tell us about any
other projects you are working on for the future?
I have a selected and new
sonnets being published by Liberties Press this June. I am currently working on
another book of poetry for children entitled Will You Be My Friend? and I am writing poems for adults all the time. I also have an offer to translate a major book on the Blasket Islands from the
Irish. So, I'm quite busy!
Don't forget that Lucinda Sly is being launched this evening at Carlow Shopping Centre at 8pm as part of the International Pan Celtic Festival.
Kathryn Thomas and Daithí Ó Sé will also be attending.
Hope to see you all there!