Micheal O’Siadhail in Swansea

by Kim on March 30, 2012

The poet Micheal O’Siadhail gave a poetry reading this week at Swansea University (sponsored, I must say, by the Chaplaincy). Bearded, bedraggled, bow-tied, this Irish word-wizard captivated, entranced his audience. Most of the poems came from his recent volume Tongues (2010). O’Siadhail introduced the poem “Lullaby” with a reflection on his experience, as a young man, of sitting in an international airport, wonder-struck at the teeming variety of tongues he overheard, and particularly at the way a Norwegian woman sitting next to him calmed and cwtched to sleep her crying child with a “magic word” unknown to him. Language, languages, words — the way they express, evoke, evolve, exceed, succeed — and fail — these were the themes of a memorable evening.


Stains are in, stains are in,
The instant our songs begin

To rockabye my darling baby
Dreaming up worlds of maybe.

Then byssa, byssa barnet
Beddie byes my snowy Arne,

Quieter now and slumber-bound,
Rest in lulls of milky sound.

Ninna nanna, ninna nanna,
La mia bambina italiana.

Aja papaya, aja papaja
Doze so meine kleine Freya.

Hushabye and nen-nen-yo
The moon is high in Tokyo.

Bí bí og blaka Viking Anna,
Seoithín, seoithín, seó a leanbh,

All is well I wouldn’t lie,
Trust again this bye and bye.

Valley deep and dark unruly,
Dafydd Bach, se hei lwli.

Kuus, kuus, kalike,
My Tallinn child night won’t stay.

Sandman fallen, lullaby sung,
Sleep my love in a mother tongue.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }


Mari Thomas 04.08.12 at 5:56 pm

I was there! What a pleasure and a privilege it was to be in that audience!

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