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To The Winds Our Sails: Irish Writers Translate Galician Poetry

Edited by Mary O'Donnell & Manuela Palacios

ISBN: 978-1-907056-37-6

Page Count: 172

Publication Date: Saturday, May 15, 2010

Cover Artwork: Mosaic © Arcobaleno |

About this Book

The best writing from Galicia's outstanding contemporary women poets awaits the reader of To the Winds Our Sails. Co-edited by Irish poet Mary O'Donnell and Galician scholar Manuela Palacios, this anthology offers a unique insight into the imaginative, social, ecological and personal preoccupations with which Galician poets have engaged in recent decades. Ten poets ranging in age, experience and style, are represented with five translations each. An interesting feature of this anthology is that each Galician writer has selected one poem to be rendered in the Irish language. This approach attempts to represent the cultural and linguistic concerns which Ireland and Galicia have shared historically.

"To the Winds Our Sails is a vibrant and moving homage to what can be found in translation. In the journey across languages, the poets bring to the reader the intensity, depth, capacity for surprise and engagement that has been a signal feature of the writings of Galician women poets.  The collection bears eloquent witness to translation as the supreme art of discovery and contains vivid and memorable recastings of the persuasive force of the Galician originals. To the Winds Our Sails is an invitation to journey to worlds without ends."
Michael Cronin,  Centre for Translation and Textual Studies, Dublin City University
"Galicia has long been seen as our distant, neglected overseas cousin and this anthology brings her poetry into our house for the first time, bright-voiced and strangely familiar. In it we see our own geography and obsessions reflected and enhanced. But there are new things too which emerge from this encounter between poets in three languages, which enrich us and make the familiar strange. Sailing above the clashing tides of discourse and identity, the translators here, like the cormorants on patrol in Maria Lado's poem, locate the pure voices of poetry and 'lash them to the land with invisible ropes.' "                    
Michael O'Loughlin


Luz Pozo Garza, translated by Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill

María do Carme Kruckenberg, translated by Anne Le Marquand Hartigan & Rita Kelly

Xohana Torres, translated by Celia de Fréine

Marilar Aleixandre, translated by Mary O'Malley & Martin Nugent

Luz Pichel, translated by  Catherine Phil MacCarthy

Chus Pato, translated by Lorna Shaughnessy & Rita Kelly

Ana Romaní, translated by Maurice Harmon

María do Cebreiro, translated by Caitríona O'Reilly

María Lado, translated by Mighréad Medbh & Rita Kelly

Xiana Arias, translated by Paddy Bushe

Author Biography

About the Editors:

MARY O'DONNELL is a poet, short story writer and novelist who has been very active in Irish cultural affairs since the 1980s. A member of Aosdna and of the Irish Writers' Union and former member of the Governing Authority at NUI Maynooth, she has published six collections of poetry: Reading the Sunflowers in September (Galway: Salmon, 1990), Spiderwoman's Third Avenue Rhapsody (Galway: Salmon, 1993), Unlegendary Heroes (Cliffs of Moher, Co. Clare: Salmon, 1998), September Elegies (Belfast: Lapwing, 2003), The Place of Miracles: New and Selected Poems (Dublin: New Island Books, 2006) and The Ark Builders (Todmorden, UK: Arc Publications, 2009). In her poetry, O'Donnell ranges from fluid, inclusive reflections drawn from her South Ulster childhood roots, but also thematically explores the way we think about identity; specifically gender and national identity.  Her range is both historical and contemporary, and she is conscious of what she calls the unlegendary heroic in the everyday. O'Donnell's first novel and best-seller, The Lightmakers (Dublin: Poolbeg Press, 1992), also addressed the complexities of female private and public realms, and the connections and clashes between the two, aspects that are reassessed in her critically praised modern morality tale The Elysium Testament (London: Trident Press, 1999). She is also the author of the novel Virgin and the Boy (Dublin: Poolbeg Press, 1996), and two collections of short fiction, Strong Pagans (Dublin: Poolbeg, 1991) and Storm over Belfast (Dublin: New Island, 2008). Interested in poetry relationships and other voices within Europe, during 2006 and 2007 she scripted, developed and presented the RTE national radio series 'Crossing the Lines'. This programme celebrated the newly accessed countries to the EU and introduced listeners to their poetry.

