Fully fledged in both Irish and English, Hartnett wrote with the nuances, the whispers, of two languages at his disposal – a dilemma as well as a blessing
The poet abandoned English with the publication of A Farewell to English in 1975. Inchicore Haiku marked his return some 10 years later. The bilingual Gallery Press selection, A Necklace of Wrens (1987), sets Irish and English texts on facing pages. Because the Irish text comes first, it suggests this was the first language of composition. But, like the wrens in the title poem, Hartnett's words "re-alight" into English. He does not merely translate his poems; he fashions them again.
The memorable woodcut by Michael Kane on the book jacket depicts a circle of six stylised wrens in profile. The disconcerting symmetry and packed sharpness of the images prepare us for the mysterious paradox of the poem itself.
Full piece plus the poem, in two langaugaes here.