Poems Full of History

Poems Full of History

John Minahane

Review: Bone And Marrow/Cnámh agus Smior. An Anthology of Irish Poetry from Medieval to Modern. Ed. Samuel K. Fisher and Brian Ó Conchubhair. Wake Forest University Press, 2022. 964 pages.

We can say right away that this is the best ever anthology of Irish poetry with English translations.  The guiding idea of the book is expressed in the title, which is taken from a statement by Geoffrey Keating, i nduantaibh atá cnámh agus smior an tseanchusa, “the bone and marrow of history are to be found in poems”. This insight dominates Keating’s History Of Ireland (undoubtedly the most popular history of Ireland ever written), and mostly, though with some serious lapses, it dominates this huge collection of poetry.

 “The editorial team has chosen poems that are not only beautiful and fascinating on aesthetic and literary grounds—though they most certainly are that—but that also show the tradition of Irish poetry as it has always been:  in full contact with the changing world around it” (Introduction).      

The principle is excellent, and the book is excellent where it is thoroughly applied.  Actually, Bone And Marrow begins badly, with very little of that cnámh agus smior on show, but then there is excellent stuff for a long stretch in the middle.  However, the section covering the early 20th century, while by no means as bad as some of the earlier chapters, is disappointing;  things improve once again in the closing chapters.  Let’s take the good things first.

Most readers will be amazed by the richness of some of the sections and will find treasures that they never knew existed.  How many people are aware of Máire Chonnachtach Ní Dhónaill, who, doubtless composing in America where her song was published in the 1890s, describes a certain part of Donegal as paradise on earth, literally a land of wine and honey, and does it with great gusto?  And (taking things at random from the centuries adjacent) it was high time to present two hilarious macaronic poems by 18th century masters to a wider audience (Peadar Ó Doirnín’s tale of a rival poet’s ill-luck with a lady in Dundalk, and Donnchadh Rua Mac Conmara making fools of some English sailors in St. John’s, Newfoundland);  and the 20th century’s Máirtín Ó Díreáin is deservedly made interesting again.

Everything, including the brisk introductory essays to the given sections and the introductions to the poems, is given in both languages, English and Irish.  By way of variation, the brief general introduction begins in English and ends in Irish.  All of this is done in a cheerful and reader-friendly manner, without irritating poses.  The translations are of all sorts;  often the Section Editors do their own, but versions also appear by other modern Editors, including two of mine.  Michael Hartnett and Thomas Kinsella have one each.  Very occasionally, some of the gifted translators of earlier times are featured.  There is Thomas MacDonagh’s splendid harmonic version of An Bonnán Buí, the lament by Cathal Buí Mac Giolla Gunna for the yellow bittern that died for want of a drink;  there is also a fine verse rendering by Mícheál Ua hAnnracháin (dated 1856) of the Jacobite battle song Rosc Catha na Mumhan.

Translation, of course, is a suspect undertaking.  But what’s said about this is brief and stimulating, and tedious theories are not indulged.  In its own way, a wry comment is the inclusion of three poems by the contemporary writer Doireann Ní Ghríofa from a bilingual collection with English and Irish versions on facing pages, and titled simply Lies—no, not Bréaga / Lies, only Lies, from which readers may conclude what they like!

Sometimes the Editors show plenty of literary curiosity and boldness.  One proof of this is the section on “Politics, Poetry and the Apocalypse”, edited by Samuel K. Fisher and Brendan Kane.  Featured here are three examples of poems from the 1640s where the poet demands that the (reluctant) lord he is addressing should take a drastic new initiative in politics and war.  Two of these lords are very big fish indeed, central figures in the crisis of the 1640s;  the third might conceivably also have become a big fish:  he was a player of unknown potential.