MANUELA PALACIOS is Associate Professor of English Literature at the University of Santiago de Compostela (Spain). She has directed several research projects on contemporary Irish and Galician women writers, which have been funded by the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation. She has co-edited three books on this topic: Palabras extremas: Escritoras gallegas e irlandesas de hoy (A Coruña: Netbiblo, 2008), Writing Bonds: Irish and Galician Contemporary Women Poets (Oxford: Peter Lang, 2009) and Creation, Publishing, and Criticism: The Advance of Women's Writing (New York: Peter Lang, 2010). Palacios has also edited and co-translated the bilingual anthology of Irish women poets Pluriversos: Seis poetas irlandesas de hoxe (Santiago: Follas Novas, 2003), and has translated contemporary European poetry and Virginia Woolf's fiction into Galician. She is the author of a number of critical studies on Irish literature which have appeared in CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture (forthcoming), European Journal of English Studies 13.2 (2009), Babel: Revue internationale de la traduction 54.3 (2008), Postcolonial and Gender Perspectives in Irish Studies (2007), Ireland in the Coming Time (2006), Feminismo/s 5 (2005), Gender, Sex and Translation (2005), Philologia Hispalensis 17.2 (2003) and Insights into Translation (2003). Her other publications include monographs on Virginia Woolf's pictorial imagery (University of Santiago de Compostela, 1992) and Shakespeare's Richard III (Santiago: IGAEM, 2005).

Read a sample from this book


Os palacios de inverno
by Luz Pozo Garza

E todo se cumpra naquela primavera
de auganeve en Dubln

Crucei a luz anda furtiva
cunha Biblia datada en Compostela
e leveina no colo como un neno durmido
desde a patria

Riba das nubes
a harmona da luz entraba en alba

Estbase a escribir a vida nunha pxina nova

E lin na nosa lingua os salmos que regulan a alianza
dunha linaxe celta en das ribeiras
na igrexa
naquela primavera de auganeve en Dubln

E lin versculo a versculo:
          Entra con todo o honor dunha princesa
          nos palacios do inverno
Non esquezas a patria

As arpas de Iwerddon (2005)

Winter Palaces
translation by Nuala N Dhomhnaill

And all that was to happen
came to pass that sleety spring in Dublin.

I crossed the quiet, fugitive, light
with a Bible dated in Compostela
that I took in my arms like a sleepy child
far from its native land.

Above the clouds
dawn played its rosy finger exercises.

Life was being written on a clean white page.

And I read in our own language the psalms
that regulate the alliance of a Celtic lineage
on two shores
in church
in that spring of sleet in Ireland.

And there I read verse by verse:
                'Enter with all the honour of a princess
                 into the winter palaces.
Do not forget your native land.'


varrer as cinzas
by Marilar Aleixandre

no lar morrer o lume
prendido hai catro séculos
e non vou recoller o tizn
cado da ta man

noite varrerei as cinzas
anda que escorrente as nimas
dos antepasados,
esgazando deles
callns de lembranzas

se a cheminea
cala as sas palabras de fume
gritando en silencio
a soidade da casa
non me tomes a requesta
por que a min de cinco irmns?

os rachns no unllar
agromarn novas races
volvern termar da terra
sen ninguén que os queime.

na cocia que o lume non quece
anda bate o eco da ta voz
lendo libro tras libro     plantando
en ns
semente de vento

from Desmentindo a primavera / Denying Spring (2003)

sweeping up the ashes
Translation by Mary O'Malley


the fire lit in the hearth
four centuries ago will die out
and I will not pick up the half burned log
that has fallen from your hand

