At Cuirt (literary festival in Galway) this week, Kay Ryan (poet) said, after listening to Naomi Shihab Nye (poet), that she wished she was Naomi Shihab Nye. Then after listening to introduction to herself by Sarah Clancy (another poet) that she wished she was the Kay Ryan Sarah had introduced. She took the ‘wishes’ from my mouth, so to speak. I wished the same.
I wasn’t familiar with Kay Ryan’s work and I was glad that I heard Kay read her poetry herself before I read them on the page. Her wry tone of inquiry, and the pleasure she takes with word formation shaped her short poems wonderfully for me. They were clever and neat, sharp and condensed but full of fizz, like in her poem ‘Effervescence’.
I too wished I was Naomi Shihab Nye. I was introduced to Naomi’s poetry (I will call her Naomi for brevity’s sake) by Moya Cannon. I was seduced straight away so I was very excited when I heard she was coming to Cuirt. I think she is… the word ‘magnificious’ (a confusion of words once used by a French friend) comes to mind. Her poems fill me with humility, tears, love, resentment, admiration all at the same time. It is quite unsettling. Naomi captures the moment with beautiful eloquence and accuracy. She described herself as anchored in poetry. She said, as a person of both Palestinian and American heritage, poetry provides her with roots. I can totally relate to that. I think most poetry is a form of protest. It rises as steam from the boiling cauldron of our hearts. Naomi writes stories in her poems but they are not prose poems, they are direct, and lyrical. They are inquisitive. As she read the Sweet Arab, I was watching the story unfold, like a rat peering out from its hole, my whiskers quivering with the trauma and tensions of the poem.
Both Kay Ryan and Naomi Shihab Nye made me tremble with delight but back in Cavan last night I was shaking, rocking and rolling with glee. I went to see LIES, a play written by Joe McManus who came to my first writing workshop. (It worked well for us both. As a participant, Joe gave me confidence that I run good workshops. As a facilitator, I gave him confidence that he could write…I love our inter dependency!). Anyway, the play was excellent. It was (close on) two hours of riveting drama packed with pace, suspense and humour. It is set in a village but it is not the usual rural romp. It addresses the issues of dreams, despair, dishonesty, love, brotherhood and deception, all characteristics of life but so much more edgy when living in a small rural community. It was beautifully staged by the Killeshandra Community Drama Group. The acting was excellent but for me Gwen Conroy, Mary Keaney and Keelan Braiden shone. And, may I add, the programme was the best theatre programme I have ever seen. It was clear, informative and colourful. For those of you in Cavan, and reading this today, it is on tonight (Sat 24 April). Go and see it.
We then went to support the ‘Yes to Equality’ event in Blessings (Ireland soon has a referendum on marriage equality). I don’t go to music events very often and it was wonderful to see the youth, energy and talent that is so prevalent in Cavan. I was so impressed by The Strypes. I saw them last about four years ago and I liked their vigour, and young faces full of hope and diffidence. I also liked their music. I don’t know much about technical prowess but they had that something of ‘je ne sais crois’. Last night I was amazed. Their diffidence had been replaced by confidence, a sleek style, and synchronicity but they are still youthful, sweet and charming. They truly filled my heart with hope and despite my ageing hips, and the blister on my foot from my new red shoes, I danced, rock and rolling, rattling with emotion!