29 July 2006

Poem Twelve: How Blow-ins Become Locals

We have arrived at the last poem in the project. It'll go up next week; the opening is Thursday night along with exhibitions by Malachy Costello, Helena Gorey and Stephen Rennicks.

I've loved the term "blow-in" since I first heard it used ten years ago when I was in the process of doing exactly that, blowing in to Ireland from Portland, Maine. Or to be more precise, blowing back to Ireland as the grand-daughter of emigrants. And I like the term as it's used both by members and non-members of the "caste", if you will. It's a perfect example of a coinage for the existence of The Other in rural Ireland. The term begs the question that the poem, playfully, addresses: when do you go from being a blow-in to a local? How and when does it happen, if ever? The seed for the idea of the poem comes from a story told by Michael Ewing, a longtime local of the area (before he blew in from other parts) in which he heard two farmers having a chat at the gate somewhere deep in the heart of the country. It went something like this: "My hippie's cutting hay today. What's your hippie at, so?"
And so it goes.

04 July 2006

Notes for photos that follow this posting

Photos of poem eleven, "Report", follow this posting. The texts read vertically and say :

"On the radio the politician said that Memoir made him cry for his own early losses."

"Mary said she wasn't sure she was up to reading it."

"Mike said he shed a few tears reading it in the Irish Times exerpt."

"The RTÉ television newsreader said "Ar dheas Dé go raibh a anam dílis" before moving on to the next item."

"Lila said she had never met McGahern but that he was a lovely man."

"Chris said it was heavy going and finally she couldn't hack it."

"The dentist said your man is a depressing old so and so and why bother."

"I read chapter one at my kitchen table inside what people call Packie McCabe's house"

"The text message simply read McGahern's dead."


The penultimate line here (though not in the installation as you read it as you walk up the stairs and turn your head, so there is no real order of lines, per se) probably needs a little explanation if you aren't real familiar with the locality. Packie McCabe is the name of the man who drove the cart that carried McGahern and his sisters to the Barracks and away from the deathbed of his mother in in that devastating part of Memoir. Packie McCabe used to live in my house; in fact, he built it. And even though I've lived in it for ten years, people still say that I live in McCabe's house. Living memory at work.
And when I was reading that chapter I was struck by the essence of (what seems to me) to be McGahern's genius: the finely etched landscape of the local infused with the general, felt experience of the human story. And at that moment I seemed to be embodying it: feeling the echoes of my own griefs that are cited far away in the New Jersey of my childhood as I read his words and was sitting practically inside the Irish localities he painted with such fidelity.

Poem Eleven: Report

Photos of the installation of this poem, which traverses the plaster walls of the Dock, Carrick-on-Shannon.