The Shortlist

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The Shortlist

Filleadh ar an gCathair

Filleadh ar an gCathair

by Ailbhe Ní Ghearbhuigh

ag filleadh dom,
blaisim allas na cathrach faram.

Deas liom a taiseacht.

Preabann an Aimsir Láithreach
gan aire ó gach balla
i mbrothall an tráthnóna.

Admhaím go músclaíonn
gás sceite
sceitimíní ionam.

Is fíor nach gcítear
luí na gréine
i bhfairsing’ spéire:

Cacann an oíche
idir foirgnimh arda
gan rabhadh.

Ach lasann soilse neon
cúinní coimhthíocha mo chroí.

Faoiseamh a gheobhadsa
ar mo ghrianán gealaí,
mo chluas le hamhrán tráchta.

Filleadh ar an gCathair / Citybound

Translated by Ailbhe Ní Ghearbhuigh

Returning tonight
I can taste the city’s sweat
around me.

I like its sweetness.

The Present Tense bounces
recklessly off walls
in the heat of the afternoon.

I admit toxic fumes
intoxicate me.

Although you don’t see
the setting sun here
in the vast expanse of sky:

Night plunges
between tall buildings
without warning.

But neon lights light up
the foreign corners of my heart.

Faoiseamh a gheobhadsa

on a moonlit ledge,
my ear tuned to traffic’s song.


From Péacadh (2008) reproduced by kind permission of Ailbhe Ní Ghearbhuigh and Coiscéim.

About the poem

More people worldwide now live in urban than in rural areas. In Ní Ghearbhuigh’s poem she unapologetically celebrates the immediacy, the liveliness and the buzz of city life. It’s a sensuous experience – I taste its sweat [‘blaisim allas na cathrach’], I like its sweetness [‘deas liom a taiseacht’] and a grammatical term – ‘an Aimsir Laithreach’ [the Present Tense] is used to convey the excitement of the moment. We read that ‘The Present Tense bounces/ recklessly off walls’. Sweat is usually seen as something unpleasant but the speaker responds to ‘the city’s sweat’ positively. There’s a playful and refreshing use of language in the lines ‘admhaím go músclaíonn/ gás sceite/ sceitimíní ionam’ [I admit toxic fumes/ intoxicate me’].

Ailbhe Ní Ghearbhuigh

Ailbhe Ní Ghearbhuigh was born in Tralee, Co. Kerry in 1984 into an Irish-speaking family and was educated through Irish at Scoil Mhic Easmainn and at Gaelcholáiste Chiarraí. She studied Irish and French at NUI Galway and she lived for several years in France, after graduation, where she taught in the language programme at Bordeaux University.

Returning to Galway, she did a Masters Degree in Modern Irish. In 2007 she taught Irish in the CUNY Institute for Irish-American Studies at Lehman College in the Bronx as part of the Fulbright Programme. Her first collection. Péachadh, was published by Coisceim in 2008. In 2014 her doctoral thesis [‘An Fhrainc lathghlas? Tionchar na Fraince ae Athbeochan na Gaeilge. 1893-1922’] was awarded the Adele Dalsimer Prize for Distinguished Dissertation.

Her poetry frequently has an urban setting - Bordeaux, New York, Galway - and she celebrates the busyness and energy and sounds of the city. ‘Filleadh ar an gCathair’ was written when she was living in Bordeaux and is one of the few poems she has translated into English. She says: ‘I find it incredibly difficult to translate poems to English; writing in English doesn’t spark any creative impulse in me. I acknowledge that translation is vital when writing in a minority language and am pleased that my poems have been translated to English, French, German, Czech, Spanish and Galician.’

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