Bàrdachd │ Poetry
Readers inspired by plurality of Scottish Gaelic, Scottish urban and queer experience will relish ‘Dùileach’ (‘Elemental’) the brand-new poetry collection from Edinburgh-based poet, singer and raconteur Marcas Mac an Tuairneir – the third and final installment in a series of emotive and confessional collections from the award-winning and critically-acclaimed creative. The poet-in-residence at The Balmoral Hotel, Mac an Tuairneir’s ‘Dùileach’ finds a locus in multicultural Edinburgh, with concentric circles taking readers on journeys north, south, east and west.
Time, tide and the elements have certainly aligned, amidst a backdrop of fierce debate around identity, gender and sexuality, raging within and outwith literary milieux and, after a three-year hiatus since the release of his last collection. Yet, ‘Dùileach’ finds the poet at his most assured, prepared to speak truth to power through poetry and to fragment, explore and rebuild the human condition to often devastating affect.
Dùileach │ Elemental
The collection’s release catches the poet on the crest of a creative wave, with his poem ‘An Leabhar II’ (‘The Book II’) selected as one of The Scottish Poetry Library’s ‘Best Scottish Poems’ of 2020. Marcas was also recently lauded at last year’s Virtual Mòd - the online reincarnation of the highlight of the Scottish Gaelic cultural year and primary arts festival – building on his landmark success in the Wigtown Gaelic Poetry Competition in 2017. 'Dùileach' includes '#AgusMise', which took second-pace at the contest last year, with judge Kevin MacNeil praising the poem's ability to caputre the contemporary moment.
"#AgusMise - the hashtag alone is a sign that we are dealing with the most contemporary of poems - addresses the zeitgeisty (and yet, alas, seemingly perennial) issue of inappropriate sexual behaviour; the title translates as #MeToo. The poem is delivered in a clean, clear manner that seems at once real and, because of an impressive restraint, devastating. #AgusMise is a truly effective piece of writing - when I first read it, I had to put the poem down and recover from it."
The brimming mantlepiece affirms Mac an Tuairneir as one of contemporary Scottish literature’s key voices, at the forefront of innovation and creativity in the Gaelic language.
“The works here encapsulate a sense of place and time, although there are a myriad of physical locations reflected,” explains Marcas, reflecting on how language and heritage intermingle within that sense of self, articulated by that unique poetic voice. York-born, into the Irish diaspora community, there, Marcas has been a New Scot since 2003, when he came to Aberdeen University to begin his journey with the Gaelic language.
This collection marks the first time Mac and Tuairneir has worked with a translator, with Donegal-born Sam Ó Fearraigh reworking many of the poems in their shared hereditary language, through a unquiely queer prism of shared lived experience.
“Languages provide us with multiple lenses through which to appreciate and absorb environments and experience,” continues Marcas. “That, for me, is what shines through ‘Dùileach’ – the symbiosis of self, community and environment, how who we are shapes place and how place shapes us as individuals and communities.”
The collection’s six cycles explore the four elements, self and community. Exquisite, elemental imagery runs throughout, weaving the variety of themes together into a rich cohesion, whilst bringing a rawness and immediacy to the works, with a textured and polychrome palate that continues to translate well into visual media. Many of the works have been reimagined as film poems, stacking up views on YouTube, Facebook and TikTok, where Marcas’ best loved contribution over the last year – the music video for latest single ‘Nochd’ – has amassed over 51k views.
The collection also has a lyrical rhythm, including works in song form. Amongst them, the summer’s biggest Gaelic hit, ‘Là Luain’ (‘The Day That Never Comes’) co-written with Rachel Walker for her album Gaol. The song is presented in ‘Dùileach’ in Irish, for the first time, lovingly reworked by Ó Fearraigh and jois the classic collaboration with Mary Ann Kennedy, 'Grioglachan', from her album 'An Dàn', for the first time on the page.
‘Dùileach’ was supported by Comhairle nan Leabhraichean and is available from their shop, online and in person, and wherever you by books. Marcas is set to promote the book throughout Scotland at readings and appearances throughout 2021.