I was in Birr in Offaly for the annual Vintage Week festival, and called in to freinds Derek and Rosalind Fanning at the Tin Jug Studio that they operate on Brendan Street in the town, for a reading of poetry by Sandra Corrigan Breathanach and James King, which was a very modern take on a very old tradition, merging dance improvisation with reading of verse, the sounds of each other echoing the words they were reading, and other plays on the music of poetry being read.
The most original, and what brought Joyce to mind, were the syllabic meanderings of James King, made up sounds to make a poem of their own right, which was both odd to the ear for someone like me who comes from the peasant poetry tradition, and yet brought the works of James Joyce to mind, who would fully have enjoyed the night had he been alive and there… and maybe he was in spirit!
But there was the more traditional verse too, even if not of the rhyming kind, and my favourite was of playing the game of chess with his grandson, teaching the grandson a lesson in the hardships of life, and learning of the cruel streak within himself where the winning instinct overwhelmed his love for his grandson and nearly killed the child’s exploration of the game, a theme to which we can all relate, and that’s the kind of poetry I love myself, something where I come away with “I identify with that” thinking.
His verse about the lady in the nursing home, dividing her day into the three cigarettes she enjoyed, and how she shared those joys, how they helped her cope with others, and how not even they could help her deal with the feaor of dealing with some others was a nerve jolting verse that brings the reality of living in a nursing home to the minds of those of us who think its just another way of living.
Of Sandra’s poems “White Ribbons” was my second favourite, the favourite being “The Quiet”, again as I could relate to it so well.
Enjoying the night was Sean Maher and local party activists (including the brother!) and also Cllr Peter Ormonde and his family, and after the formalities of the evening we enjoyed a chat about poetry in general, and the arts world in particular.
My favourite story was of the RUC / PSNI coming on a street theatre act of James, and threatening to pull a gun on him until they realised it actually was him, and it shows that even in these more peaceful times you can be risking your life for the sake of your art.
Both King and Corrigan-Breathnach are part of the Bbeyond Belfast (no… that’s NOT a typo unlike usual with me!), an improvised street theatre and performance arts group, which are taking the arts beyond the boundaries of the familiar.
As part of my culinary contribution to the arts scene in Birr, I introduced all to the delight that is the “three in one”, as I mused on the connections between the Doppings family of whom Derek had written in the Ireland’s Own, and the South African writer Mary Boyd Trehane (Mary Rosalie Boyd), and another distant cousin, but sure of being actual kin, the Plymouth writer Maggie Sawkins.
Birr Vintage Parade and Air Show
The following day myself and the brother went to the Birr Vintage Parade, and once I got to see the steam machinery I was in my element, the usual parade of tractors, vintage and classic cars and machinery making up the parade, for which the weather thankfully held up.
We called in by the Chestnut Bar to see the art exhibition of Emma Barone, but alas she was not in, but it was a nice brose of her signature art styles all the same. I did not get down to the Technology Centre to see Kathleen Gormleys works who I had met in Fannings the day before), or those of the other artists, as we went to the Air Show the following day.
The air show was fantastic, featuring the Raven Stunt Team from England, the Brietling Wing Walkers, the Garda and Coast Guard helicopters and the Midlands Model Flying Club.
I thought of “Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines”, and then of the wing walkers who were the fourth generation of their families to carry on the practice… to whom I wrote the tribute “Those Wonderful Women Atop Their Flying Machines“… I dont know are the girls cousins, but even if they are the fact their mothers, grandmothers and great grandmothers carried on the tradition is something else, and quite a feat…
Missing Fermoy Again, but I did make Scene of the Rhyme
Due to too much being on, I missed Fermoys Blackwater Poetry Festival again, and hope to catch it next year. I did however at the last minute manage to get into Scene of the Rhyme in Lee’s in Tullamore, where a lot of acts were polishing their sets for Castlepalooza over the following couple of days.
I read “Give to Me and Angry Sea” – as I did in Fannings the following day, and also “There Is No Time for Art” as well as “No Drover Today Walk these Roads“, which were nice contrasting poems to the usual comedy verses of David Mallaghan and David Hynes and the life reflective verses of Richard Brennan.
The venue out the rear really suits the event, even if the noise from the back bar did kill the sound for those at the back of the room near the end.
David Hynes “Denis O’Brien Poem” would have gone down well as a serius verse in the company of James King, I thought to myself when looking back on an interesting weekend in the culture and the arts! Thanks to Rosalind and Derek for having us at the event, and I look forwad to making more of their functions at the Tin Jug Studio…