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June 2004

Beyond the Borders of English

Despite its spread around the globe, the English language has yet to dominate Britain and Ireland. The past thirty years have seen a resurgence in indigenous languages such as Scots, Welsh, Gaelic, Romany, Cornish, Shetlandic, and Ullans—especially in poetry. Iwan Llwyd pays homage to Welsh, Peter Constantine gives us a brief history of Scots, and Gaelic reveals its glories in the poetry of Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill and Louis de Paor. We've included two poems from the Romany and a poem by Ray Edwards, who contemplates the fascinating history of "The Calendar" in Cornish. A sampling of poetry from the Scots includes work by Janet Paisley, Christopher Whyte, and Liz Niven. Christine de Luca serenades one of the world's most unforgiving climes in Shetlandic, and Charlie Gillen supplies a farmer's love song in Ullans, both descendants of the Scots language. Welsh Book of the Year finalist Owen Martell provides a preview of his short-listed novel, and Robin Llywelyn transports us to, and weirdly beyond, a Welsh prison. We also welcome our new poetry editor, Alissa Valles, a poet and translator from Russian and Polish.

Y Syrcas
By Robin Llywelyn
For the English translation, please click here.Dim ond geiriau yn fy mhen ydyn nhw bellach a finnau’n cau fy llygaid. Dwi’n cau fy llygaid a’m clustiau am byth o sŵn y syrcas a dringo’r…
Translated from Welsh
In Praise of the Brothers of Bod Iwan
By Iwan Llwyd
In Bod Iwan there have longbeen gods of words and gods of song,gods with feet sound upon this earth,wild gods and wise gods, for what it's worth:Gerallt, who's followed all the trailsfrom Madryn…
Translated from Welsh by Iwan Llwyd
Multilingual
from The Other Man
By Owen Martell
Davies, Anna, and Daniel have been as close as three people can be. But now Davies is dead in a car crash, and the two that are left must “take on the case”: Davies' life, their own lives,…
Translated from Welsh by Owen Martell
The Circus
By Robin Llywelyn
When I close my ears to the sounds of this circus my eyes rise to the paths where Will High-Bridge-Arm waits for me. The papers said it was the sovereign in his pocket that was bait for thieves. I wonder…
Translated from Welsh by Robin Llywelyn
Llywelyn’s Breath
By Iwan Llwyd
(at the Llanelwedd National Eisteddfod)The border is near,its rugged soil continuingto sear its history on the faceof our language's acres, our no man's land.Our language is Llywelyn'sfaint…
Translated from Welsh by Iwan Llwyd
The Calendar
By Ray Edwards
In Egypt men of sciencereckoned a year precisely1and worked out the days,a thing good for everyone.There came Julius Caesarand saw Cleopatraand learned about the scienceof calculating it so accurately.His…
Translated from Cornish by Ray Edwards
Four Poems
By Christine De Luca
Head over HeelsFrom different vantage points, the island sharpensfrom old man laid out dead upon the skylineto three proud peaks upon the world's edge.And seen at different times, headlands loomingclosely…
Translated from Shetlandic by Christine De Luca
Two Poems
By Louis de Paor
BlackberriesShe pricks blood from a bush,eyes as brightas time to comethat casts no shadow on her years.If memory serves me right, she says,a year after her return,the blackberries are nowhere as sweetas…
Translated from Gaelic by Mary O’Donoghue
Multilingual
Two Poems
By Christopher Whyte
The Chinese BeetleIn a certain region of China,in the southwest, not far from the mountains of Yunnan,a kind of apple is to be foundwith such an exquisite flavorthat in ancient times the emperors would…
Translated from Gaelic by Christopher Whyte
Multilingual
Three Poems
By Janet Paisley
Hawk Stoneswatching the procession to open Scotland's parliamentceased 25 March 1707 resurrected 1 July 1999there is no stone where the hawk soars,no hawk where the stones standnor at their cobbled…
Translated from Scots by Janet Paisley
Multilingual
Three Poems
By Liz Niven
Criffel to MerrickIn this poem, two of the region's hills speak to each other. When a vehicle was needed for telling the story of Foot and Mouth, the hills seemed appropriate; they are very ancient,…
Translated from Scots by Liz Niven
Standing Still for the Night
By Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill
Cast your dark lineover broken tides.Blanket the blank spaces.Stars springfrom your cracksand the moon ridesin your pocket.Cast it like shadowsflown from your back.Holdthatpose.Take into youcanyon and…
Translated from Gaelic by Brian Crowe
Multilingual
The Two Boys
By Anonymous (from George Borrow)
Two Romany boys were sent,sent across the great sea.Plato for brawling,Lasho for stealingthe purse of a great lady.And when they came to the other land,The land that's over the sea,Plato was quicklyhung,…
Translated from Romany by Peter Constantine
Multilingual
Anadl Llywelyn
For the English translation, please click here. (ar achlysur Eisteddfod Genedlaethol Llanelwedd) Mae'r ffin yn y cyffiniau, pridd ei gwytnwch yn parhau i serio'i hanes ar wyneb erwau ein hiaith,…
Translated from Welsh
A Clean Kill
By Radwa Ashur
In Death in the Afternoon, Hemingway says: “The only place where you could see life and death, i.e., violent death now that the wars were over, was in the bull ring and I wanted very much to go…
Translated from Arabic by Gretchen Head
Scots: The Auld an Nobill Tung
What is Scots? Is it Gaelic? A dialect of English? English with a Gaelic brogue? A hodgepodge of English and Gaelic? In fact, none of the above. Scots is “ane o the wee leids o Europe, ane o the…
When the Snow Melted
By Ba Jin
A spring breeze ruffled my hair; at the foot of the hills a thaw had set in. It is usually cold when the snow melts, but today the long-hidden sun finally made an appearance. I put on a coat and started…
Translated from Chinese by Tang Sheng
from “The Wind from the East”
By Almudena Grandes
When the Olmedo family arrived at their new home a strong easterly wind, the Levanter, was blowing. It blew the house's canvas awnings so high it appeared they would come free of their aluminum frames,…
Translated from Spanish by Samantha Schnee
Love Song
By Anonymous (from George Borrow)
The pond of your breastsMy pillow shall be;Your eyes my moonsLike silver shine.Wait, my girl!Don't go away:What if I will not see you,Ever again?
Translated from Romanian by Peter Constantine
Multilingual
Oot Here Mae Lane
By Charlie Gillen
I lift't the harnesh fae ahint the oul doar, whur it haes hug fae iver I mine, The cullar an' hames maybe ouler than me, an' a bit o' a ravell't oul'…
Translated from Ullans by Charlie Gillen
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