Monday, October 19, 2009

Getting Back in Gear

After a month away, I'm struggling to regain my writing posture, and find myself with an embarrassment of riches to share here. As many of you know, I went to Ireland, mostly the west coast, no big cities, lots of sheep and cows, and that wonderful vegetation--it really is as green as the postcards. What you cannot see in the postcards is the warmth of the people, and their love for their culture and their history. We all know about the Troubles and the Famine and the Celtic Tiger economy of recent years, but we cannot know the people as individuals from reading a book or watching a documentary. I'm thinking about Steve, a lobsterman from Donegal, and Orlagh, a bookdealer from Carrick-on-Shannon, Adelaide, the barkeep in Dowra, all the hospitality from the B&B owners in Galway, Bundoran, Bunratty and those towns already named. And I'm thinking about the audience at the All Ireland Poetry Day on October 1st. Thanks to Orlagh, I was invited to read at The Dock, a large gray stone building converted into a theater and art center.

By now, I've done a fair number of poetry readings, but this one will always stand out. The whole country was celebrating poetry. Little children had been in writing classes that morning, and now the adults would partake. Dermot Healy, the guest writer, started us off with a wonderful piece about swifts (birds) making love in the air. Eileen O'Toole performed her own poems with verve and grace, then while Gian Costello played guitar and dulcimer, Eileen (also our MC) read his poems. The rest of us tossed out whatever we had to offer, a poem found in a late mother's box of clippings, a couple of Yeats (I mean, what else!) poems, a wonderful and mysterious recitation in Irish. I was happy to contribute my own work, but I was happiest about the attention paid by those who came to hear poetry. We have all been to events where people read and leave, not much interested in what anyone else has to say. Not at The Dock. They listened, they commented, they engaged with the poetry. That was better than Guinness to me.

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