Scottish Review of Books: Meas Air Chrannaibh
A dodo language, Gaelic “is like a patient lying/weak on her deathbed”, according to its nurse, Aonghas Pàdraig Caimbeul. Certainly, as if futureproofing his verse from one of language’s regular extinctions, he proffers his new collection in three flavours: Gaelic, Scots and English. His trilingual verse is often a gloomy affair. He frets about Gaelic’s future, paralleling its decline with global warming no less. Again and again, the loss of Gaelic is presented in grand, fatalistic terms: “I am drowning here trying desperately/to harvest Gaelic/from the great tide of English” (‘Harvesting The Ocean’). Ironic then that he should provide English versions of his poetry, which is surely like asking your pet goat to bunk down with a crocodile. Poetry itself is, in Caimbeul’s opinion, faring little better.
In ‘The Gaelic Poetry Tinker’, he imagines himself “Climbing the brae/clinking and clanking”; no one wants his “rags” except “in real emergencies/when the electricity fails and you need to put a pot on the open fire/...or/when the world is completely falling apart with the Twin Towers”. Confessing to feeling like “a caveman in a digital world”, you can’t help feeling Caimbeul would have been happier living a century or two earlier.
Reviewed in Scottish Review of Books Volume 4 Number 1