These poems are, firstly, by Gofraidh Óg Mac an Bhaird in late 1641 to An Calbhach Rua Ó Domhnaill (nephew of Hugh O’Neill’s famous ally, Red Hugh), telling him that the English colonists’ rule is at an end, and he must lead the Irish forces in expelling them;  secondly, by Diarmaid Óg Ó Murchadha early in 1642 to Donough McCarthy, Viscount Muskerry, calling on him to join the uprising in defence of the Catholics and against the English Puritans (and hence also in defence of the English King);  and thirdly, by Seán Ó Críagáin in the early months of 1648 to Murchadh Ó Briain, Baron of Inchiquin, urging him to abandon his treasonous alliance with the Parliamentarians and join the united Catholic-Protestant Royalist alliance in Ireland. 

In fact, all of these lords soon did what the poets were pressing them to do.  These poems are convincingly part of the “bone and marrow of history”, even in the very explicit sense.  By including them, the editors prove they are taking the editorial aims in earnest.  The second and third of the above poems were edited and translated by me;  Diarmaid Óg’s poem is included in The Poems of Geoffrey O’Donoghue / Dánta Shéafraidh Uí Dhonnchadha an Glean, published by the Aubane Historical Society.  I drew attention to Gofraidh Óg’s 1640s poetry and published some verses with translation in another Aubane book, An Argument Defending the Right of the Kingdom of Ireland by Conor O’Mahony.

One third of the way through, once we get to that 1641-1660 period, the anthology becomes much better.  The section immediately following, on the Restoration and War of the Two Kings period (1660-1991), is also very good.  Naturally enough, this section is dominated by Dáibhí Ó Bruadair.  Missing is Geoffrey O’Donoghue’s powerful denunciation of the 1662 Act of Settlement, Is barra ar an gcleas an reacht do théacht tar tuinn, which ought to have its place there.  The two overlapping Jacobite sections that follow, the second of which is extended to the mid-19th century, show that Breandán Ó Buachalla’s point has been taken:  Jacobite poetry is genuine stuff of history, not to be scorned or ignored.  There are complicating issues coming in which prevent any monotony.  For example, Seán Clárach Mac Domhnaill’s “Poem to Seon Anna” is a discussion of the state of Ireland with someone who is described in the course of discussing, and who happens to be simultaneously a man and a woman!

          When we arrive at the nineteenth century, a major change takes place in the book. It might even seem that the Editors have thrown their editorial principles overboard, though that is not really the case.  Until then the focus has been very much on politics, or communal social affairs.  The considerable quantities of earlier love poetry are largely ignored, and given the book’s focus, justifiably so.  But what happens early in the nineteenth century is that Gaelic discourse on politics migrates to the English language, and this becomes overwhelming as the century wears on.  At the same time, there’s a great expanse of popular song and music where Irish still has a hold;  it’s buzzing with life, and one can’t deny that it’s somewhere up close to history, even if not quite at the bone and marrow.

An idea of the range of this culture can be got from the section on “Nineteenth Century Song Poetry”, edited by Lillis Ó Laoire and Sorcha Nic Lochlainn.  Here, all of a sudden, there’s plenty of alcohol and sex, with a fair spread of other themes:  including faction-fighting, emigration and British Army recruitment, deaths by drowning, keening, potato failure, sporting heroes, mock-heroic put-down of some conceited fellow, Máire Bhuí Ní Laoghaire’s luscious lullaby, and even politics and religious devotion (but those, I think, just once each).  The Editors rightly show contempt for pedantic chronology; there are several songs which probably originated in the 1700s though they flourished in the century following, and the latest specimen, Amhrán Ros Muc by John Beag Ó Flatharta, comes from 1984.

After the reckless spontaneity of this expansive nineteenth century, the twentieth comes in with a jolt.  It is very literary and somewhat artificial, responsibly feeling the weight of times and issues, and for two thirds of its course the leading poets are fascinated with the ancient poetic culture and its classical metres, and with the older and more literary forms of the amhrán.  (One of the triumphs in the effort to put new wine in the old bottle of the amhrán (its art song type) is Brendan Behan’s excellent Jackeen ag Caoineadh na mBlascaod / A Jackeen Keens for the Blaskets.)

