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date: 14 May 2021

Abstract and Keywords

Through a sensitive close-reading of a single poem by the renowned Irish-language poet Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill and its translation into English by the Irish-American poet Paul Muldoon, this essay suggests the range of possibilities that poetic translation makes available to both the poet and the reader. What is revealed by reading Ní Dhomhnaill alongside her most devoted translator Muldoon is a new sense of the playfulness of her work (a quality that is too often neglected in critical narratives of her poetry) and of how both are kindred poetic spirits, not least in their profound understanding of how meaning in any one language is inherently variable and slippery. In this way, their poetic practice testifies to how literary translation may be an active, vivifying, and enabling process and, moreover, how the very act of putting thoughts into words in any language is itself an act of translation. Much is thereby illuminated about, not only the poetry and poetics of both Muldoon and Ní Dhomhnaill, but, crucially, about the act and art of translation itself and, by extension, the indeterminate, limitless processes of reading.

Keywords: close reading, Irish poetry, translation, Paul Muldoon, bilingual, play, metaphor, metamorphosis

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