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Maoilios Caimbeul and Diarmuid Johnson – An Dà Anam / In Two Minds

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Maoilios Caimbeul and Diarmuid Johnson – An Dà Anam / In Two Minds

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An Dà Anam / In Two Minds is a metaphysical dialogue in verse between the Irish poet Diarmuid Johnson and the Scottish poet Maoilios Caimbeul. Diarmuid writes in Irish Gaelic and Maoilios replies in Scottish Gaelic, while parallel translations in English serve as map and compass for the reader.
The dialogue reinforces the historical links between the Scottish and Irish Gaeltachts, but, importantly, it also establishes or re-establishes a link between Gaelic tradition and the philosophical heritage of Europe.
The dialogue arose from conversations between the two poets during several visits Diarmuid paid to Scotland and to Skye over the years. Illness interrupted the dialogue, and this is reflected in Part III, the Intermezzo section.
To our knowledge, this is the first poetic dialogue of its kind between two Gaelic poets from Scotland and Ireland in the modern era, and the first elaborate exchange between the two branches of the tradition since the era of classical Gaelic nigh five centuries ago.
The dialogue raises questions as to what a person may believe or may be driven to doubt in today’s chaotic world. The voice of Christianity is there, but also a voice from the Post-Christian twilight. From this bardic conversation, drawn from the deep wells of Gaelic idiom, there arises an intense, searching, and sometimes fiery body of poetry.

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Tha Maoilios Caimbeul, bàrd Gàidhlig agus Diarmuid Johnson, bàrd Gaeilge, air cruinneachadh gu math inntinneach a chur ri chèile anns a bheil sgal-creige de na h-agallamhan agus den spaidsearachd a bha ann an dualchas nan Gàidheal bho shean. Chan eil eagal sam bith air na bàird deasbad a chumail air na cuspairean as toinnte a th’ ann – creideamh, feallsanachd, am bàs, a’ bhàrdachd fhèin – ach tha guth na bàrdachd fhèin an-còmhnaidh an uachdar le ruitheam agus cainnt gu math dualchasach gan cur an sàs. Tha an cothlamachadh eadar ìomhaighean agus feallsanachd a’ cur bàrdachd Shomhairle MhicGill-Eain an cuimhne, rud nach gabh seachnadh, saoilidh mi, ann an saothair mar seo. ‘S e annas a tha sa chruinneachadh seo ann am bàrdachd nan Gàidheal.

The Scottish Gaelic poet, Myles Campbell, and the Irish Gaelic poet, Diarmuid Johnson have produced an engaging collaboration with echoes of traditional dialogues and flytings. They are not afraid to deal with abstractions but the lyric voice pervades the collection, recalling, perhaps inevitably, the work of Sorley MacLean. This is a welcome extension to the canon of Gaelic poetry.

Rody Gorman