To begin ...

As the twentieth century fades out
the nineteenth begins
it is as if nothing happened
though those who lived it thought
that everything was happening
enough to name a world for & a time
to hold it in your hand
unlimited.......the last delusion
like the perfect mask of death

Friday, November 11, 2016

Gerry Loose: Eight Further Poems in Ogham Script with a Note on Poetics & Translation


Church of the 3 Brethren     Lochgoilhead


little saint of whitethorn
little quencher of wolf spark
welcome to the burial mounds
dear confessor of blood-red berries
sweet dweller of beehive cell
oaks make good gallow-trees
my heart
Blackwaterfoot, Arran, King’s Cave #1
son: to leave                                                                                                                                       
friend: to stroll among trees                                                                                                        
work: to ride horses                                                                                                                       
killing: to be swift                                                                                                                          
father: to shelter the hunted
Blackwaterfoot, Arran, King’s Cave #2
skinsilver birch                                                                                                                                    
rowan of pillage                                                                                                                                  
heather the udder brusher                                                                                                     
poplar the horse trembler                                                                                                            
oak of hill & adze                                                                        
Scoonie, Fife
no name for        them
they grow deep within
tree proud bush proud
urgent    they   ’re allies
though    they     groan
shrivel        in the hunt
still bigger than a horse
coltsfoot the apple that suckles                                                                                                      
sun hoof the vine that strangles                                                                                                  
sun horse the yew that sickens
manifold the wheel
honey bees dancing
blush of the dying
breath of horses
wood brands burning
warriors at the breast
trees green leafing
world wheel whirling

begin with honey
& fellowship of trees
one third of a spear
& a shroud

return salmon
return sun
return spring well
bees are dying
Mains of Afforsk
beauty’s a boast
& kinship with saplings
with a glow of anger
& warriors’ gear
cherished hazel
& grace disappear
cypher unknown
& wisdom undone
Writes Gerry Loose, qua translator:
     “Ogham is the [rune-like] script used for inscriptions on stone during the 4th–8 th  centuries CE, in the earliest known form of Gaelic. It comprises strokes across or to either side of a central stem line and is found on monoliths mainly in Ireland, with a few in Scotland, mostly in Gaelic but some in conjunction with Pictish symbols, which may be in that language. ...
     “Ogham is also called the tree alphabet, since the name of a tree (or plant) has been ascribed to each Gaelic letter thus: beith, luis, nin – birch, herb, ash . . . & so on. An alphabet végétal. ...
     “Whatever the method of reading this script, it is steeped in the secrecy of the literate over the non literate; it’s always regarded as the property of the high poets, the early medieval fili of Ireland, who would spend many years memorizing 150 varieties of ogham. With the above, it’s possible to see the poetic possibilities, whatever ogham script is used. ...
     “Because the letters on the inscribed stones are sometimes doubled up, I have used this for emphasis.  Because, also, not all words in Gaelic have precise English equivalents (for example seanachas has overtones of biography and of tradition and of genealogy and of history and of language) I have moved between phrase oghams to use words I think best work in a given poem. Where these will not do, I have used other, appropriate translations of the Gaelic, the stone and the landscape itself to make a viable English poem from the ogham.”
N.B.  Three additional Ogham poems can be found on Poems and Poetics for February 5, 2015.  Loose also notes that the titles of the poems posted above are all place names.

No comments: