It’s Festival Season: A Celebration of Irish Arts and Culture

As we slowly transition into autumn here in the United States, so too does Ireland undergo a seasonal transition — “festival season” that is. Fall in Ireland marks the commencement of a string of events celebrating all things related to Irish art and culture. From the 16-day-long Tiger Dublin Fringe festival currently transforming the city into a mecca for the artistically inclined, to the Dublin Coffee and Tea Festival celebrating the island’s most beloved caffeinated beverages, Ireland comes alive in the fall with the spirit of Irish art, entertainment, and food.

A list of some upcoming events in Ireland can be found here, though we’ve picked out some of our favorites below:

Portumna Shorelines Arts Festival: September 18th-September 21st in Co. Galway

Guinness Cobh Blues Festival: September 19th-September 21st in Co. Cork

Galway International Oyster and Seafood Festival: September 25th-September 28th in Co. Galway

If any of our readers are looking to celebrate their Celtic heritage back home in the U.S., a number of upcoming events are occurring around the country. Two of the largest include Bethlehem, Pennsylvania’s Celtic Classic Highland Games taking place September 26th-28th and the Austin Celtic Festival in Texas on October 18th and 19th. At both festivals, attendees can enjoy professional Celtic dancers, musicians and athletes while making sure to join in on the fun themselves. For those over 21, the Celtic Classic Highland Games festivities also include a whiskey tasting and a Guinness pour.

Be it in Ireland or the U.S., at a festival or at home, we hope that you and your families decide to take part in the world-wide celebration of Irish and Celtic culture happening this fall.

Dublin Irish Festival 2007

Posted in Arts and Culture, Interns, Interns' Corner, Ireland, WFU Press | Leave a comment

Poem of the Week: “Elegy for Minor Poets” by Louis MacNeice

NPG P1676; (Frederick) Louis MacNeice by Rollie McKenna

Louis MacNeice (photo taken in 1954)

Today, we celebrate Irish poet Louis MacNeice’s birthday. Although he passed in 1963, MacNeice would have been 107 this year! His poetry is still widely loved and appreciated around the world. While locals in Ireland will be listening to readings and tributes in honor of this great poet (check out some of those events here), we at WFU Press will be celebrating MacNeice by reading and sharing his poetry.

Elegy for Minor Poets

Who often found their way to pleasant meadows
Or maybe once to a peak, who saw the Promised Land,
Who took the correct three strides but tripped their hurdles,
Who had some prompter they barely could understand,
Who were too happy or sad, too soon or late,
I would praise these in company with the Great;

For if not in the same way, they fingered the same language
According to their lights. For them as for us
Chance was a coryphaeus who could be either
An angel or an ignis fatuus.
Let us keep our mind open, our fingers crossed;
Some who go dancing through dark bogs are lost.

Who were lost in many ways, through comfort, lack of knowledge,
Or between women’s breasts, who thought too little, too much,
Who were the world’s best talkers, in tone and rhythm
Superb, yet as writers lacked a sense of touch,
So either gave up or just went on and on–
Let us salute them now their chance is gone;

And give the benefit of the doubtful summer
To those who worshipped the sky but stayed indoors
Bound to a desk by conscience or by the spirit’s
Hayfever. From those office and study floors
Let the sun clamber on to the notebook, shine,
And fill in what they groped for between each line.

Who were too carefree or careful, who were too many
Though always few and alone, who went the pace
But ran in circles, who were lamed by fashion,
Who lived in the wrong time or the wrong place,
Who might have caught fire had only a spark occurred,
Who knew all the words but failed to achieve the Word–

Their ghosts are gagged, their books are library flotsam,
Some of their names–not all–we learnt in school
But, life being short, we rarely read their poems,
Mere source-books now to point or except a rule,
While those opinions which rank them high are based
On a wish to be different or on lack of taste.

In spite of and because of which, we later
Suitors to their mistress (who, unlike them, stays young)
Do right to hang on the grave of each a trophy
Such as, if solvent, he would himself have hung
Above himself; these debtors preclude our scorn–
Did we not underwrite them when we were born?

Louis MacNeice, from Collected Poems (2013)

books

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American Students in Ireland: Perspectives from WFU Press

Two of our new WFU Press interns recently returned from a seven week internship program in Dublin, Ireland. Below, they recount their unique experiences and reflections from their time abroad.

Alex Price:

The day I arrived, I went tired, a bit smelly if we are being honest, and with the look of the lost to Trinity college. It was close to my hotel, and I knew I needed to get out and walk about. The school wasn’t as grand and intimidating as I thought it would be. The campus had similar concrete buildings and its student center was just like any other major university. The beauty of the old buildings was almost an afterthought when confronted with the life of the campus.

I wasn’t prepared for the cold of the day. Sunny yet windy, I still felt the need to draw my jacket closer around me. Alas, the Texan in me was showing as I waited in line to see the Book of Kells.

trinity library

Trinity College Library, where the Book of Kells is kept

Before I left I had watched an animated movie called The Secret of Kells. One of the lines repeated throughout was from the poem, “Pangur Bán.” The line “turn the darkness into light” repeated itself in my mind as I walked through the museum to see the book. Its beauty, which I had studied in art history, and the imagery in the movie didn’t compare to how beautiful I found the book when viewing it in person. For me, a bibliophile, seeing such a magnificent book in an equally beautiful college library felt like coming home.