 Furthermore, at the beginning of the century, poetry in Irish is an important part of a great cultural upsurge that focuses on revival of the Irish language, but finds poetic and prose expression in English also— inevitably, given the times, much more so. The cultural movement becomes the seed-bed for a new political movement, and eventually for a major new effort to set Ireland on an independent course in the world —the pioneering anti-colonial struggle of the 20th century.  The Irish-language poets are in tune with this.  In fact, the foremost Irish-language poet and the foremost Irish literary critic writing in English turn up together as leaders of the 1916 Rising, the defining event of 20th century Ireland.

However, the above is my description. You won’t find anything remotely like it in the book.  After the warmly affirmative spirit of the nineteenth century song section, which presents twenty four songs, though the Editors insist that such a small selection can give no real idea of the wealth of what survives—after this, the treatment of the more literary verse in the crucial period from 1880 to 1940 can only be described as mean.  It gets the shortest section in the book, with the meagre number of nine poems featured.  The attitude taken here is the most surprising because the section is co-edited (with Philip O’Leary) by Brian Ó Conchubhair, one of the two General Editors of Cnámh agus Smior.

“Last of the Innocents: Twenty-First-Century Poetry”, edited by Ó Conchubhair individually, is in tune with the large-minded ambition of the book as expressed in the introduction;  one cannot say the same about this earlier section, unfortunately.

“Formalism, Realism, and Revivalist Rhymers 1880-1940” suffers from a spirit of negativity. This is manifest even in the title: “rhymers” is a word that resonates across centuries of Irish literary history, and never with affirmative connotations.  The Editors highlight what they consider eccentricity among those writing in Irish, as illustrated by projects such as translating Moore’s Melodies, and especially they emphasise the great quantity of bad poetry produced in Irish under the stimulus of the Gaelic revival—mechanical, imitative verses, fixated with formal models.  I would say that their comments are misconceived, because they take no account of context.

All across Europe, the outbreak of war in 1914 produced the most enormous torrent of bad poetry that the world had ever seen.  But in peacetime too there were quite a few people in England or France or Germany who liked to try their hand at verse-making.  Inevitably, the results were mostly mechanical, imitative etc.  But doggerel verse was popular:  there were lots of people who liked either making it or hearing it—and plenty of it was produced in Ireland, in English.  And in some sense it provided a background and a certain receptive atmosphere for the minority of poets who were really gifted.  I would think that the people in Dámhsgoil Mhúsgraighe Uí Fhloinn etc. understood all this and hoped to give the developing Irish-language poetry that broad base of supportive mediocrity.

Here and there in this chapter, one finds the prevailing spirit of negativity battling with the declared spirit of the book.  Besides the mechanical rhymers, the Editors say, there were—

“poets who sought to find a place for individual talent within what they hoped would be an evolving tradition. The most notable of these poets in the early Revival was Pádraig Mac Piarais (P. H. Pearse), most of whose few short lyrics in Irish were collected in Suantraidhe agus Goltraidhe (1914).  While Mac Piarais is often, if not usually, seen one-dimensionally as either a saintly martyr or a bloodthirsty fanatic, he was a complicated and, at times, conflicted human being with a genuine literary gift he never really allowed himself the opportunity to develop.  Nevertheless, the emotional turmoil and honesty of his best poems have not lost their ability to speak to and move many twenty-first century readers (and incidentally, to trouble those who question their possible sexual implications)”.

