Poetry – Translated poems & list of publications



Translated Poems


Below are English translations of some of my Gaelic poems. They may give some idea of the originals, which can be viewed by following the Gàidhlig links.


In the Moor


One day as I sat quietly,

I saw the red road

rising from the blue moor

and disappearing without trace.

Who will take the road

repaying life from blood

to the top of the far shoulder

beyond the pale glen of the word.

(Below, the sea was a witness

with its faint mocking laughter –

pathless and wordless,

level its surface and song).


But I wanted the road

that will perhaps break the heart,

and jauntily I set off,

seeing the dust and soil,

kissing the dirt in my hand –

footsteps of bards long gone.

And a truth dawned on me

amidst the stillness of words –

poetry isn’t saying but being.


from Eileanan/Islands 1980




Islands rise from the sea,

their foundations hidden

in ancient experiences.


Islands are in and out of time,

guides for the wanderer,

or submerged in time long gone.


Some are well established,

high and dark in the flood.

No storm will affect their well-formed front.


Some in lava and sulphurous grief,

sea children of torn heart.

And others, icebergs, coldly moving in the water.


Some will stand silent,

lonely – inwardly as rock –

unassuming in the heat of the day.


And there is an island in the dusk,

assured, dark, and repelling,

its foundations in a fading time.


And this island in the sunset,

island watching another island.

You decide your own form.


From Eileanan/Islands, 1980


My Village Tonight


You are my village tonight, 

remarkable your lights,

warm glow in the moor’s bleakness.

High above Shore Street

your other streets rise

streets like a soft carpet

and my hands will feel your paths

and my heart your heart.

Woodland and tree between the ways,

they will rise on the summits

and the knolls will be soft with moss

and the moss with dew.


You are the resplendent village,

little village by the wave,

secret village of my love,

tidal village and earth village,

village of the soft breasts,

village that will ease from self

and keep us folded as one.


When you lift your summer skirt

I will dance on your meadow,

and we will ascend the steps

up from the edge of the sea

until we are above the world,

and I see you lying below me

like a diamond in the kyle.


From Bailtean/Bailtean 1987



Between Law and Laughter


This poem unashamedly

walks the borderland between law and laughter,


growing like a tree in the light of the sun, 

the leaves dance wherever they like,

the trunk grows where it must:


growing in the gap between law and freedom

aware that freedom is only:

those laws hidden from man.


And at last the conclusion

that a veil of unknowing covers our eyes.


from A’ Càradh an Rathaid/Mending the Road, 1988



Over the Threshold


I go over the threshold

joyfully, elated

because I have seen a little gleam

of sunshine through the curtains.

I’m going on a journey,

doubtful, fearful,

because I’m not sure what’s ahead

or behind me

although I did see a golden gleam on the everlasting mountain.


O soft idols of the pillow!

I take my leave of you

joyfully, with doubt, with tears,

because I have been wrong for so long,

for the spendthrift days,

for the warm, deceitful bedcovers.

O, all-seeing heart!

O, deceiving, soiled heart

you are killed with sacrifices,

flayed by the knife of the morning!


But go over the threshold, don’t look back

to the warm, comfortable home,

or to the weathertight walls.

You are out in the light;

the mountains are shouting;

the marvellous wilderness is before you;

the eternal stars are spraying you with dew,

stretched out with the endless plain.


O marvel! O elation! O unending miracle!


From Saoghal Ùr/New World, 2003


The Just Feather


The shudder of horse, they come

from the bounds of the kingdom

with a thrum on the earth

nearer they come,

pandemonium of hooves

thunder and rumble

as in a dream,

humanity’s dream,

as would come in a vision,

a nether god making

from remote depths,

from the ravenous heart.


(Herod sits in his chamber,

his turbid mind perturbed,

disturbed by the power of Rome.)


But not the stern power of horse

with hazard of hosts,

as in the vision,

threatening terror and fear;

not the pound of their trampling

tearing the earth

will triumph in the end …


but another dream,

the nails,

the nails through the palms,

the feeble, holy thing yielding

from pity to the cruel;

Rome and the Innocent,

and in the end,

the just feather will fell the horse,

as love is the ground,

love and justice –

and the clamour will cease.


from The Two Sides of the Pass / Thaobh a’ Bhealaich, 2009


Twelve Verses for a House


Cement blocks, windows

and red roof tiles –

an elegant stub in the ground.


Keeper of secrets,

sacred magnet

to which regard returns.


Amused night joy,

who keeps laughter

stored under rafters.


