12. Scottish and Galician background in Pearse Hutchinson’s poetry: freedom, identity and literary landscapes
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187 12. Scottish and Galician background in Pearse Hutchinson’s poetry: freedom, identity and literary landscapes JOSÉ-MIGUEL ALONSO-GIRÁLDEZ ‘The only word a poet must never commit is the word must.’1 This chapter pays tribute to the memory of the outstanding poet Pearse Hutchinson, born in Glasgow in 1927, who died in Dublin on 14 January 2012, aged eighty-four. A Scottish writer, though deeply linked to Irish culture, Hutchinson is a key figure in twentieth-century European literature, especially with regards to so-called peripheral literature and languages. The Herald obituary (19 January 2012) sets out his background: [Hutchinson] was born into an Irish republican family in central Glasgow. His ‘deeply loving but strong-minded and puritanical’ mother was from Cowcaddens but his father, a printer whose own father had left Dublin to find work in Scotland, was a Sinn Féin treasurer in Glasgow. He was interned in the Frongoch internment camp in north Wales as an Irish Republican prisoner between 1919– 1921. […]The family moved to Dublin when Hutchinson was five. […] Due to his family’s experience in the 1930s, Hutchinson had an ‘ambivalent approach to elements in Scotland’ but never towards the Scots or Scotland. He was an early visitor in the Scottish/Irish cultural exchanges that started in 1971, appearing with Crichton Smith in 1973. His last appearance was in 1992 with Crichton Smith and the Welsh poet Menna Elfyn in St Cecilia’s Hall, Edinburgh, organised by the then fledgling Scottish Poetry Library for the Edinburgh International Festival.2 Indeed, Hutchinson’s long life was entirely devoted to preserving cultural 188 josé-miguel alonso-giráldez exchange, to understanding others and, above all, to understanding them in their own languages. During his life, Hutchinson defended and promoted national identities, particularly those which derived from minority cultures, always emphasising the importance of local or native language, a vehicle which in his view was absolutely necessary in order to establish cultural links and even political relations. He was a champion of freedom in all the places he lived. His life was marked by friendship, solidarity and generosity. Here, we will deal with these real and metaphorical landscapes (territories of the mind) in which his literary production was deeply involved, beside, obviously, his Irish background. There are many aspects of his strong relationship with Catalonia and Galicia that have not yet been completely revealed. He spent several years in touch with both Galician and Catalonian writers and intellectuals, but also met other people living in both places, who helped him, as he regularly pointed out, to experiment a new kind of freedom. Few writers have celebrated in such an enthusiastic way the fact of sharing different languages, different geographical spaces and, as a result, different cultural identities. His interest in Scotland, as part of Gaelic culture, must be emphasised : as German poet and radio broadcaster Michael Augustin, one of his best friends, declared in 2012, Pearse showed great interest in poets writing in Scottish Gaelic. He met and knew the greatest contemporaries and I remember him talking about them on the radio as well. One of his classic poems, ‘Achnasheen’, is set in Scotland, with references to Ireland and Barcelona.3 Undoubtedly, Hutchinson is a perfect example of so-called cultural blending or cultural hybridisation, and, in more ways than one, a perfect representative of cultural internationalism. As a result, he always tried to keep identities and minor languages alive in terms of equality with dominant ones. For this reason one cannot speak of Hutchinson’s work without talking about translation. As Peter Sirr (2011) wrote in The Irish Times, 189 scotland and galicia in pearse hutchinson’s poetry The languages and cultures he encounters – medieval GalicioPortuguese [sic], contemporary Catalan, Galician, Portuguese and Castilian as well as Irish – are not simply external associations but form part of a single creative continuum, a world view and a soundscape where ‘cicada, chameleon, lagarto’ can rub shoulders, where Catalan, Irish and English can occupy the same poem and not seem strange to each other.4 And in the volume Sirr was reviewing, Reading Pearse Hutchinson: From Findrum to Fisterra,5 Robert Welch concludes that ‘the act of poetry, for Pearse Hutchinson, is an act of translation, whereby things shift in relation to each other’.6 The many years he spent studying and experiencing Spanish, particularly Catalan and Galician, cultures certainly deserve detailed analysis. Hutchinson, also deeply influenced by music, represents in an extraordinary way the spirit of...


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