Surely, then, four or five of this complex man’s best poems should be offered, letting readers see him in some kind of perspective?  But the Editors give just… one!  And with the single poem included, A Mhic Bhig na gCleas / Little Lad of the Tricks, they give the reader no help.  In fact, the reader is encouraged to get bogged down in “possible sexual implications”, to the exclusion of other content.  All that Ó Conchubhair and O’Leary have to say is the following:

“This controversial poem, with its strict five-syllable lines, echoes the intense lyrical feeling of classical love poems, but controversy has resulted from conflating the narrator and the poet, and raises questions about Pearse’s sexual orientation and predilection.  Despite raising concerns from colleagues, Pearse persisted in publishing it.”

That awkward first sentence seems to make two conflicting suggestions:  that it might not be fair to identify the narrator with Pearse himself, and that we may want to identify them anyhow.  The only thing we are advised to look out for is an issue of sexual orientation.  That means paedophilia, because in four of the six verses there are sensual descriptions of the young boy’s features, and two of the verses refer to kissing him.  And this will not be outweighed by the narrator saying in the final verse:

“An té ’gá bhfuil mo rún,

Ni fiú é teagmháil leat…”

He who has my secrets

Is not fit to touch you…

For a very long time it has been acknowledged by critics of poetry that the immediate, up-front meaning of a poem may not be its deepest and truest meaning.  Ó Conchubhair and O’Leary presumably know this, but as Editors of Pearse they might as well never have heard of the idea.  I would say that a reader will find it easier to get the wavelength of Little Lad of the Tricks if he/she reads its companion poem Fornocht do chonac thú / Renunciation, beginning:

“Fornocht do chonac thú,

A áille na háille,

Is do dhallas mo shúil

Ar eagla go stánfainn”

Naked I saw thee,

O beauty of beauty,

And I blinded my eyes,

For fear I should fail

(where I think no one doubts that the beauty immediately described is adult and female), and also Cad chuige dhíbh dom’ chiapadh? / Why do ye torture me?, beginning:

“Cad chuige dhíbh dom’ chiapadh, a mhiana mo chroidhe?
Dom’ chiapadh is dom’ phianadh de ló is d’oidhch’,
Dom’ fhiadhach mar do fiadhóchaidhe fiadh bocht ar shliabh,
Fiadh bocht fad-tuirseach ’s an chonairt ina dhiaidh?”

Why are ye torturing me, O desires of my heart ?
Torturing me and paining me by day and by night?
Hunting me as a poor deer would be hunted on a hill,
A poor long-wearied deer with the hound-pack after him…

All of these poems have to do with Pearse’s vision of his future and his sense of what he must sacrifice.  Finally, while the Editors are correct to say that Little Lad of the Tricks reflects classical love poetry, in fact it reflects, echoes and relates to one poem above all.  This is A bhean lán de stuaim / Woman Full of Sense, attributed to Geoffrey Keating.  Preciselylike Little Lad of the Tricks, Keating’s poem also has six verses in strict five-syllable lines.  The narrator is an old man whom the woman full of sense is pressuring to have sex with her.  No, the man says, I am too old, just look at me;  anything but that, woman full of sense!

Pearse was fascinated by this poem and produced an English translation of it.  To those who denied that Keating could have written it, since he was a priest, Pearse pointed out that the poem was “a dramatic lyric… To say that a priest could not have written such a poem would be to say that a priest could not be an artist”.

Little Lad of the Tricks also is a dramatic lyric.  However, that does not exhaust its subtlety.  I would say that the little lad of the tricks is the  of fornocht do chonac thú, and is also the woman full of sense.  And with that I leave off the topic of Pearse, but he’s not the only one that the Editors of this late 19th/early 20th century section have been unfair to.  Few will disagree with them that, among those poets influenced by the Revival who were ostensibly more traditional, some of the most-promoted individuals, Roibeárd Bheldún for example, were no great shakes at poetry.  But there were others, if one cared to look for them, who had notable talent.

