After researching Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill, I was interested to learn more about the Innti literary journal and the other poets that contributed to it, as well as the later movement of poetry accredited to Innti. This movement was defined by the “introduction of modern themes into Irish poetry and a movement away from the traditional nationalist politics,” or as Nuala herself put it, a movement towards writing about “sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll.” This movement has been compared to the Beats poetry movement in the United States, comprised of post-World War II writers with a culture of “rejection of received standards, innovations in style, experimentation with drugs, alternative sexualities, etc.,” including American poets such as Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac. The literary magazine Innti was originally a broadside (one large page printed on one side only), created in 1970, which was continued as a magazine. The editor was a poet named Michael Davitt. Besides Davitt and Ní Dhomhnaill (the only female poet involved), Gabriel Rosenstock and Liam Ó Muirthile have gone on to be well known Irish poets. Defining aspects of this poetry movement were the public readings that made Irish poetry more accessible to the common man, creating excitement in the community. Other poets of this movement than Ní Dhomhnaill, such as Michael Davitt, have embraced translation into English by well-known poets like Paul Muldoon and John Montague. These poets, while committed to revitalizing the Irish language, were determined to avoid “isolationism [and to] bring internationalist energies of a new youth culture” to their poetry. On the subject of translation, Nuala has referred to her allowance of translation by Anglophone poets as a “vocation to the missions” that can motivate the English-speaking Irish population to “pick up the long-lost threads of the language which is so rightly theirs.” The founder of Innti, Davitt, passed away in 2005, just two years before Irish was designated the 23rd official language of the European Union.


The question of language: Postcolonial translation in the bilingual collections of Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill and Paul Muldoon (article, requested)

Phonetic Poetry

I was struck by Tom Leonard’s poetry (Six O’clock News and Jist ti Let Yi No), which was written phonetically in the urban Glaswegian accent, a technique I had not previously seen. I was curious to learn more about how phonetic poetry functions and its literary context. In literature, phonetic writing for the most part occurs in dialogue as opposed to narrative. Its function in poetry is similar; it more effectively calls up a particular voice. The British newspaper The Guardian described Leonard’s work as “bringing excluded voices into poetry…” By writing his poetry phonetically, Leonard forces the reader to hear these excluded voices rather than a universal standard accent, such as the BBC English accent he addresses in Six O’clock News:

this is thi
six a clock
news thi
man said n
thi reason
a talk wia
BBC accent
iz coz yi
widny wahnt
mi ti talk
aboot thi
trooth wia
voice lik
wanna yoo

 A similar use of phonetic poetry that captures a colloquial accent is found in older E.E. Cummings poem: poem II in ViVa, Oil tel duh woil doi sez:

oil tel duh woil doi sez 
dooyuh unnurs tanmih essez pullih nizmus tash,oi
dough un giv uh shid oi sez.    Tom
oidoughwuntuh doot,butoiguttuh
braikyooz,datswut eesez tuhmih.    (Nowoi askyuh
woodundat maik yurarstoin
green?    Oilsaisough.)—Hool
spairruh luckih?    Thangzkeed.    Mairsee.
Muh jax awl gawn.    Fur Croi saik
ainnoughbudih gutnutntuhplai?

yoozwidduhpoimnuntwaiv un duhyookuhsumpnruddur

A Standard English translation of Cummings’ poem:

I’ll tell the world I says
do you understand me as he’s pulling his moustache,I
don’t give a shit I says.  Tom
I don’t want to do it, but I got to
break youse,that’s what he says to me.  (Now I ask you
wouldn’t that make your arse turn
green?  I’ll say so.)—Who’ll
spare a Lucky?  Thanks kid.  Merci.
My jack’s all gone.  For Christ sake
ain’tnobody gotnothin’toplay?

yousewiththepermanentwave and theukeorsomethingorother

Another source of inspiration for Leonard was the American poet William Carlos Williams, who did not write phonetic poetry. However, Williams’ poems were “patterned by breath rather than metre,” in the same way that Leonard’s are; they share a focus on the sound of a voice. Earlier, we read Leonard’s Jist ti Let Yi No, an imitation of Williams’ famous poem, This is just to say. Leonard’s poem escalated from simply being patterned by breath to being spelled phonetically, creating a specific accent to further fill out the speaker’s voice. The direct creation of a specific accent is crucial to Leonard’s poetry. He has expressed that in order for spelling and syntax to be “correct,” they must indicate accurate and specific pronunciation, not simply the universal standard:

I. In speaking of reality, there is a standard

correct mode of pronunciation.

