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Ireland: A Writer's Paradise

Author: Karen P. (More Trip Reviews by Karen P.)
Date of Trip: July 2007

Manuscript workshops followed. At lunchtime, we had a two-hour break, to walk into Dingle - about a mile - to check our email, look for postcards, grab a bite at a pub. In the afternoon, another workshop and a seminar from faculty and visiting writers.

Forgive me. Here I'm going to gush about the dynamic visiting writers. Claire Keegan (http://www.dublinwritersfestival.com/event_17.php) gave a mesmerizing master class on writing fiction. She projects an absolute confidence in her craft and the intelligence of the reader. It doesn't hurt that she's gorgeous in a Botticelli wide-eyed flowy-hair kind of way. The poet Kate Newman (http://www.irishwriters-online.com/katenewmann.html) led us through quick-quick writing exercises. A bright spirit, she is. Gabriel Fitzmaurice is a musician, poet, essayist, teacher. A personality bigger than life, he introduced the writers of Kerry. It seems like everyone in Kerry is a writer. All, wonderful geniuses, sharing their wisdom with our small group of ten! What a privilege.

In the evening we'd walk back into town for dinner, then head to the An Cafe Liteartha, a bookstore, for readings by the day's seminar speaker. We heard Suzanne read from her forthcoming book, Sundays in America. Ted and Annie read their beautiful poems and I could have listened all night. Claire Keegan read the title story from her newly published Walk The Blue Fields. Her charming Irish lilt delivered a story so cold, heart-wrenching, and poignant that one cherished the final scrap of hope. Kate and her mother Joan Newmann (http://www.geocities.com/abbeypress/jnewmann.html) read their poetry. Kate's brilliant poem about Thomas Crean (http://www.coolantarctica.com/Antarctica%20fact%20file/History/biography/crean_thomas.htm) inspired me to buy his biography (http://www.coolantarctica.com/Antarctica%20fact%20file/History/biography/crean_thomas.htm) by Michael Smith. Joan has a dry wit. In Prone, she writes poems entirely about recovering from a horrific auto accident, shiny gems about the people and experiences in the hospital. Joan and Kate run the Summer Palace Press, which publishes Irish poets.

Our first night in Dingle, Aine ui Laoithe and Eilin Ni Chearna (http://celticgrooves.homestead.com/CG_Ui_Laoithe_Ni_Chearna.html) treated us to a concert of traditional music and singing, playing the accordion and the bodhrán. These two women, with fine strong voices and mastery of their instruments, are descended from residents of the Great Blasket Island (http://www.dingle-peninsula.ie/blaskets.html). In the 20's and 30's, island residents, in a flowering of literary spirit, produced dozens of books about their lives in the Gaelic language. So appropriate for a group of writers to visit! Mid-week found us heading to the Great Blasket, now deserted. It was a clear sunny windy day, and our group wandered about the island, startling the rabbits and sheep, looking for dolphins, taking pictures of the seals and the stone-walled remains of homes. A fine day, for us, though bringing to life the precarious lives of the Islanders, without electricity or running water, enclosed by stone walls all the dark winter, dependent on the dangerous sea.

Two weeks in Ireland weren't enough. Virginia may be for lovers, but Ireland is for writers. Artists in Ireland don't pay income tax (http://www.citizensinformation.ie/categories/money-and-tax/tax/income-tax/exemption_from_income_tax_for_artists). I'd certainly have a better chance at a Nobel prize in literature if I were Irish. It's been awarded four times to Irish writers, that's one per million population. In the US, the ratio is eleven per three hundred million. Let's see - that means the odds are twenty-seven times greater if you're Irish. Perhaps it's because there's a poetry contest in every town? The importance of story-telling in the pub? Ireland has the third oldest literature in Europe, after Greek and Latin, and a strong oral tradition of legends and poetry.

I'm considering selling my belongings, buying a one-way ticket to Shannon Airport, renting a cottage by the sea, and getting used to dial-up. I want to be an Irish writer.

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