Published online by Cambridge University Press: 18 April 2011
Contemporary poetry in Irish and Scottish Gaelic emerges out of a tangle of material conditions. Closely related minority languages, Irish and Scottish Gaelic have continually outlived their supposed deaths, surviving traditionally in regions in northwest Scotland and the west and southwest of the island of Ireland. Severely weakened in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, both have undergone periods of revitalisation since the late nineteenth century, and though the number of native speakers of both languages continues to decline, the second half of the twentieth century featured renewed efforts to incorporate Gaelic more substantially into educational programmes and bolster institutional support for Gaelic cultural activities within and without the Gaeltacht and Gàidhealtachd. While neither has yet achieved Welsh's sustained renaissance, both are healthier than the many languages around the world in immediate danger of extinction. Additionally, Irish and Scottish cultural activities and products have thrived in the Anglo-American marketplace, and Ireland and Scotland are cultural and genealogical touchstones for large numbers of people globally. Gaelic has long been imagined to be the repository of origins in Irish cultural debates, and while the situation is surely different in Scotland, where English, Scots and Scottish Gaelic exist in a nuanced tension, both languages carry notions of authenticity even as their actual day-to-day use has declined over the past two centuries. The relevance and portability of Irishness and Scottishness in a postmodern and hyper-capitalist global fabric has both furthered and forestalled their obsolescence.