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Craft Talk and Reading with Poet Gabriel Fitzmaurice

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On October 11, poet and translator Gabriel Fitzmaurice stopped at Le Moyne College on his most recent tour for a craft talk and poetry reading. Sponsored by the Creative Writing Program, the Irish Studies Program, and the Lectures Committee, Fitzmaurice offered insight into his work as a translator between Irish and English and read from collections of his own poems as well as poems he has translated.

Fitzmaurice grew up in Moyvane in Co. Kerry, Ireland, and currently lives there today with his wife. He has authored over 50 books of both his original poetry and his translations of others’ poetry from Irish to English. Fitzmaurice started the night by hosting a Craft Talk with Creative Writing professor Dr. David Lloyd for about a dozen students and faculty in the audience. He read from his book Milking the Sun (“Ag Crú na Gréine”), which includes a compilation of his translations of poetry by Seán Ó Ríordáin. Following a reading of “Malairt” (“Change”) in both Irish and English, Fitzmaurice read an additional English translation of the poem by a Belfast translator. Fitzmaurice used this as an opportunity to discuss what he calls “sound and sense,” or rhyme and rhythm. Members of the audience noticed a clear difference between the two translations, especially in the authors’ word choice. Whereas the Belfast translator used a more literal translation,
Fitzmaurice took minor liberties in the translation in order to match Ó Ríordáin’s original voice, meter, and rhyming patterns as closely as possible. When one listener admitted he preferred Fitzmaurice’s translation, other audience members nodded in agreement.

Fitzmaurice read one more poem during the Craft Talk, “An Bonnán Buí” (“The Yellow Bittern”) by Cathal Bui Mac Giolla Gunna. Once again, Fitzmaurice read a sample of the original Irish, followed by his English translation, and a translation by another author. The audience laughed along with Fitzmaurice’s translation about a drunk who uses a bird that has died of thirst to justify why he shouldn’t stop drinking.

Fitzmaurice ended the Craft Talk by fielding questions from the audience regarding whether he has also translated from English to Irish – he has – and how to become a translator: “That’s all you can really do with translation: you can give the voice of the original as close as you can.”

After a short intermission, and the addition of several other faculty members and students, Dean Kate Costello-Sullivan, director of the Irish Studies Program, introduced Fitzmaurice with an impressive biography. During the reading, Fitzmaurice read close to twenty poems, most of which were his original works from books including The Lonesome Road and Smitten Soul: Illuminating the Dark. He read several sonnets about his wife and two adoptive children, offering extremely personal anecdotes about his life to explain each one. He read a translation of Seán Ó Ríordáin‘s “Súile Donna” (“Brown Eyes”), a poem Fitzmaurice described as “beautiful” and one of his favorites. Fitzmaurice’s poems discussed topics of death, religion, and love, and expressed a wide variety of emotions.

Each poem Fitzmaurice read was impactful on its own – like “The Mother,” based on the murder of an IRA soldier – but it was the insightful, personal, and sometimes humorous stories Fitzmaurice told to provide background between each poem that made the reading a personal and unique experience.

Fitzmaurice’s next and final book, “A Farewell to Poetry,” is set to be released in June 2019. In the meantime, Fitzmaurice’s most recent books, Milking the Sun and Smitten Soul: Illuminating the Dark, are available for purchase online.

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Craft Talk and Reading with Poet Gabriel Fitzmaurice