You welcome the sun

enchain the light;

yellow flowers in the window.


Or place of shadow;

grief and extremity

soil the walls.


Soul symbol – under the joists

id; ego itself on a high

superego in bed.


Out and out drunk, throws things,

your slates shake,

cans blow.


Eaves harvester of birds,

yearly they return;

protector of brood.


A ship tears the sky,

white clouds nibble

the chimney masts.


A boat under sail,

four yellow masts

stretch the red sails.


A door to quietness

after rose fades:

listen to the ebb sough.


The soft sound distils

short of the cold street;

comfort – listen.


from The Two Sides of the Pass / Thaobh a’ Bhealaich, 2009






Abbreviations: GO – Gaelic only;   BGE – Bilingual, Gaelic/English; BGG – Bilingual, Gaelic/Gaeilge;  BGS – Bilingual, Gaelic/Scots


Poetry Collections


Eileanan (Islands), GO, 1980


Bailtean (Villages), BGE, 1987


A’ Càradh an Rathaid (Mending the Road), BGG, 1988


A’ Gabhail Ris (Accepting), GO, 1994


Saoghal Ùr (New/Fresh World), GO, 2002


Breac-a’-Mhuiltein (Mackerel Sky) selected poems 1974-2006   BGG  Coiscéim, Dublin,Mountains near Staffin (Photo: Mike Mackay) 2007

Available from www.coisceim.ie


Dà Thaobh a’ Bhealaich/The Two Sides of the Pass, (BGE), Two Ravens Press, 2009   ISBN  978-1-906120-47-4 a co-authored bilingual work with Mark O. Goodwin


Tro Chloich na Sùla (Through the Pupil of the Eye), GO, 2014


Island Conversion, BGE, 2011, has a 38 poem sequence



Children’s verse


Blasad de Aesop   GO Seahorse, Tobermory, 1991



Anthologies (with a substantial number of poems)


An Aghaidh na Sìorraidheachd (In the Face of Eternity) BGE   (8 poets)  Polygon, Edinburgh, 1991


Scotland o Gael an Lawlander (4 poets)   BGS      Gairm, Glasgow, 1996


An Tuil (The Flood)  BGE      Polygon, Edinburgh, 1999



 ANTHOLOGIES/PUBLICATIONS (with one or several poems)           


          The Pirate of Torloisg                             Am Muileach, 1980

          Air Ghleus 1                                              Acair, 1989

          Somhairle, Dàin is Deilbh                      Acair, 1991

          The Patched Fool                                     Morning Star, 1991

          Twenty of the Best                                    Galliard, 1990

          Bàrdachd na Roinn-Eòrpa                     Gairm, 1990

          Sruth na Maoile                                       Canongate/Coiscéim, 1993

          Writing the Wind                                      New Native Press, 1997

          Carmichael’s Book                                  Morning Star, 1997

          Another Book to Burn                              Bootleg Editions, 1998

          Celtic Visions                                            Black Buzzard Press, VA, USA

          Wish I was Here                                       Pocketbooks, 2000

          Atoms of Delight                                       Pocketbooks, 2000

          Words of the West                                     Ullapool Text Project, 2000

          An Leabhar Mòr                                       PNE, 2002

          The EmLit Project                                    Brunell University, 2003

          Scotlands Poets & the Nation                 Carcanet/Poetry Library, 2004

          An Guth   1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 & 7                   Coiscéim, 2003 – 2006

          The Little Book of Piping Quotations    Piping Scotland, 2004

          100 Island Poems                                     Iron Press, 2005

Dreuchd an Fhigheadair                         Poetry Library/Word Festival

-The Weaver’s Task: a Gaelic Sampler  Aberdeen, 2007

mesostic interleaved                                 Edinburgh University/Morning Star, 2009

These Islands we Sing                              Birlinn / Polygon, 2011

Dàin do Shomhairle                                SPL/CNL, 2011

New Writing Scotland 30                        ASLS, 2012

Into the Forest                                          Saraband, 2013

Words from an Island                              The Skye Reading Room, 2013

Scotland’s Still Light                               Luath Press Ltd, 2014

Struileag: Cladach gu Cladach             Polygon, 2015


Poems in Magazines/Journals               Gairm; Lines Review; Cencrastus; Orbis; Poetry Ireland Review; Comhar; Gairfish; Baragab; An Cànan; New Writing Scotland; Verse; Celtic Visions; Skye 95; Gath; An Guth; Northwords Now; Poetry Scotland; Chapman