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New programme explores Gaelic poetry

By Alasdair Fraser

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A NEW BBC television documentary explores Gaelic poetry over the ages and showcases contemporary talent.

Available now on BBC iPlayer until July 8, Trusadh Bàrdachd Ghàidhlig/Gaelic Poetry is a MacTV production for BBC ALBA.

It examines how Gaelic poetry has changed over the years and brings to the fore the work of some Gaelic poets today.

The show's makers say there has been a resurgence in Gaelic literature in recent years, especially in relation to poetry.

The work of well-known poets such as Sorley MacLean, Derick Thomson, Iain Crichton Smith, Donald MacAulay and George Campbell Hay has been a source of inspiration to many and had an immense and lasting influence on the wider world of poetry.

Presented by broadcaster Cathy MacDonald, the programme investigates her own favourite poets with poetry has been an important part of Cathy’s life since she read Nua-Bhàrdachd Ghàidhlig.

Meg Bateman, BBC Alba Gaelic poetry documentary
Meg Bateman, BBC Alba Gaelic poetry documentary

She reflects on the importance of this classic 20th century anthology, as well as asking what role poets have in today’s society.

“For me, poetry can evoke something within you that's not linked to the subject,” Ms MacDonald said.

“I think that's a poet's responsibility, to trigger something within us. We are then left to make sense of it all afterwards.

“It makes us think more about the big picture than just the actual words. That's what makes poetry so wonderful and appealing.”

Poets featured in the programme include Peter Mackay, originally from the Isle of Lewis but now living in Edinburgh.

His work is influenced by the diverse linguistic heritage of his birthplace.

Another is Meg Bateman, who lives on the Isle of Skye and has written several collections of poetry focusing on human relationships and nature.

Robbie Macleod, from Inverness but now resident in Edinburgh, writes about Gaelic culture and big themes such as imperialism, equality and love.

Robbie Macleod, BBC Alba Gaelic poetry documentary
Robbie Macleod, BBC Alba Gaelic poetry documentary

Liam McCormick, who lives in Glasgow, writes performance poetry and hip hop lyrics.

The presenter visits the StAnza, Scotland’s poetry festival in St Andrews, where she hears readings from four exceptional Gaelic poets.

They are: Eòghann Stiùbhart, Deborah Moffat (two times winner of the Wigtown Poetry competition), Sandy NicDhòmhnaill Jones (the An Comunn Gàidhealach Bard) and Niall O’ Gallagher (Glasgow poet and first Gaelic poet laureate).

“Their poetry was profound and also very poignant with some strong emotions also evident,” the presenter added.

“What was especially good about it was their universal outlook. It's obvious, with the contemporary poets at least, that they're looking forward.”

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