Irish American Writers & Artists

February 23, 2012

“What at Night!” at Salon at The Cell

As Terry “The Toad” Fields says in the final scene of the film American Grafitti, “Jesus what a night!”  That’s what folks were saying about the Irish American Writers and Artists’ Salon at the Cell on Tuesday night. And speaking of American Grafitti, just as George Lucas included Del Shannon’s “Runaway” in a scene in which Toad is tooling  around in his friend’s ’58 Chevy, Pat Fenton deftly incorporates Shannon’s song into his play Stoopdreamer and Other Windsor Terrace Stories


And what a treat is was to have actor Jack O’Connell, who has appeared in a recurring part as the character Stanich in the TV series Blue Bloods, read from Fenton’sStoopdreamer.

Stoopdreamer revisits a lost part of Irish working-class Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn, and some of the characters who lived in it before Robert Moses drove the Prospect Expressway through the very heart of it in 1953, and divided it forever.  A terrific reading by O’Connell of Fenton’s slice of Brooklyn life. 

Pat Hanrahan began the evening reading from his novel in progress.  The story is set in a small Irish town early this century. The main characters are an elderly man living in a nursing home who came home after years in England,  a local man, whose wife threw him out around the time his mother died and a young woman who runs a family business and was affected directly by 9/11. Listening to Pat you had the feeling this was going to be a special evening.  

Singer/songwriter Ashley Davis, a cofounder of the IAW&A, accompanied by two musicians, harpist Cormac De Barra and violinist Megan Hurt, beautifully performed two songs, “Wild Mountainside” and “These Winter Days” from her latest album Songs of the Celtic Winter. The warm sound of Hurt’s fiddle beautifully rounded out Ashley’s tunes.  

Kathleen Frazier read from Silkie Girl, historical fiction inspired by her grandmother and the countless Irish girls who ventured to America to work as domestic servants.  Through their efforts they sponsored countless others to join them on these shores.

Kathleen announced that her personal essay on sleepwalking will appear in the memoir section of the March/April issue of Psychology Today.  Her coverage of the 2011 Norman Mailer Gala, “A Gala Raises the Question: Are You an Activist?” will appear in the spring issue (March) of the quarterly magazine, Avalon.

Maura Mulligan, a salon regular, whose memoir Call of the Lark will be published on May 10th, read a humorous passage of her early dancing days in Mayo.  In a solo competition at her first feis, held in the middle of a field, her shoe went flying into the air and landed on the judge’s desk. He disqualified her. A beady -eyed man, the locals called him “the ferret.” Because it was customary to bow to the judge, her mother reminded her with a wag of her finger: “Now, don’t you forget to bow to the ferret.”  An exquisite reading from a very talented writer. 

Mark Donnelly followed with a stirring reading of the opening scene of his new play, Mother Jones, the Irish immigrant who played an important role as a union organizer in the American Labor Movement during the early decades of the 20th Century.  John Kearns announced that his play, In the Wilderness, a story of a South Bronx high school will be part of the Planet Connections Theatre Festivity in June (six dates TBA). John also read a poem called, “Valentine Avenue.   And Kevin Holohan, author of the highly acclaimed novel, The Brothers’ Lot, read a short story which captures a mother’s unconditional love for a grown-up, messed-up child that the rest of the world and even she may not entirely like. 

Mary Lou Quinlan performed a scene from her play The God Box, currently in workshop in NYC. The play is part of a multi-media project linked to her upcoming book, also called The God Box. Mary Lu lovingly shared her mother’s gift of faith, love and letting go. The God Box will be released on April 17, 2012.

Novelist Gavin Corbett followed Kevin with a selection of poems that touched on a variety of topics including the recent deaths of Steve Jobs and Whitney Houston, late-evening cricket, and the divine qualities of French bulldogs. Using techniques such as non-rhymes and non-sequiturs, Gavin had us all staring at our feet in bewilderment, when we weren’t rolling on the floor with laughter. One of the funniest readings I’ve heard in years.

Billy Barrett kept it cranking with an edgy reading from his memoir in progress, ‘Highway Star.  “They honeymooned in New York, took in Lenny Bruce and affected a blue-note cool that flew through the roofs of their B-52’s into nights full of gazing the stars. Jack Jones and Bobby Darin poured out of the hi-fi like Perfect Manhattans being dumped on the slats of Toots Shor’s. What a gas! The whole world was looking in…. “ Riveting writing, great presentation.

Michelle Woods announced that her book Censoring Translation: Censorship, Theatre and the Politics of Censorship Translation will be out in April.  She ended the evening with an excellent reading from a novel in progress, called Right. 

Great, great night!
The next salon will be at the Thalia Café, located at Symphony Space,  on 95th and Broadway. The salons begin at 7PM. For more information about the salons and joining the Irish American Writers and Artists, contact Charles Hale @ chashale1@yahoo.com

February 15, 2012

NYC Debut for Ashley Davis’ “Songs of the Celtic Winter”

Filed under: Events,Music,Theater — by johnleemedia @ 5:01 pm
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…with a discount for IAW&A members!

NYC Debut : Songs of the Celtic Winter at Joe’s Pub, Feb 23

Ashley Davis began writing and collecting for Songs of the Celtic Winter two years ago when she wrapped up her sophomore effort, Down by the Sea in Ireland. She had the idea that she wanted to write and collect music from the Celtic regions for the four seasons of the year starting with winter. The result is Songs of the Celtic Winter, a hauntingly beautiful collection of songs that range from medieval 9th century old Irish poetry set to music, to Robert Burns’ “Auld Lang Syne.”

