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Book Reviews & Features


Crann na Teanga / The Language TreeDublin Review of Books April 2020

When the selected poems of a great poet are published, we expect it to be a distillation from the best of his work. Yet, when we look at Crann na Teanga/The Language Tree, all of its 430 pages plus, it has the feel of a complete oeuvre. This, in itself, is a simple statement that Cathal Ó Searcaigh – one of the finest poets in Ireland, and one of the very best in the Irish language in this century and the last – has been writing and honing and perfecting his craft for nearly half a century. And “craft” does indeed have to emphasised in every cranny of his work. Even to look at a page in one of his many books without reference to context or meaning we immediately see a shape and a cut and a form. A reading of the poems will see how the language and the contours have been melded together to make an artistic whole. This concern for craft is central to the Irish poetic tradition, as in the Irish language composing poetry is most usually described as “ag déanamh filíocht”, that is “making poetry”. No slapdash stuff then, no plopping it down just as it comes out, no emotion unselected with facility.