I will sweep away the ashes at night
even if it drives away the ancestors
their souls bleeding clots of memory
as they flee.

if the chimney swallows its words of smoke
screaming in the silence
of the lonely house do not reproach me,
why me out of five brothers?

the firewood in the shed
will grow new roots
they will clutch the earth again
without a soul to burn them

in the kitchen the fire fails to warm
the echoes of your voice still beat
reading book after book     sowing
us with the seeds of the wind

Copyright © LUZ POZO GARZA,  NUALA N DHOMHNAILL, MARILAR ALEIXANDRE, MARY O'MALLEY, and editors Mary O'Donnell & Manuela Palacios 2010


Review: To the Wind Our Sails reviewed by Katharina Walter for ATLANTIS. Journal of the Spanish Association of Anglo-American Studies. 33.2 (December 2011): 193197 ISSN 0210-6124

To the Wind Our Sails, an anthology of poems edited by Mary ODonnell and Manuela Palacios, ventures into the largely unexplored terrain that connects the cultures of Galicia and Ireland today, making an exquisite and diverse selection from contemporary Galician womens poetry available to readers of English and Irish. Ten of the most distinguished contemporary women poets from Galicia are represented with five poems each four in English, one in Irish, thus highlighting the language question as a strongly politicized issue that these two writing traditions share. The poets represented in this anthology have chosen the Galician vernacular over Spanish, a decision that might be obscured by the translation of these poets works into English as the lingua franca par excellence, were it not for the fact that one out of five texts is rendered into Irish, another regional language. This trilingual anthology thus acknowledges the importance of language choice, while still enabling the vast number of English-speakers worldwide to read recent Galician womens poetry.

ODonnells and Palacioss anthology complements the vividly emerging field of comparative scholarship on contemporary Galician and Irish womens poetry. Notably, collections of essays and interviews such as Palabras Extremas (Palacios Gonzlez and Gonzlez Fernndez 2008) and Writing Bonds (Palacios Gonzlez and Lojo 2009) have already highlighted many shared concerns in these two bodies of poetry. Both contemporary Irish and Galician womens poetry have emerged from male-dominated literary traditions and under the influence of Catholicism. In the cultivation of the absolute binaries, for instance, of the Virgin Mary versus Mary Magdalene as instructive models of womanhood, both cultures have instrumentalized female sexuality and corporeality for establishing and protecting social orders that have ultimately subdued women, while also involving them in the consolidation of these orders. In Ireland, the discourses of religion have been closely interwoven with those of the nation, which has led to a complex entanglement of conceptions of gender and sexuality with those of national identity. These intricacies have also coloured more recent political debates on issues like birth control and abortion, showing that the female body is still to some extent publicly owned. Both Ireland and Galicia have cultivated a myth of motherland as part of a, historical or constructed, Celtic cultural substrate. In doing so, both cultures have contended with the image of an, existent or projected, feminine nation. Palacios identifies this forging of an identity as distinctive from that of a larger, domineering entity as the product of a Celtic imaginary, which may not be strictly Celtic in its origins but which has been constructed as Celtic through the cultural practices of many generations (Palacios Gonzlez and Lojo 2009: 90). In that respect, Galicia has often emphasized its ties with Ireland, and Galician artists have often looked towards Ireland for inspiration, an interest which has not been requited to the same extent. To the Wind Our Sails addresses this imbalance and enables a more reciprocal understanding of the ties between the cultures of Ireland and Galicia. The order in which different poets works are arranged in To the Wind Our Sails is determined by the years of their births, starting with Luz Pozo Garza (born in 1922) and ending with Xiana Arias (born in 1983), thus spanning several generations of poets from the 20th and 21st centuries.

