Monday, January 16, 2012

A Clash of Voices

"She writes of both people and sights that enthral us in islands...She writes of all of these characters with a wonderful tenderness and lightness of touch, seeing in a new and fresh way these images from our shared past"
I'm delighted that Donald S Murray, author of short story collections, poetry collections and non-fiction books, has written an excellent half-page review of Vintage Sea for 'Events', a monthly newspaper for Lewis and Harris.
In the last year I've written two poems inspired by Donald's excellent book The Guga Hunters, so being a fan of his writing I'm really excited about this review!

In the review Donald raises an interesting point about the high number of island poets and the linguistic tensions faced by island communities. I was brought up by a Gaelic-speaking mother (she could speak English too!) and an English-speaking father, Donald himself told me that his father was Gaelic-speaking and his mother was not. Donald says of his writing -
"I am very conscious that, just like Marion, while the words might be English, their underlying rhythms and concerns often belong to my other tongue. It is, in fact, a Gaelic way of thought that allows my English to be (I hope!) distinctive and fresh, enabling me, too, to present a world-view that is different from other writers".
Donald notes that both Norman MacCaig and George Mackay Brown, two of Scotland's greatest writers in English in the twentieth century, shared a similar divide to ours in terms of mixed-linguistic family history.

In an email to Donald I had explained the role of the Gaelic language in my background:
In my own experience Gaelic is a huge part of my background, as a child I spent every summer between Back and Barvas and by the end of every summer I could largely understand general conversations. With having been brought up by a Gaelic-speaking mother, Gaelic words were part of my everyday speech, in fact I remember thinking some Gaelic words were actually English! Yet, because I've never actually learned the language it's always had a sense of mystery about it, always just beyond my grasp. In saying that, it seems to me that there is a comfortable symbiotic kind of relationship between Gaelic and English though perhaps that only exists now for the older generations.
I hadn't actively thought on the effect of the Gaelic language on my writing, mainly because I don't write in Gaelic, so this has been very interesting to me.


swiss said...

that's a nice review and not just because of that but because i find myself disagreeing or at least at odds with so many of its points! not in a jumpy up and down way but more in a having a frown and need to have a think about it kind of a way.

i'm off to the west tomorrow so i'll need to mull on it (no, i didn;t intend that!)

Rachel Fox said...

So are your kids going to learn any Gaelic?

Marion McCready said...

yes, it's interesting isn't it? I dare say it's more true for someone like Donald who was brought up in Lewis than for myself but what rings true for me that I hadn't thought before is underlying rhythms of Gaelic in my writing.

our original plan was to send them to a Gaelic primary school (there's one locally here) and with my mum's help I was going to learn Gaelic at the same time, but obviously that's all changed now

Titus said...

How fascinating. I didn't know but feel like I should have realised!

Roxana said...

but why haven't you learned gaelic from your mother? or been interested in learning it later, in your college years, for example? i've always envied children whose parents speak different languages, imagining this to be one of the richest experiences possible!