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

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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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Rebeginnings

It’s almost a year since I thought of starting this blog, a year since the confluence of unexpected changes in my life made me take stock of its direction. Or its lack of direction.

I lost my job. I moved country. I traded the city for a rural village. I became a part-time, quasi-parent to my girlfriend’s two kids. And I decided to change career. All events that, in the months or years that preceded them, I could never have imagined. All new beginnings, fresh starts with blind hopes and fears.

I figured I would use the blog as something as a record of those changes. The diary of an Irishman adjusting to life in England. Or maybe a city boy transposed to country life. Or perhaps the travails of redundant career-changer in an increasingly intractable recession. But I never made a choice, and I never did get started.

A year on, things are still in a state of flux and uncertainty, and I’m rebeginning. Again. Just qualified, I’m starting out to try to be a journalist, in this hostile, post-Leveson era, and feeling the daunting uncertainty just as much as ever. So the idea of the blog is still relevant. Continue reading