Luz Pozo Garzas poems, translated by Nuala N Dhomhnaill, explicitly forge a connection with Ireland, envisaging a common Celtic heritage and shared Christian values as a foundation for this bond. In Os palacios de inverno / Winter Palaces, the speaker explores Dublin with a Bible from Santiago de Compostela, drawing attention to psalms que regulan a alianza / dunha linaxe celta en das ribeiras / that regulate the alliance of a Celtic lineage / on two shores (30-31). Setting out from the Hill of Howth, Bosque de rhododendros / Forest of Rhododendrons journeys via Brans 700 AD voyage towards the Irish Literary Revival (34-35). Pxina atlntica / Page of the Atlantic evokes os mticos tesouros delque reino de Tara / the mythical treasures of the Kingdom of Tara (38-39). In this anthology, Pozo Garzas poems are the foremost examples of a cultural tradition in Galicia since the late 19th century that has explored Celtic legends in search of cultural models that would differentiate Galicia from Spain. In other poets works, direct references to Ireland are less frequent. Nevertheless, the reader versed in Irish womens poetry will find many familiar themes, including a renegotiation of the discourses of nationalism with its, often female, archetypes, and a foregrounding of the body, of urban and rural landscapes and environmentalist concerns.

Mara do Carme Kruckenbergs poems delve into memories of passionate, fraught relationships. A sense of fatality and loss characterizes the pieces included in this anthology, which have been rendered into English by Anne Le Marquand Hartigan and into Irish by Rita Kelly. In O cristal axstase... / The Mirror Reflects..., the speakers gaze is hit by fleeting images in the mirror, glimpses of which are captured in short, ruptured lines. The ephemeral nature of what is depicted in the body of the poem is in contrast with the closing lines, which make reference to the permanence of the erro insalvbel de caridade or, in English, the insurmountable / failure of love (50-51). In a similar vein, Lembro aqueles tempos do vern... / I Remember those Summer Days... reminisces about past loves in the face of passing time and the inevitable ageing process (52-53), thus addressing a concern that also features prominently, for instance, in the poetry of Eavan Boland.

With translations by Celia de Fréine, the anthology presents an exquisite selection from the works of Xoana Torres, whose erudite, eclectic poems draw on Greek legend, Shakespearean tragedy, as well as Cubist painting, often reviewing famous heroines from mythology and world literature. The fatality of love is a theme that unites these otherwise diverse poems. In Penélope / Penelope, Xoana Torress most famous poem, which is included in Irish, the wife of Odysseus imagines her own odyssey (58-59). In The Course of Nature, Manuela Palacios points out that in the poem [t]he sea, traditionally only a space where male fishermen, sailors, explorers and pirates dared to venture, and which women could only languidly contemplate from the shore, becomes now a privileged trope for womens participation in the public sphere (Palacios Gonzlez and Lojo 2009: 84). The speaker in Ofelia / Ophelia addresses Hamlets lover, who is in a state of mental disarray in the face of imminent death. Eros and Thanatos are close companions in this poem, which is pervaded by a sense of decay, with many references to the fatality of love itself (60-61). In Ribadavia / Sibyl in Ribadavia, finally, Torres refers to Marc Chagall, whose Cubist aesthetic the poem seeks to emulate (62-63).

Marilar Aleixandres poetry, translated by Mary OMalley, captures strong, distinctive images, often characterized by stark violence. In Derrotas domésticas / Domestic Defeats, the speaker addresses her mother, whose complacently smiling face in photographs is contrasted with the forcefulness with which she carries out her day-to-day household duties, beheads eels and guts sea bream. Aspects of her personality that are not in integrity with her subservient maternal role function are obliterated, rendering her as a woman whose francés e alemn / eran intiles contra a graxa nos fogns; in the English translation: French and German / were in vain against the grease on the stove (72-73). In its comment on the self-effacing role in which mothers may be cast, Aleixandres text is sympathetic with many of Paula Meehans poems. Likewise, the latent anger that accompanies the mothers self-denials in Derrotas domésticas is also present in Meehans The Pattern, first published in her collection The Man Who Was Marked by Winter (1991: 17-20). The futility of language in the face of oppression in Derrotas domésticas makes way for a more optimistic statement on the power of words in O diario (3 rabuda) / The Diary (3 Surly), which portrays a woman who usa as palabras para cortar / uses words to cut (74-75). In Varrer as cinzas / Sweeping up the Ashes, a son addresses his absent father, of whom the fire in the kitchen becomes a symbol (76-77) an interesting analogy, as in many traditions since the Roman Vestal Virgins the hearth is conventionally feminine. Comedores de cabezas / The Head Eaters opens with a quotation from Ovid and makes reference to the naiads, water nymphs in Greek mythology who inhabit rivers, springs or waterfalls. The strength and dynamism of the children of the naiads, their mobility and dexterity in water is in contrast with our need to use sails (80-81).

