Friday Poem – ‘Translating Mountains from the Gaelic’, Yvonne Reddick

Our Friday Poem this week is ‘Translating Mountains from the Gaelic’ from Yvonne Reddick’s Mslexia Poetry Prize-winning pamphlet, Translating Mountains.

The difficulty and occasional humour of translating language is at the forefront of this poem, yet alongside this we see a daughter contemplating how she will take her lost father on one last memorialistic mountain trek.

The poems of Yvonne Reddick’s prize-winning pamphlet, Translating Mountains, are all multi-layered compositions. They tell of grief for a beloved father as well as a close friend, who both died in mountain-climbing accidents. These poems are also hymns to stunning landscapes, with mountains and place names often in a craggy, atmospheric Gaelic. Full of tension, emotion and action, this writing grips our attention.



Translating Mountains from the Gaelic

A pebble on the tongue –
my clumsy mouth stumbles their meanings:

I mumble Beinn Laoghail to Ben Loyal,
Beinn Uais to Ben Wyvis,

humble Beinn Artair
from King Arthur’s Hill to The Cobbler –

turn Bod an Deamhain
from Demon’s Penis to Devil’s Point,

stammer on An Teallach
with its rearing anvils and impossible spelling,

my throat a stream-gorge
where quartz chunks chatter against each other –

my English rolling off their sharp consonants.
Next summer, I’ll shoulder my red rucksack,
a Platypus bottle, and a vial of Dad’s ash

up Schiehallion –
Fairy-Hill of the Caledonians –
via the less-worn path.

A deerfly, its eyes peridot ringstones,
will pincer my skin for blood,

my voice a trespasser,
echoing charred moors and razed crofts.

Dad, I’ll pour your English dust
for the hungry roots of the hill’s oldest pine –

a speck of you will lodge in a walker’s boot-tread,
the breeze catching a mote of your collarbone,

the rain will seep through you,
mingle you with Aonach Bàn,
Loch Teimheil, Sìdh Chailleann.



Translating Mountains is available from the Seren website: £5.00
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