THE TWO SIDES OF THE PASS
Maoilios Caimbeul, Mark O. Goodwin and Eòghann Mac Colla
A unique, fully bilingual poetic dialogue between two poets who literally and figuratively inhabit two sides of a mountain pass. From the east side of the Trotternish Ridge on Skye comes the poetry of prize-winning Gaelic poet Maoilios Caimbeul (Myles Campbell), a native of the west coast. On the west side of the ridge lives Mark O. Goodwin, poet and ‘incomer’ to Skye since he moved there from England fourteen years ago. The poems form a conversation between the two men and between their two cultural backgrounds – a conversation that not only illuminates many of the issues facing Scotland in the twenty-first century, but many cross-cultural divides around the globe. The project was completed in collaboration with critically acclaimed artist Eòghann Mac Colla, whose cover artwork and pencil drawings form an integral part of the work. This is the first collection of Maoilios Caimbuel’s Gaelic poetry to be made available bilingually since 1987. Translations of his work into English, as well as of Mark O. Goodwin’s into Gaelic, were made by Maoilios Caimbeul himself.
Praise for The Two Sides of the Pass
‘Leabhar àlainn a tha seo, far a bheil conaltradh eadar dà bhàrd, dà chànan agus fillidhean de dh’eachdraidh is eòlas, gar treòrachadh – le fialaidheachd mac-meanmna, agus mion-aire air tuairisgeul is tachartas – gu slighe tro mhòr-thìrean is millennia agus thar bhealaichean, le cùram, sonas agus brìgh, a’ toirt nan sgìre beò, an cruth is coimhearsnachd, ann an snìomh eagarach de dhearcnachd is cuimhne. Gun dàn ann nach eil beò le fonn is faireachadh, tha saidhbhreas àraid paisgte anns na duilleagan torrach seo.’
‘This is a beautiful book, where a dialogue between two poets, two languages and layers of history and experience, draw us – with imaginative generosity, and close attention to impression or event – on a journey across continents, millennia, through passes, with care, warmth and substance, energising their terrain, its topography and people, in a subtle twining of observation and memory. Every poem is alive with music and feeling: a singular richness adorns these fertile pages.’
‘Two sides of the pass, two languages, two poetic sensibilities – and one uniquely appealing poetry collection. Bridging the symbolic pass are Gaeldom’s most under-appreciated bard, the excellent Maoilios Caimbeul, and his near-neighbour, the keen-eyed relative newcomer, Mark O. Goodwin. Between them they give harmonic voice to a rich and multifaceted world. Their masterfully composed landscape will feel like a place of homecoming to native and stranger alike. You’ll find yourself wandering through these poems alive to fresh ideas like the narrator of the verbal tour de force that is ‘Skye/An t-Eilean Sgitheanach’, ultimately responding to the vital miracle and sheer contingency of life’s own poetic dialogue with the words ‘tapadh leat’ – ‘thank you’. It’s a long time since the islands gave us such an accessible and life-enriching collection.’ Kevin MacNeil
'Eòghann Mac Colla has made a key contribution to developing contemporary Gaelic visual art. His contribution to The Two Sides of the Pass is to be welcomed.’ Murdo Macdonald, Professor of History of Scottish Art, University of Dundee
About the Authors
Maoilios Caimbeul (Myles Campbell) is a Gaelic poet who lives on Skye, where he was born in 1944. After graduation from Edinburgh University, where his Gaelic tutor was the legendary William Matheson, Myles became a Gaelic teacher in Mull and later in Gairloch. Since retiring from teaching in 2004, he has been busy writing for schools, editing and doing residencies – including a period as writer-in-residence at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig in 2008, where he is currently working as a creative writing tutor. He has published five poetry collections, his work has been widely anthologised in bilingual editions, and is well represented in An Tuil, the definitive anthology of twentieth-century Gaelic poetry. His work has won many awards, the last being the Wigtown Gaelic prize in 2008. Mark O. Goodwin was born in Devon in 1960 and studied at the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, and City University, in the Department of Arts Policy and Management. After a brief spell doing a variety of jobs in London, he left to live in Scotland. He has lived for fourteen years on the Isle of Skye, where he worked for the Arts Centre An Tuireann, and was appointed as the gallery’s Literature Development Officer shortly before its closure.