Luz Pichel, who only started publishing in Galician in 2006 and whose poems were rendered into English by Catherine Phil McCarthy, uses images from the natural and the animal world to question the internal dynamics that govern human societies and the self. Queimar a lea / Breaking the Firewood opens with the rustle of people passing and a roosters cry, then comments on the animals fear of humans, to conclude with the speakers acknowledgement of her own destructive impulse (86-87). In Pénsanlle as plas figuera con carga dos figos / The Branches of the Fig Tree are Laden with its Crops of Figs, nature is personalized and gendered. A fig tree, chafed by a male wind, is analogized to a mother-to-be, pregnant with dolls of the mist in the morning, then relieved due to the intervention of men of the air. The poem evokes a variety of female archetypes, echoing the maiden / matron / crone from Celtic mythology. The image of female fertility identified in the fig tree is mirrored in the portrayal of a scarecrow with a doll. The scarecrow in turn is also reminiscent of a hag (88-89).

Chus Pato writes hybrid texts between poetry and prose, which were translated by Lorna Shaughnessy (English) and Rita Kelly (Irish). Patos poems inquire into the relationship between the individual and society, and the impact of language on the negotiation of the same. Porque non é s o idioma o que est amenazado... / Because it is not only Language that is Threatened... explores the sometimes vague boundaries in the relationship between language and material existence (96-97). A voz era pnico..., translated by Lorna Shaughnessy as The Voice was Pure Panic..., is an anxious, breathless text about the creative process, which resonates strongly with the writings of Hélne Cixous on écriture féminine. The piece overflows, transcending the page, the human body, the billboard along the motorway, as well as nature. In fact, the poetic persona, wo/man, also transcends the boundaries of gender and of the ego (98-99).

Ana Romans poems, translated by Maurice Harmon, offer articulations of the somatic that diverge from the homogeneous, idealized body images that have long predominated in western cultures. Rather than the closed body, to use a phrase coined by Mikhail Bakhtin, from the predominant cultural paradigm in the western world since the Renaissance, Roman portrays a corporeality that is open and in process. Os lagartos vron a pasar... / The Lizards Watched her as she Passed... envisages the body as a site for the inscription of lived experience, pointing to the strange shapes pain inscribes / on wasted flesh (108-09). Por que sei que te vas s veces... / Because I Know you Sometimes Leave... and Que os cabalotes me suban polas pernas... / Would that the Sperm Whales should Climb my Legs... articulate the sexual impulse as a desire to efface the boundaries of the body and of integral subjectivity, thus highlighting another aspect of the body in the process of becoming (110-11, 114-15).

In Mara do Cebreiros poems, translated into English by Caitrona OReilly and into Irish by Rita Kelly, references to love and wounding are frequent, as is an intertextual dialogue with other voices from world literature. Do Cebreiros A terra devastada / The Waste Land is obviously indebted to T. S. Eliots 1922 poem The Waste Land, with which it shares not only the title but also several characters and other references. Like in Eliots post-war text, in do Cebreiros poem worlds are also disintegrating, but this disintegration is viewed more positively in terms of its potential to bring renewal. In do Cebreiros literary response to The Waste Land, Eliots text and the real world collide. The female speaker, the owner of a printing press, merges with T. S. Eliot and with the clairvoyant in his poem, thus being at the same time both male and female, the maker as well as the object of the poem. The description of the making of poetry as a craft, finally, defies the binaries of mind versus body, and culture versus nature (122-23).