I honestly wish I could describe how terrifying it is to start work in a foreign country without knowing anyone. I have never experienced anything like it. I had absolutely no schema for how my day would go.

My first working week was mostly a crash course in the cultural divide between me and my co-workers. I found myself trailing off quietly and then having to explain myself when I started to use Texas idioms by accident. Not only did I need to learn how to “speak” Irish in my word usage, but I had to learn the ins and outs of public transportation. The buses in Dublin were both a blessing and a curse. As long as I made it onto the right bus and got off at the right stop, those moving Wi-Fi hubs were a true oasis to me as a foreign student. Of course, I often found myself asking people around me where the bus went and whether I was on the right one.

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Glendalough (Wicklow Mountains)

O’Connell Street became the central axis for my movements. That first week I was as adventurous as I could be while remaining safe. Our program leaders scheduled a Gaelic games event for us to try. In very simple words it made me feel like an uncoordinated idiot. But, it also gave me a huge appreciation for Irish sports and introduced me to a part of Irish culture.

One weekend we made a trip to Glendalough; I didn’t know anything about it (thank Google and its reviews). The trip ended up being one of the most fun parts of my summer. The trail we hiked ended at a lake nestled between two green hills that looked unreal. Actually, most of the scenery in Ireland is indescribable. None of my pictures do it justice.

To understand the Irish, you must first attempt to grasp their love of their emerald island. Although the weather isn’t particularly good most days and the winters are harsh, those fleeting moments of sunshine turn the landscape into paradise. Even with the gray storm clouds and the wet winds, the island feels charmed. The land is something out of a story, a fairy tale, if you will.

wicklow

Irish countryside near Wicklow Mountains

The Irish are extremely proud of their island and its beauty (although they may not say it up front). I truly don’t think anyone can understand the Irish without first understanding and loving the landscape.

Elizabeth Hickson:

This summer I interned at C.J. Fallon, an educational publishing firm located just outside Dublin, Ireland, that specializes in primary school Mathematics, Irish, and English textbooks. After traveling over 3,500 miles across the Atlantic Ocean I was surprised to find that, whilst looking out the window of my taxi from the airport, I felt as though I could easily be in America. The U.S. corporate coffee monster that is Starbucks greets early morning commuters on just about every street corner. The oddly familiar Eddie Rocket’s City Diner offers American food at nearly all hours of the day, and accomplishes a business feat that is nearly as genius as their Oreo milkshakes by cutely avoiding patent laws. Burger King, McDonald’s and Subway also play starring roles in the buzzing metropolis that, at first glance, could be any major city in the United States. Though ever-fascinated by the interesting commonalities between U.S. and Irish culture, I eventually formulated an idea of exactly what it means to be Irish based as much on the aforementioned similarities as on the differences that, initially, may not be as obvious.

Ultimately, I found that the unique identity of Irish culture formulates an extremely salient image in the forefront of my mind. A nation largely based on the fumes of resilience, famine, colonialism, and habitually horrible weather spanning the course of generations, have formed a peoples that I found to be largely approachable, agreeable and ever-ready to extend a helping hand to a foreigner such as myself. Within the work place, I noticed a similar willingness on the part of my coworkers to offer advice regarding a myriad of topics ranging from bus routes and hostel plans to instructions on the best way to go about using the office printer. The accommodating and friendly nature of the Irish people will continue to resonate with me as an exemplar of what, perhaps, represents a better means of approaching both daily life and work than the sometimes colder, cyclical nature of American corporate life and work.

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Cliffs of Moher (Pathway)

On one of the last weekends, a couple of friends and I made the obligatory trip to see the famous Cliffs of Moher. Standing there on the precipice, sans the fences and safety railings that likely would have been in place had these cliffs formed in America, I became aware of how hugely metaphorical these beautiful cliffs really were. Here I was, in Ireland, living as a “local” for a period of seven weeks. However, my accent, mannerisms, and lack of knowledge regarding accepted cultural practices and customs (improve as they might over time) again and again caused me to stick out in a crowd of native Irish. It was a marvelously humbling experience that helped me to understand how difficult and challenging the road to acclimation (or even semi-acclimation) really is.

I slowly came to understand what it feels like to live and work not only in a foreign place, but within the more figurative realm of “the foreign” or in other words “the uncomfortable.”

Each step of the way, my journey and overarching experience in Ireland inspired in me a sentiment that mimicked not only the terrifying and awe-inspiring feeling of standing on the edge of the Cliffs of Moher, but even reminded me of my personal views toward poetry. It is the goal of poetry, like any journey, to transport us to the realm of the uncomfortable and unfamiliar. In removing our schemas for everyday life and work, we enter a space in which we are all equally welcome to create, explore, and evolve. I feel forever indebted to Ireland for providing me with a similar environment in which I could reach new levels of heightened experience and growth as an individual.

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Cliffs of Moher

Posted in Arts and Culture, Interns' Corner, Ireland | Leave a comment