Ní rabhamar ar ár gcaid
Ní rabhamar ar dhrugaí
Ní rabhamar fé gheasa lucht geasa
Ní rabhamar fé gheasa reiligiúin
Ní rabhamar ar thaibléidí dochtúra ná piollaí
Ní rabhamar á fheiscint ar TV
Ní rabhamar á léamh ar nuachtán
Bhíomar ag bogshodar síos an bóithrín fada caol go Loch Deán
Ar maos inár séireatoinin fhéin
Slogtha siar inár mbeathaidh ag an aimsir láithreach
Cróch is coitsín fan na slí, gabhair, cleabhair is cleamairí
Oiread na fríde ó bheith inár n-oilithrigh aimsir Chaoimhín
Oiread na fríde ó bheith in ann an domhan a thuiscint
We weren't drunk
We weren't stoned
We weren't spellbound by spellbinders
We weren't blinded by religion
We weren't on doctors’ prescriptions
We weren't watching it on TV
We weren't reading it in the paper
We were running down a long narrow track towards Lough Dan
Steeped in our own serotonin
Swallowed alive by the now
Saffron and cochineal along the way, goats, woodcocks and strawboys
A whisper away from being pilgrims in the time of St. Kevin
A whisper away from understanding the world
(The track by Lough Dan, in the Wicklow mountains, was a pilgrim route to St.
Kevin’s monastery in Glendalough.)
translated by Michael Davitt
do Mháirtín Ó Direáin
Coigil do bhrí
A fhir an dáin
Coigin faoi thrí
Bi i do chrann.
Sheas ar leac an tinteáin
Duilliúrdhánta ina láimh
Glór mar cheol toirní
Súil dharach an chrannlaoich
Dearcán solais dár thuirling
De ruachraobh anuas
Phréamhaigh i ndán ar lár
Ár lomghoirtín is d’fhás
Hearts of Oak
for Mháirtín Ó Direáin
Save your breath,
Keep it under wraps
In the tall tree of yourself.
When he stood on the hearthstone
His hands would rustle with new poems.
A peal of thunder when he spoke.
His eye was a knot of oak.
A little acorn of light pitched
Into our bald patch
From the red branch above
Might take root there, and thrive.
translated by Paul Muldoon
Michael Davitt was born in Cork city in the South of Ireland in 1950 of an English mother and Irish father, neither of whom had any knowledge of Irish, he developed a creative relationship with the langauge in his early years at Primary School and later at an Irish-medium Secondary, spending much of his holidays in the Gaeltacht (Irish speaking) areas of Cork and Kerry. His first poems were published in magazines in 1967.
At University College Cork in the late sixties, where he studied Celtic languages, he became associated with other young poets writing in Irish. This group, called the INNTI Poets after the magazine which Davitt edited for many years, created a new vibrant movement in Irish poetry which was, at once, avant garde and rooted in Gaelic tradition.
Theo Dorgan, poet and former Director of Poetry Ireland, has said of them:
“This cleavage with the past, especially with the immediate past, was so shocking that, in effect, the shock anaesthetised itself. They were out and through into a new, unexpected reappropriation of the past almost before they themselves realised what was going on.”
He dedicated his working life to the regeneration of the language as a creative force at a time when the historic Gaeltacht has been in decline. He worked as a teacher, manager of Slógadh youth festival, and a TV Producer/Director with the national broadcaster, RTÉ. Since his election in 2000 to Aosdána, the academy of Irish artists, he become a full time poet. He shared his time between France and Ireland with his partner Moira Sweeney before his untimely death on June 19th 2005 in rural County Sligo while walking in the hills.
English translations of his work appear in a selected poems The Oomph of Quicksilver (Cork University Press, 2000). His work has also been translated into Italian, French, German, Catalan, Welsh, Scots Gaelic, Arabic and Romanian.
He received the Butler Award for Literature in 1994. He has published nine collections of poems including Fardoras which won an Oireachtas Prize in 2002 and Seimeing Soir which won an Oireachtas prize in 2004. A comprehensive collection of his poems Dánta 1966-1998 was published six months before he died.