Translated into English by Mighréad Medbh and Irish by Rita Kelly, Mara Lados As doe novembro / How November Hurts is one of the highlights of this anthology. The landscape becomes a site for the inscription and manifestation of the speakers aches, wounds, scars and desires. In addition, nature also absorbs political strife and other aspects of collective histories. The merging of the personal and the political is anticipated in the opening lines of the poem: as doen as moas apretadas contra ti, coma un barco, / unha traxedia para un pobo / ou o recordo dun membro fantasma (how my molars hurt, ground against you like a boat, / how a national tragedy hurts / or the haunting memory of a limb [136-37]).

The speakers yearnings are mirrored in the mareas de mis encher / e a illa é a penas unha pedra na que morde o mar; in English: ravenous tides / chewing the island to a stone (138-39). Mara Lado has been publishing from 1997 onwards, and her work includes four collections of poems and a blog: Casa atlntica. Apart from writing poetry, Lado also has a background in audiovisual art and puppet theatre.

The poems of Xiana Arias manifest an honest, unpretentious, confident voice that speaks of what it is to be young. Born in 1983 in Lugo, Arias, whose poems have been translated by Paddy Burke, has published two collections since 2007, as well as working as a journalist. Este é o lugar onde media a morte... / Here is the Place of Deaths Growing... speaks of death, shadows overcasting the sun, and being drunk (148-49). Non hai pistolas... / There are no Guns... offers a succinct portrayal of suburban domestic conflict (150-51). Sentada na porta da casa... / By the Door of her House, Sitting..., finally, comments on an imagined or hysterical pregnancy (155).

As an anthology, To the Wind Our Sails is both excitingly diverse and, in the best possible sense of the word, sketchy. The book does not constitute an act of canonization, nor does it pretend to do so. Rather, To the Wind Our Sails is carried by the dynamism in the encounter of works in progress from two distant, yet connected shores. Approaches to translation in To the Wind Our Sails are varied, ranging from verbatim transcriptions to very free interpretations of the Galician originals. The plurality of voices in the original Galician poems in To the Wind Our Sails is thus enhanced by the fact that different writers have also produced the English- and Irish-language versions. At a more general level, To the Wind Our Sails is making an invaluable contribution to the understanding of the complex dynamics that characterize the relationship between regional and European cultural identities in the 21st century. The poems in this anthology show that we are neither solely defined by our regional affiliations, nor can we discard those in favour of an exclusively European identity. Rather, living in 21st century Europe requires us to negotiate our own individuality within our various collective affiliations; to understand the particularities of our regional backgrounds, as well as our various ties with other cultures.

Works Cited
Meehan, Paula 1991: The Man Who Was Marked by Winter. Loughcrew: Gallery.
 Palacios Gonzlez, Manuela and Helena Gonzlez Fernndez, eds. 2008: Palabras extremas: Escritoras

gallegas e irlandesas de hoy. Oleiros: Netbiblo.
Palacios Gonzlez, Manuela and Laura Lojo, eds. 2009: Writing Bonds: Irish and Galician Contemporary

Women Poets. Bern: Peter Lang.
Received 22 July 2011 Accepted 30 September 2011

Katharina Walter (Ph.D. National University of Ireland) has published several articles about contemporary womens poetry and gender discourse. She has been teaching at the School of Humanities (English) and the School for Modern Languages (German) at the above university since 2004. Her teaching interests include contemporary womens writing, poetry, Shakespearean and contemporary drama, as well as cultural theory. Katharina Walters current research focuses on contemporary Irish womens poetry and Migration Studies.

Address: School of Modern Languages, German Section, School of Humanities, English Section. National University of Ireland, Galway, Ireland.Tel.: +353 91 492226. Fax: +353 91 494572.

ATLANTIS. Journal of the Spanish Association of Anglo-American Studies. 33.2 (December 2011): 193197 ISSN 0210-6124

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