As one example, I may mention the North Cork stonemason Domhnall Ó Conchubhair, author among other things of a lament for Parnell.  Duanaire Dúithch’ Ealla, a small book of his poetry published in 1936, also includes his version of the legend of Latiaran.  This was the most interesting saint of Ó Conchubhair’s native region of Duhallow, whose popular cult was alive and extremely vital in his time.  Latiaran used to come every day to the forge in Cullen and take a burning ember in a fold of her robe, and she would carry it, without damaging the garment, away to her cell to start the fire.  But one day the smith felt an urge to banter, and he said to her, “Latiaran, what lovely white legs you have!”  The saint fell into the trap of sinful vanity.  She looked down, and… immediately, of course, the coal burned through her robe! 

Latiaran apologised to God for her lapse, and then turned her attention to the smith.  She cursed him most lyrically, prophesying every kind of ruin for him, and swore that never again until Doomsday would there be a forge in Cullen!

These popular saints’ cults, with the colourful and humorous tales of their doings, were bone-and-marrow parts of Irish culture for centuries.  Ó Conchubhair’s account of the forge scene, where he handles the art song amhrán extremely well, might claim a place in any anthology on merit.  (The editors do, in fact, include two accomplished laments which are from this zone of poetry:  Pádraig Ó hÉigeartaigh mourning his son, and Pádraig Ua Duinnín with what is actually a traditional caoine (with the constant é / -ay sound in the second last syllable of the line) on the sinking of the Titanic in 1912.  But they could have have found much more on a range of themes if they’d looked well.)

They are also unfair to Tadhg Ó Donnchadha (‘Torna’), who did not only represent “antiquarianism”,  as they suggest.  In 1930 he produced Fíon Gearmánach, a pioneering small book of Irish translations from modern German poetry.  (It was republished in 2001 by Athol Books, with an introduction by Brendan Clifford.)  To reach out beyond the mighty Anglosphere, to forge independent contact with the great modern poetry of a land that had lately been demonised, to make Goethe, Schiller and Heine sing in Irish, and regenerate what was actually a very old Irish art of non-slavish translation:  that was no small initiative and ambition, even if it wasn’t afterwards sustained.  An anthology of Irish poetry could do worse than include Torna’s version of, say, Heine’s Die Lorelei, inspired by the legend of the siren singer in the Rhine who puts sailors into a trance and makes them crash on the rocks.

Ó Conchubhair and O’Leary seem to feel that the main thrust of Irish history from 1880 to 1940 is in some way deplorable. This bias makes them depart from the guiding principles of the book, and they do the poetry of the period less than justice. The same is true in some earlier sections, though for different reasons.

“Early Medieval Irish Poetry (c. 600 — 1200)”, edited by Joseph Falaky Nagy and Natasha Sumner, was admittedly an impossible task.  How could the immense wealth of material be fairly represented in a selection of ten poems, presumably a number which the Editors could not exceed?  But—unlike Ó Laoire and Nic Lochlainn when editing the nineteenth century songs—Nagy and Sumner give no indication at all of feeling confined by their limit.  On the contrary, they seem to be at their wits’ end how to spin out their selection to ten, ending up with a clever but trivial joke quatrain.  They succeed in giving the impression that early Irish poetry was bitty and scrappy and typically very short-winded, which isn’t true.

In fairness to them, Nagy and Sumner are conscious of the need to interest a non-specialist audience.  What is there in this literature, they ask themselves, that a non-specialist will not find boring?  They begin with two good choices, Pangur Bán and an early devotional poem attributed to Saint Columcille.  Then they want something with Cú Chulainn, since he’s famous, but they try to find him at his most ‘modern’, in a passage where he’s feeling insecure and conflicted rather than heroic;  they also present a passage where Emer, Cú Chulainn’s betrayed wife, remonstrates with him for his infidelity in terms that might well be used by a woman today. 

It doesn’t strike them that the extraordinary Queen Maeve could be more interesting than the ordinary Emer, and that it isn’t so hard to find a conflicted Cú Chulainn in Táin Bó Cuailnge.

