Now I am in the public-house and lean upon the wall,
So come in rags or come in silk, in cloak or country shawl,
And come with learned lovers or with what men you may,
For I can put the whole lot down, and all I have to say
Is fol de rol de rolly O. – Yeats.
It’s probably a wince-worthy cliché to begin with a Yeats, but I feel that I must. The songs of Ireland have long since compelled me to dance to their rhythm; the fluting of Yeats and Wilde luring me on down paths of literary pursuit both prosaic and poetic (though I’ve foregone the Wilde velveteen pantaloons—for now).
Being brought up in part by an Irish grandmother (Betty Smith, nee [O’] Shaughnessy, God rest her) whose heart and soul was tied both to God and the land He made, I, like Yeats, found beauty in the wilds as a kid. I also found a wild beauty in that of the forest of words I could see the trees from; sometimes. And of course, thanks to numerous book reports, play readings, and the eventual intrigue of the unforgettable Harlot’s House, I found the beauty of another Wilde altogether.
I am a writer. Weaving words into tapestries of intangible gossamer and glistening light seen only in the mind’s eye is my passion. I write what I experience; what I feel. I write about the pounding of a drumming heart or the anxiety of a foggy day. The gloom and dread of mist rolling in over the marshes, the sheer relief of a bloody sunset when a day that hasn’t gone as planned finally dies on the horizon.
Less morbidly, I exfoliate my soul. Okay, so maybe not less morbidly. But certainly vivid, you have to admit that.
My mother is a different variety of artist than I. While I have my words and my camera, she has her paints. When I heard she was going to Ireland via a certain Wild West Tour (and believe me, I laughed when I saw “Wild Geese”—we’ve always referred to my beloved mother, Ann, as a “goose” and whenever we see geese; made a point to shout “LOOK, your brethren!” to her), I was Shamrock Shake™ (sorry McDonald’s—you’re Scottish, aren’t you?) with envy. The notion of going to Ireland had been something my child-self dreamed of as a world of fairies and Celtic Woman’s alluring lullabies; and green, rolling hills.
My adult self sees the chance to see where my people came from. A chance to better understand what it is I try to say every time I myself sit down to write about Ireland. It comes up a lot in my work—so many of the characters I concoct for stories or borrow from elsewhere are Irish. Aengus, for example, has wormed his way into more than one of my works-in-progress—the infamous rapscallion Tuatha Dé Danann makes multiple appearances in the things I write from time to time. Folklore such as banshees, Good Neighbors (“wee folk”), and kelpies are also included.
To better understand these things—the music in my heart, the poetry at my fingertips, the prose that flows in my soul; where I come from and where I’m going—I feel the full experience is so necessary to feel…authentic. Not just in my work, but as a person.
I’m not saying a trip to Ireland is instant validation. I’m not expecting to go there and win the next Pulitzer.
What I am saying is that an opportunity like this would fill me with such joy I’d sing the praises of Ireland for the rest of my days. That vow aside, I know in my heart that the restless words would settle; focused more easily on something they now more closely understand. I want to experience the open world of the Irish West; I want to feel different wind on my face and walk in the places that, hundreds of years ago, my ancestors wandered (arguably more coordinated than I), telling their own stories.
Stories are what I believe keep us going as a culture. They link us in a world where communication is thinning; changing. Evolving into something that, while not necessarily bad, is different.
But no one tells stories like the Irish.
And no place could tell stories like Ireland.
In closing, I believe our cheeky and departed friend Oscar put it best:
We Irish are too poetical to be poets; we are a nation of brilliant failures, but we are the greatest talkers since the Greeks. Which is to not necessarily say I agree with him, but—
Ireland, I am ready to hear your stories in exchange for some of my own.
(p.s.: It's worth noting after I finished this, and mum returned from Ireland, she brought with her plenty of stories of her own...along with a Wilde and Yeats collection (the latter being on folklore, no less!). Go figure!)
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