About the Artist
Eòghann Mac Colla was born in Inverness in 1970. He gained a degree in Fine Art from Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, Dundee, before embarking on a full-time career as a visual artist. He studied and exhibited in Barcelona before returning to live in Ayrshire. He was Artist in Residence at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig in 2008, and has been short-listed for the Aspect Painting Prize 2007 as well as the Sovereign European Art Prize in 2008.
An Extract from The Two Sides of the Pass
Good to hear you’re gravid there
and that the waters are breaking
in the glen river.
We often hear them breaking here
on the shore –
at the foot of the croft
where the crops used to be so plentiful,
hay and corn in grandfather’s time,
and where the bay horse pulled
the coils and stacks to the stack-yard,
the very spot where our house is today –
and from the house, from the old stack-yard,
we hear the waves breaking at the foot of the croft
as they always did
beneath the secret jagged stars;
and on the horizon to the north-east
the Rubha Rèidh lighthouse
blinks its warning to the sea roads,
for the occasional vessel passing.
Nach math gu bheil sibh air turas thall an sin
agus gu bheil na h-uisgeachan a’ briseadh
an abhainn a’ ghlinne.
Cluinnidh sinn iad tric
a’ briseadh air a’ chladach an seo –
aig bonn na craite
far am b’ àbhaist am bàrr a bhith cho pailt,
feur is arbhar, ri linn an t-seanar,
agus far an slaodadh an t-each ruadh
na cùirn agus na cruachan chun na h-iodhlainn;
an dearbh spot
sa bheil an taigh againn an-diugh –
agus bhon taigh, bhon t-seann iodhlainn,
cluinnidh sinn na tuinn a’ briseadh
aig bonn na craite
mar a bha iad bho chian
fo na rionnagan dìomhair biorach,
agus air fàire chun an ear-thuath
taigh-solais Rubha Rèidh,
a’ priobadh a rabhadh dha ròidean a’ chuain,
dhan chorra eathar a thèid seachad.
Glenhinnisdal cups and echoes
the sounds of our lives here,
amplifies our homecoming
with a cattle-grid drum roll,
and broadcasts our leaving with the antenna
of the thin peat road
that chatters towards its end:
an estuary of mud and pebble and grit,
the tidal mark of our coming and going.
The river never looks back; gestates,
keeps its distance beneath the clouds
which choreograph the sky,
while the grasses glint and wire
the winds rush from the ridge,
forecasting rain and the rush and swell of water.
In spate, the river will slither to the sea,
give birth in the breaking waters, and trail
a placenta of white foam along the coast.
Cuachan Ghleann Hinneasdail, mic-talla
fuaimean ar beatha an seo,
a’ glaodhaich ar teachd gu baile
le torghanaich cliath a’ chruidh,
agus iadhairean rathad fada na mòine
a’ craoladh ar dol a-mach,
’s a’ cabadaich nuair a thig thu gu a cheann:
inbhir de pholl ’s de mholaig ’s de ghrinneal,
comharra tràighe ar teachd ’s ar falbh.
Cha sheall an abhainn air a cùlaibh; bidh i torrach,
pìos air falbh bhuainn fo na sgòthan
a tha a’ dèanamh dealbh-dhannsa san adhar,
fhad ’s a tha am feur le gath is guth,
tha a’ ghaoth na deann bhon druim,
a’ ro-aithris uisge is fors is at an t-srutha.
Na lighe, sleamhnaichidh an abhainn gu muir,
a’ breith ann am briseadh nan uisgeachan, a’ triall
a plaiseanta de chop geal sìos ris an oirthir.
Mark O. Goodwin
We are grateful to the Gaelic Book Council for a grant towards the publication of this book.
Chuidich Comhairle nan Leabhraichean am foillsichear le cosgaisean an leabhair seo.