Anyhow, one of the obvious holes in their selection is the absence of any of the poetry of the great Táin (say, the passage when Ailill, Meave’s husband, plays chess with Fergus, Maeve’s lover, and the two men and Maeve have a charged poetic dialogue—this was translated as well as it reasonably could be by Ciarán Carson).  And they don’t seem to think of Amergin Glúngeal’s Amgaeth immuir / I am the wind on sea poem, said to be the first poem uttered in Ireland;  r Eochaidh Ó Floinn’s witty verses where he argues that the Tuatha Dé Danaan were not devils;  or Oengus Céle Dé triumphing over the ruin of Tara and Eamhain Macha and other old pagan royal centres, while the great Christian monasteries are flourishing;  or Mael Muire Othna’s exuberant praise-poem to the High King of Ireland, Flann for Éirinn/ Flann over Ireland;  or something from the long and sophisticated poem by Fingen Mac Flaind about the respect due to poetry, and how to deal with those who are insufficiently respectful;  or the verses describing the otherworld, without sin or death, which Bran Mac Febail reached on his voyage;  or one of the fine Dindshenchas poems on the names of places;  or Líadáin’s wonderful poem of unhappy love, Cen áinius / Joyless;  or Suibhne / Sweeney, the mad but very articulate bird-man, telling how he feels in his cold and lonely glen . . .  and others too many to mention.  Nagy and Sumner were spoiled for choice, if only they knew it.  

“The Bard and His World (1200-1650)”, edited by Peter McQuillan and Rory Rapple, presents some excellent and thought-provoking poems, sometimes abbreviated but not mutilated.  However, on the one hand, the Introduction is too academic;  on the other hand, the Editors seemingly haven’t read the one really important academic work, The Irish Bardic Poet by James Carney.  They do not appreciate that these poets, while on one level they might be local court poets, were also conscious members of a great ancient order with pre-Christian roots and of key importance in the “cross-fertlisation”, as Carney puts of it, of early Irish literature and Christianity.  McQuillan and Rapple think of them only as Court Poets and respect them less than they deserve.

Worst of all is “Incursion and Interaction:  Irish and Normans (1200-1500)”, edited by Michelle O’Riordan.  This writer has devoted her academic career to arguing that any notion of finding the bone and marrow of history in Irish poetry is nonsense.  Quite the contrary, in her view (expressed at length in Irish Bardic Poetry and Rhetorical Reality):  poetry was a learned and artificial game of flattery, divorced from the reality of life and played by clever pedants.  Her selection, deployed to illustrate her theory, does not include any of Gofraidh Fionn Ó Dálaigh’s remarkable poems of interaction with three Earls of Desmond.  Nor does she even mention the third of those Earls, Gearóid Iarla, a most intriguing example of interaction, who is said to have composed about forty surviving poems in Irish.

To cap it all, O’Riordan has developed a horrendous method of slicing and splicing.  No one would expect her to include all 73 verses of a poem by Gofraidh Fionn to one of the MacCarthys—a continuous passage or passages would do.  What she actually presents is the following, in sequence:  Verse 1, Verse 11, Verse 13, Verse 15, Verse 19, Verse 20, Verse 22, Verse 33, Verse 48, Verse 73. 

This is open contempt for one of Ireland’s greatest poets, though one must admit that according to her theories it is all he deserves.

So much for the negative side of the scale.  Everything after that third chapter, even if not faultless, is better.  The twentieth century too improves as it goes on. “Post-WWII: The Rise of Modernism (1940-1970)”, edited by Daniela Theinová and David Wheatley, is thoughtful and presents the selected poets well (Seán Ó Ríordáin, Máirtín Ó Díreáin, Máire Mhac an tSaoi, Brendan Behan, Eoghan Ó Tuairisc).  But these Editors also seem to be too much gripped by the cult of progress to find space for the gifted ex-Blasket Island poet, Mícheál Ó Gaoithín

“The Innti Generation (1970-2000)”, of whom Gabriel Rosenstock and several others are still on the go, is presented sympathetically by Caoimhín Mac Giolla Léith and Clíona Ní Ríordáin. They might have given more space to Michael Hartnett, who will always be of interest among the poets of this time.

