31 January 2006

Prying off all the Roofs in Leitrim at Once

A question for you to consider: if you could hover above County Leitrim and had the ability to pry the roofs off all the houses at once, well, what would be happening down there? If you have any ideas, please say so.

This notion isn't mine--it belongs to a photographer I met once at a party years ago in South Philadelphia. I remember his name: Donald Camera--I am not kidding. Anyhow, we were talking about the wonderful goings-on in that part of the world`: the impromptu sales off the backs of trucks, the guy who "ran numbers" (passed on illegal bets) by standing in his bathrobe on the street holding half a loaf of Italian bread and passing the loaf, a kind of relay baton/numbers hoagie, to a guy walking by. This sort of thing. Anyhow, it was Donald who said then that if you were to simultaneously pry off the roofs of all the houses in South Philadelphia, about 70 percent of what you'd see would be illegal.

28 January 2006

Poem Seven: The Street Dogs of Boyle

Poem seven("Things I Didn't Know I Loved") takes its structure from a poem, with the same title, written by Turkish poet Nazim Hikmet. It's a poem I've always admired and it talks about the way things sneak up on us and become somehow important. It isn't until we cast the light of our attention upon them that we even know they are there or that they mean anything to us.

I'll post the poem in its entirety in the next posting, but the first two lines of my poem are "I didn't know I loved the street dogs of Boyle/ every one, equal parts scruffed-up and old-souled."

One of the guys at Silverstone, the sign shop in Dublin where I make the staircase signs, read it and said, "We've all got problems Alice, and I think you need help!" Yes. But, the street dogs of Boyle are really something! Over the years as I've passed through the town, I've always noticed the high number of street-wise, scruffed up canines there: non-pedigree, super-mongrel, who pad the sidewalks slowly as if they owned the town. And maybe they do. I saw a Dalmatian in Carrick the other day. I have seen no Dalmations in Boyle.

In fact, I think someone could make a mint if they put together a high-production-values calendar, "The Street Dogs of Boyle" for the Irish-American tourist market. Sure thing. ("The Drunks of Drumshanbo" is another calendar concept, but more problematic.)

I went round Boyle this morning with my camera so I could post a photo of one of these pooches, so you can see what I'm talking about. Not a runner. Cold morning here, and the dogs must be in their sheds or beside their Stanleys and who could blame them?

24 January 2006

A Coincidence Concerning Poem Six and Sister Thomasina

If you slog through this blog you'll see that poem six contains a line that is handwritten by Sister Thomasina, age 92, who lives here in Carrick-on-Shannon. She is a very energetic, retired National School teacher who writes poems as well. The coincidence I mention is this: when I was at Silverstone in Dublin a few weeks ago doing the vinyl end of the lettering that goes on the staircase, I happened to get to talking to David, from Crumlin in Dublin who was in the sign shop getting graphics put on his van. Dave was asking me a bit about the project, and I told him about Sister Thomasina and that I was hoping her handwriting would translate into vinyl and be readable as a sign. Dave perked up at the mention of the nun and said, "You know it's gas, but the other day I was just talking about a teacher I had in baby infants in Crumlin. Her name was Sister Thomasina as well, and I remember her because she was so nice to us. When we did well in our handwriting lessons, she'd hand out pilots' badges with wings on them to the boys." And he went on to say that what was remarkable to him was that he talked about her and remembered her because she had been kind and encouraging. So of course, we both wondered if "his" Sister Thomasina and "my" Sister Thomasina were one in the same. I wrote to her when I got home, and yes, she was teaching in Crumlin in the late sixties, which is when Dave would have been in her classes. I gave her his name, and I think they'll be in touch with each other.

16 January 2006

Poem Six: Memorandum in Winter

The handwritten part is scanned and transferred to a software program used by the guys at Silverstone, a professional signmaking company in Dublin. It's then plotted and cut in vinyl and I apply the lettering to the panels which are then affixed to the stairs.

13 January 2006

Poem Six: Memorandum in Winter

Poem Six is a 14 line poem about two women of two different generations, traveling at two different speeds, meeting on a boreen (back road) in County Leitrim. I wanted the lines in the poem that are spoken by an older woman to be displayed in the appropriate "hand." I was lucky enough to have some contact with the Active Age group in Carrick-on-Shannon, where I met Sister Thomasina, age 92. Sister Thomasina lives in the retirement home the Marist Sisters, and she writes poetry herself. As she taught handwriting in the national schools when she was teaching in them, she was interested in doing the handwriting for the poem. Here's her written version of the appropriate lines in the poem. Tonight I'll photograph the version of this that is displayed on the stairs. It's "translated" into vinyl. By the way, the Carrick Active Agers waltz on Monday afternoons in the community centre.