Tag Archives: Summer Classes

When in Ireland, don’t let the joy get knocked out of you.

5 Jul

I just got out of my Literature and Film class in which Mary O’Malley, one of Ireland’s leading poets, came to speak. She read some of her work and then asked if there were any aspiring writers in the room. I shyly raised my hand, along with three other people.

She then went around the room and asked each of the aspiring writers what they prefer to write. When she came to me, I said that I’m working on a memoir and memoir-related articles, since that has been my recent focus. Her first question, “How old are you?” is one I get a lot in reference to the fact that I’m writing a memoir. However, when I said “19” she was surprised, but didn’t make any negative remark. She just said, “Good girl,” and all I could do was smile. She then asked what the memoir would be focused on, and I just said my childhood. Her next question caught me off guard. She asked, “When do you think that ended?” (referring to my childhood). I was stunned. I couldn’t answer, much less put together any coherent sentence. She then told me that she didn’t think she knew when her childhood ended either. However, our conversation, though very short, has kicked me out of my writing rut that I’ve been moaning and groaning about for weeks. Her final piece of advice to the aspiring writers was this: “Don’t let the joy get knocked out of you,” and I think that’s what really kicked me into writing gear. It’s something that I sometimes forget: the joy. The pure, simple, and yet strong joy that I get from just writing how I feel. It’s an amazing, amazing feeling. It’s the reason I began writing in the first place….because it was my refuge, my security, the happiness that overpowered the pain.

I think as writers we all need a kick in the pants sometimes, and I got mine today. I’ve opened the Word document of my memoir, and for the first time in weeks, I’m not at a loss for words. They’re there, clear as day, waiting to be written, waiting to come alive on the page as only words can do.

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When in Ireland, get lost in the words of W.B. Yeats.

30 Jun

I’m taking an Irish Literature and Film course at the National University of Ireland in Galway this summer, and for the first 2 class periods, we have focused on the poetry of William Butler Yeats. I’ve read Yeats’ poetry before, but there is something really special about reading poetry by someone who wrote his poetry in the country that you’re currently studying in. Or, in another sense, reading poetry in the country where it can be best interpreted.

According to the notes I took in class, William Butler Yeats was a late romantic poet who absorbed the impact of Gaelic folklore as subject matter for his poetry. He was interested in old legends, and therefore he took old folklore and tried to make it relevent. He also felt that the modern world had become culturally impoverished, so he strived to renew the modern world by showing the capacity of the imagination. Yeats was impacted by fairy stories because they had deep connections for him to the human imagination.

One of my favorite poems that we read by Yeats was “Song of Wandering Aengus.” In this poem, Yeats uses the idea of the supernatural as a symbol for art. Also, the poem discusses what it means to be a poet, while also emphasizing that you must follow your vision, no matter where it leads you. Here is the poem (from http://wanderingminstrels.blogspot.ie):

I went out to the hazel wood,
Because a fire was in my head,
And cut and peeled a hazel wand,
And hooked a berry to a thread;
And when white moths were on the wing,
And moth-like stars were flickering out,
I dropped the berry in a stream
And caught a little silver trout.

When I had laid it on the floor
I went to blow the fire aflame,
But something rustled on the floor,
And some one called me by my name:
It had become a glimmering girl
With apple blossom in her hair
Who called me by my name and ran
And faded through the brightening air.

Though I am old with wandering
Through hollow lands and hilly lands,
I will find out where she has gone,
And kiss her lips and take her hands;
And walk among long dappled grass,
And pluck till time and times are done
The silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun.