Tea Time Ruminations: Lus na Tùise/Lavender

Lus na Tùise/lavender

Photo copyright Iain S. Ross

Tea: A black and jasmine blend. I tried to find a lavender seller around, but to no avail.

Song: ‘Oran Nan Raiders’ Julie Fowlis. It is an older song, but it is my absolute favourite by her.

This is going to be new for me. I just want to describe coherently that which I feel about a book, unlike with Nature Poem. Here it goes:

Lus na Tùisethis is to buy the book from Amazon Smile, it donates to a charity of your choice. Mine incidentally is Celtic Arts Foundation. The publisher: Braden Press donates money to the Youth Project, so do the world a favour, and give back – by Marcas Mac an Tuairneir is his second collection of poetry. His first, Deò, came out in 2013, and was one of the texts with which I attempted to learn Gaelic. For the record: I do not speak Gaelic besides a few phrases. I tended to be scatter-brained with my studies: a trait which I attempt to fix currently. As such, I will be drawing from the English halves of each collection.

Deò for me was an overview of his life, and I feel as if I know Mac an Tuairneir in his Deòtime period. Having devoured Lus na Tùise, I realise that this is a collection of a full mature poet. I, therefore, do not know if I know this poet. It makes me like it even more so.

‘Lavender studies’ is a term thrown periodically within academic circles to describe LGBT+ studies within a discipline. One could say ‘lavender linguist’ to mean a linguist who is studying any aspect of LGBT+ linguistics. I, personally, adore this. It is important to pay attention to our history as LGBT+ members, and to keep that history in perspective. In the introduction, Lus na Tùise is detailed to be about the Lavender Generation: the gay rights activists of interwar Britain. As an American, I can sometimes confuse this with the Lavender Scare in the U.S.; however, they are separate time periods, but related in the strength of the fight in our forebearers.

Copyright Iain S. Ross

Mac an Tuairneir — whose name I am pretty sure that I am going to misspell at least once, so I apologise — starts with the poem, ‘Triangle’. The title alone hit me. He immediately invokes the pain of the Holocaust. I, as a strongly German Jewish heritage person, have always been told about the Holocaust as the ultimate evil. One must never joke about it. One must never take it lightly. Even though I do make holocaust jokes with friends in private, and I actually enjoy documentaries on World War I, and World War II; it was such a surprise to see that in print. If an American makes a Holocaust reference, it falls a little shallow. It was a war over there. Coming from someone who lives ‘over there’, it is powerful. Fittingly, the poem is a powerful beginning.

Now, I am not going to go too in-depth with his form, diction, and the like here. This is supposed to be more of a rambling as is normal for Tea Time Ruminations, but I just have to discuss a few poems a little more restrained.

The first is ‘Make Do and Mend’. This poem just needs to be read. If there were a poem worth buying the whole book: it is this one. Not only does it tie into his identity as a gay poet with his other identities as a poet, but also with the theme of the past affecting the present.

The second is actually a series of poems. The main series is Unnamed. I have a soft spot for letter-poems, or epistles if one will, and Mac an Tuairneir does not disappoint. One sees the development of love, and the seasons of love. I was entranced, and rooting for positivity. He, then, seamlessly transitions it into contemporary day.

The third, and last for now, is one where I had to put the book down. ‘Cannibal’ is the secret track on an album that just takes over you. I do not like this poem. I do not hate this poem. This poem just is. I do not mean that as an esoteric Oh-look-at-me-being-vague-and-contradictory-to-be-deep. I mean that as a I-don’t-want-to-like-this-poem. It hit home too hard. This is a poem for every person who ever stared out a window wondering how life happened. This is a poem for every person who ever wondered that which one should do next. So, Mr. Mac an Tuairneir, I appreciate this poem, and it is going into a private journal — cited, of course. Oxford Style since it is the only the British style manual I know — to remind me how life can pass by.

Now, for the aspects I did not like: there are few. Diction was amazing, if a little too Latinate for me. The Scottish specific words obviously set the scene, and some of the Latinate words fit for a sense of flair. I just personally am put off by too many Latin sermones. There seemed to be an awful lot of Jehovah in this book: a lot of church. Now, as a person raised Christian — Assembly of God, Pentecostal, father was the preacher, the whole bit — who left as quickly as possible, I have plenty of emotions about the church. My kneejerk reaction is to pull back emotionally, and wait for the mistranslations to fly. Mac an Tuairneir, nonetheless, weaves a complex culture that has been traditionally religious. Understanding that, I could swallow my knee-jerk response, and appreciate the history with which he was connecting. I also believe that he, the poet, may be Christian, and as such may be drawing from his life — I know what a surprise —.

I feel this book is that which I needed right now. I live under a Vice-President that thinks I am an abomination, LGBT+ are being imprisoned in Russia, alongside murders in Saudi, and the world over. Mac an Tuairneir connects all of this apprehension I feel to a time of strength, and I come out stronger.

He does this by using a language also under attack: a language that has survived centuries of bullying, and propaganda. I am not a Gael, but I hope that one day I can speak it, so I can have one iota of the strength it takes to stand up for one’s language. That strength is rarely seen, and I think only three or four other languages come to mind. I am therefore officially a Gaelic ally. I am not sure that which a lonely American in East Texas can do, but I want to start buying Gaelic-friendly products, and supporting Gaelic-friendly corporations. More on that later, I think.

Overall, I am not disappointed, nor am I too put off. 10/10 truly. I am actually buying another copy to donate to the local library, no joke.

Follow me on Twitter

Follow Marcas Mac an Tuairneir on Twitter

He also a collection with another poet, Stuart A. Paterson, — I have not read this collection yet — here

Here is the link to Braden Press’ main site. There have some tattoo books that seem intriguing. One…or both…will be a birthday present to me, for sure.

Julie Fowlis on Twitter, and the audio for the song on Youtube

Some more work by Mac an Tuairneir:

Shipwreck: a film poem

Long-briste: film poem

If one has gotten the Gaelic rush, here is a Gaelic choir singing.

Braden Press also has a Twitter: here, to keep up to date on Gaelic publishing.

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