Finally, for the early twenty-first century, Brian Ó Conchubhair does what was not done for the early twentieth:  he takes pains to make the poets interesting.  (This is the business of the literary critic, as Ezra Pound pointed out in his very positive review of Thomas MacDonagh’s Literature in Ireland:   “He makes Pádraig Mac Piarais interesting”, Pound says in passing.)  For me, on this evidence, the most interesting of those currently writing in Irish seem to be Doireann Ní Ghríofa and Ailbhe Ní Ghearbhuigh.  I conclude with the closing lines of Ní Ghríofa’s ‘iceberg’ poem from her Lies collection,  Aibreán 1912 / April 1912:

“Deirtear nach ann d’uisce nua, go bhfuil an t-uisce

Céanna de shíor ar fhéith-bhogadh timpeall orainn:  ag leá,

Ag reo, ag imeacht go haer, cosúil leis na héin, cosúil

Linn féin, ár n-anam de shíor ag rince idir talamh is spéir.”

They say that new water cannot be made, that the same water

Is forever in flux around us, repeating its old story of melt

And freeze, lifting to inhabit air again, like birds, like us,

As our souls, too, swoop and fly between this world and these skies.

Church and State, No. 151,

First Quarter


  Eoghan Rua Ó Súilleabháin:  Danta / Poems  With translations by Pat Muldowney.  Supplementary Material by Seámus O’Donnell and others.  Eoghan Rua Ó Súilleabháin:  Collected Writings,  Vol. 2.  230pp.  Index.  ISBN  1 903497 57 9.AHS, 2009,  €21, £17.50   Eoghan Rua Ó Súilleabháin:  Aislingí / Vision Poems  With translations by Pat Muldowney, Introductory material by P. Dinneen.  Also:Conflicting Views Of Ireland In The 18th Century:  Revisionist History Under The Spotlight by B.  Clifford Eoghan Rua Ó Súilleabháin:  Collected Writings,  Vol. 1.336pp.  Index.  ISBN  978-1-903497-79-1 AHS, 2013,   €27,  £23.50   Dánta  Piarais Feiritéir. Poems with translations by Pat Muldowney.  First ever bi-lingual edition of poetry of Pierce Ferriter.  Irish and English versions are on facing pages.  Notes and vocabulary supplied, with explanation of Gaelic verse forms and poetic devices.  120pp,   ISBN  0 9521081 8 6. AHS, 1999. €15, £12.   The Poems of Geoffrey O’Donoghue/Dánta Shéarfraidh Uí Dhonnchadha an Ghleanna, with Ireland’s War Poets 1641-53  translated and edited by John Minahane (first full collection of Geoffrey O’Donoghue’s poetry in Irish with translations into English; also includes a collection of Gaelic poetry of the period of the Confederate Wars of the 1640s with an account of that conflict as seen through the work of the major poets of the era). 302 pp.  ISBN  978-1-903497-49-4.  Aubane Historical Society.  2008.  €24, £20   * Gofraidh Fionn Ó Dálaigh, Poems to the English/ Dán na nGall  (304pp).  Translated, Introduced and Edited by John Minahane. ISBN 9781 903497 92 0      €25, £20 paperback.  €35, £30 hardback.   The Contention Of The Poets, an essay in Irish intellectual history, by John Minahane.    72pp.  ISBN  0 9522582 4 2.  Sanas Press.  June 2000.  €10, £8   Ladislav Novomesky:  Slovak Spring.  Translation of a selection of his poems and essays, 1923-1971. With a Review of his Literary and Political life by John Minahane:  Laco Novomesky In The 20th Century Labyrinth.  166pp.  Index.  ISBN 1 872078 10 9. BHES, 2004. €18 £15