No Country for Old Men: Yeats, Joyce and Hugh Lane

As William Butler Yeats turns 150, an exhibition at the Hugh Lane is a little like having the poet as a tour guide

William Butler Yeats, 1933
William Butler Yeats, 1933

You would hardly know it was three days to Bloomsday. The middle of June in Dublin is usually infused with Joycean events and readings and articles, but this year, the face in the arts pages, banners and posters is not James Joyce but W.B. Yeats. Fair enough, though. Tuesday might be the annual celebration of Joyce’s masterwork, but today would have been Yeats’ 150th birthday.

I admit I’m not hugely knowledgeable on either. I’ve read and reread Portrait of the Artist… and Dubliners, but dipped no more than a toe in the “snotgreen… scrotumtightening sea” of Ulysses. I’m fine with the fact that I’ll die without attempting Finnegan’s Wake. The Yeats poems I know best are still the ones we studied at school – Sailing to Byzantium, September 1913 and When You are Old – and even though I loved mythology as a kid, I sometimes find his mythological and spiritualist allusions a little too cerebral for my tastes. For me, Yeats dealt more with the grandiose – with idealism and politics and nationalism – whereas Joyce was more rooted in mundane and intimate humanity, and it might be for that reason that I feel more of an affinity with Joyce’s writings.

That said, an accidental encounter with Yeats this week was a disarmingly intimate and personal one.  Continue reading

Gather yourselves: Climate Conversations V

The end of Climate Conversations is the beginning of the real process

It was fitting for Climate Conversations to wind up its five-session, eight-week process in the Abbey Theatre. Since its inception by W.B. Yeats and Lady Gregory in 1904, The Abbey’s artistic policy has set out “to produce… diverse, engaging, innovative Irish and international theatre”. Climate Conversations could be said to have set out to shape a “diverse, engaging and innovative” Irish response to an international – or rather, global – threat. Given the commitment to engage the creative thinking of the artistic community in the conversations, it was apt that the same artist who spoke at the opening session, Emily Robyn-Archer, returned to create an art piece on stage as this final conversation progressed. And it was fitting that the first speaker at the Abbey Theatre was an abbot.

Change the mythology

Mark Patrick Hederman, Abbot of Glenstal Abbey, reminisced about watching the first men walking on the moon – an event that “destroyed the many-thousand-year-old mythology about the moon – and about ourselves”. There was no man in the moon, he said. Like our earth, it was just “a piece of floating rock”. I was reminded of the famous “pale blue dot” photo of Earth from 6 billion kilometres away, of the mind-altering “overview effect” experienced by astronauts who have seen the planet from the outside. Now, Dom Hederman said, we have to change the mythology yet again, because “the whole wide world now placed in [our] hands is a hand grenade with the pin out, and the time-bomb of the twenty-first century is ticking away.” Continue reading

Picking sincerity over cynicism: Giving Maria Popova the Brain Pickings treatment

Curator of curiosity Maria Popova took an editorial turn last week to champion journalistic integrity and truth in the media

Maria Popova. Image from Forbes.

I have something of a soft spot for Maria Popova. For the past two years, her Brain Pickings blog has been a constant companion, like a ridiculously well-read friend whose smarts would put yours to shame if it weren’t for her wholehearted delight in sharing them.

That said, I have something of a tsundoku approach to her weekly Sunday newsletters, which tend to pile up in my inbox like the books on my shelf. I have been gradually clearing that backlog, and enjoying every minute of it. But I am baffled as to how, when I can’t get through all she posts in a week, she manages to find time enough not only to write it all but to read all she writes about.

Opening up Brain Pickings is to venture down the rabbit hole of curiosity. Once you’re in, you quickly discover it’s more than a hole – it’s a whole warren of wonderment you could easily get lost in and never emerge from – but at least you’d never get bored.

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A new year, a new look & a Liebster Award

Being nominated for a Liebster Award seems as good way as any to reboot this blog. If you don’t know (and I didn’t, myself), the Liebster Award is a nice little blogger-to-blogger boost, a way for bloggers to acknowledge and promote other little-known bloggers they like. Given how little I’ve posted over the last year it’s perhaps somewhat undeserved. Nevertheless,liebster-award thanks to Lauren Foley for nominating me. Lauren is a terrific writer, and if you do nothing else you should read her magnificently-titled and just plain fantastic story, Squiggly Arse-Crack. But do make sure check out her blog.

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A sensory tour of Granby Park

Granby gratefulThe first thing that struck me about Granby Park was the smell. The warm earthy aroma of woodchip and mulch is something more connected with garden centres and countryside than with the heart of a capital city. The day before Granby Park opened I went down to the site to get a take a look at how it was coming together. Behind the decorated railings, volunteers in hi-vis vests were swarming around the site making the final preparations. And the air all around the park, all up Dominick Street, was filled with that sweet, slightly musty smell. Even before Granby Park opened, it was already changing the way I sensed the city.

A while back, I wrote about a book called “Slow Dublin” by Anto Howard, a handy little guide for taking a deeper, richer approach to life in Dublin by slowing down and taking in more of the city. “Live more, fret less”, the book’s cover exhorts, and in the introduction, Howard explains his approach:

“Adopting a slow approach to life is about arousing the senses, connecting with community… and in these hard-hit times it’s about pulling together, sharing a burden, sharing a hope and learning to live with less.”

That’s an ethos that seems to fit Granby Park pretty well, and in my trips into the park, I’ve found it is certainly a space that engages all the senses in a slow, easy, relaxing way that city living doesn’t often encourage. Continue reading

Granby Park: A creative answer to dereliction in Dublin

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Granby Park, with Ayelet Lalor’s sculpture In Ode to Ophelia

This is Granby Park, in the heart of Dublin’s north inner-city. A few weeks ago, it didn’t have a name. It didn’t have an open-air theatre or a café. There was no library or creative workshop space. There were no art installations, and no children playing here. A few weeks ago, it was just another vacant, derelict site in an area of the city with more than its fair share of vacant, derelict sites. But for the next month, this site has been given a new, creative and inspiring lease of life by the volunteer arts collective, Upstart.

I used to live around here, not too far from this corner of Parnell Street and Dominick Street Lower, in the last of the boom years. I passed the flats that used to stand on this vacant site just about every day, on my way to work, to buy groceries or just walking into town. I watched those flats be boarded up, one by one, saw the council notice about their impending demolition and the regeneration of the street. Then I moved away. First to the suburbs, then to the south side, and then to another country, and never saw what happened next. Or didn’t happen. Continue reading