2. In writing of reality, there is a standard

correct mode of spelling and of syntax.


3. In reality, correct spelling and correct syntax

are synonymous with correct pronunciation.”

In reading more about Tom Leonard’s unusual style of poetry, I came across the tradition of ‘sound poetry.’ This form is related to the concepts behind Leonard’s phonetic poetry, in that “the phonetic aspects of human speech are foregrounded instead of more conventional semantic and syntactic values;” however, sound poetry often dispenses with words altogether and focuses only on sound, sometimes using only onomatopoeias—“bridging literary and musical composition.” While Leonard’s phonetic poetry keeps actual understandable language in order to better convey his message, he may have taken inspiration from the tradition of ‘sound poetry.’


Macaulay, Ronald K. S.. Standards and variation in urban speech examples from Lowland Scots. Amsterdam: J. Benjamins Pub., 1997. Print.





The Legend of Cuchulain

I was intrigued by Yeats’ multiple references to the hero Cuchulain in our readings. I’ve found that, while the legend of Cuchulain has persisted for many centuries, it originally was part of the ‘Ulster Cycle’ of medieval Irish mythology. The Ulster Cycle is written in Old and Middle Irish, and contains language dating back to the 7th century. The many stories take place in identifiable parts of Ireland; for instance, eastern Ulster and northern Leinster, even specific counties such as Armagh, Down, and Louth. While the stories are set approximately during the 1st century, they have retained cultural importance in part due to their identifiable ties to the land that remains today. Yeats himself, in a preface to a book of retold legends by his friend Lady Gregory in 1902, emphasizes the importance of location:

“We Irish should keep these personages much in our hearts, for they lived in the places where we ride and go marketing, and sometimes they have met one another on the hills that cast their shadows upon our doors at evening… When I was a child I had only to climb the hill behind the house to see long, blue, ragged hills flowing along the southern horizon. What beauty was lost to me, what depth of emotion is still perhaps lacking in me, because nobody told me, not even the merchant captains who knew everything, that Cruachan of the Enchantments lay behind those long, blue, ragged hills!”  – W. B. Yeats

1904 Cuchulain

Cuchulain was a mythic Irish hero, son of the god Luch of the Long hand and the mortal Dechtire, and nephew to King Conor of Ulster. His fame as a warrior spread while he was still a child. Along with his formidable strength and skill as a warrior, he was renowned for his beauty and honor. Part of his legend was that the men of Ulster hunted for a wife for Cuchulain in order to keep him from their wives and daughters. Furthermore, one story tells of a test of his honor in which he was willing to submit to his own beheading in order to keep his word. The stories of Cuchulain contain much violence; Cuchulain kills his own son when he mistakes his identity, and the story of Cuchulain’s own death involves the murder of his charioteer, his horse, and the loss of 2 appendages and his head. There is also often the presence of magic in his adventures. While these stories can seem over the top to a modern reader, Yeats celebrated that attribute:

“The abundance of what may seem at first irrelevant invention in a story like the death of Conaire, is essential if we are to recall a time when people were in love with a story, and gave themselves up to imagination as if to a lover.” – W. B. Yeats

Cuchulain is representative of Irish culture. As an Irish hero from Ulster he is significant to both Irish Nationalists and Ulster Unionists. His image is found both as a sculpture in the Dublin General Post Office commemorating the revolutionary Easter Rising of 1916, and contradictorily in a mural on the Newtownards Road meant to depict him as a defender from Irish attack. In modern times, he is also invoked in less political ways! (Marvel Comics.)

marvel cuchulain