Davis recorded this album in New York, Lawrence, KS, and San Francisco and now will perform numbers from the CD atJoe’s Pub (New York, NY) on February 23, 2012 at 7:30 pm .

The album is laden with harp, mandola and a range of acoustic instruments and vocal layers that creates and sound that is becoming Davis’ signature.

“I took the aspects that I liked from my first album which was more middle eastern leaning at times, and then aspects from my 2nd album which was entirely recorded in Ireland and thus Irish leaning and melded those aspects together to create a sound that I believe will be forever more my signature sound. I truly found myself as an artist and settled down into this album and feel at home within this music,” Davis said.

Davis has been profiled on The Today Show, named one of the Irish Echo newspaper’s “Top 40 Irish Under 40,” performed original music on film soundtracks and has lectured at U.S. colleges and universities. Expanding the definition of traditional Irish music, Ashley has attracted fans and admirers among the larger musical community. Influential American composer Philip Glass said, “Ashley Davis is a young woman with a beautiful voice and as much musicality as anyone could wish for…she writes and sings with a confidence way beyond her years.”

Davis has toured in “Lord of the Dance” as the vocal soloist, has worked with Paddy Moloney of The Chieftains and has toured with Moya Brennan of Clannad, while developing her own solo and recording career, selling out shows internationally and in her adopted hometown of New York City and now Lawrence, KS.

Ashley has created a special discount code for IAWA members to use for a discount on ticket purchase. Follow this link to the ticket purchase page Joe’s Pub and enter  jptixa2  at check out!

February 13, 2012

Message from The Man Who Used to Be President

Filed under: Essay,Literature — by johnleemedia @ 10:16 pm
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To Our Members:

For those present at the creation, the rapid growth of IAW&A has been deeply satisfying to witness. In the almost four years since the idea was first hatched, the organization has moved beyond initial expectations and taken on a momentum of its own.

As the activities and commitments of the IAW&A have continued to expand, so have the responsibilities of our board. We have no paid staff. The board members provide the day-in, day-out involvement and oversight that support our ability to pay tribute to our greatest writers and artists as well as foster new voices and talent.

The recent and much-welcomed additions to our board–Skye Gurney, Charles Hale, John Kearns, John Lee, and Honor Molloy, and Tim O’Brien–reflect IAW&A’s dynamic and widening reach. Drawn from different backgrounds and endowed with diverse skills, they share a single commitment to enhancing IAW&A’s impact as a force for creative engagement and cultural renewal.

Along with our new board members, we also have a change in leadership. After three years as president, I’ve stepped down (and, no, I haven’t been granted immunity from future prosecution for crimes committed while in office). As of January 1, 2012, our new president is bestselling author, crime chronicler, screenwriter, raconteur, activist, and IAW&A’s co-founder, T.J. English (and, no, he has no plans to change his last name).

It’s been a thrill and a privilege to be a co-founder and first president of IAW&A. I look forward to continuing to serve on the board under T.J.’s leadership and to interacting with our gifted and growing membership. There ain’t no doubt about it–The best is yet to come!

Peter Quinn

Ashley Davis CD Release Concert – Special Discount for IAWA Members!

Filed under: Music,Uncategorized — by moneygrip4 @ 9:09 pm

Please join your fellow IAWA members for a special evening of Celtic/World music as Ashley Davis (IAWA board member) debuts her new CD Songs of the Celtic Winter. Ashley will be playing with a full band including Dublin harper (of Moya Brennan’s band) Cormac De Barra. This will be a great opportunity to meet and mingle with fellow members and have a great night out at a beautiful intimate venue.

Ashley has created a special discount code for IAWA members to use for a discount on ticket purchase. Follow this link to the ticket purchase page Joe’s Pub and enter JPTIXA2 at check out!

Ashley Davis Plays Joe’s Pub
February 23rd
7:30 pm

For more info visit: www.daisyrings.com or email: Ashley@daisyrings.com

February 9, 2012

The Man Whose Prayers “Bored the Brains out of God” & More at IAW&A Salon

by Charles Hale

Singer songwriter Susan McKeown wasn’t at the Thalia Cafe Tuesday night but Honor Molloy announced that Susan can be heard on the audio version of her soon to released book Smarty Girl-Dublin Savage.  Honor  read a passage from her book titled “Glass in Heaven,” a story that centers on the O’Feeny family’s beloved uncle coming home from London, sharing a story, scaltheen (whiskey and hot butter) and song around the fire. In addition to Susan’s music and Honor’s voice, actress Aedin Moloney and novelist Kevin Holohan can be heard on the audio book. 

The laughter never stopped once Tom Phelan began reading an excerpt from his novel Nailer, a thriller that takes place in Laois and Offaly, Ireland.  In his reading, Tom presented the aged Doctor Alexander McNulty, whose prayers “bored the brains out of God.”

Sheila Walsh’s play in progress, Mr.  Tweedy’s Neighbors, was read with the help of Kate Vaughn, Orla O’Sullivan and John Kearns. Mr. Tweedy’s Neighbors is a play a about spiritual resurrection the Irish-American way.

Their were two poets on hand. Ed Farrell read a number of poems on aging and first-time presenter Maureen Walsh read a sequence of poems inspired by the experiences of Irish-American women and their foremothers. Maureen concluded her reading with a poem celebrating all women who write.  Her poem of  Catholic girls’ first love–the local parish priest–was my favorite.  Nothing like a tale of forbidden longing to spice things up. 

Maura Kelly introduced what she hopes will be an annual initiative. Designed to be a “new way” to experience Ireland’s greatest holiday, “SOBER St. Patrick’s Day” will be an opportunity for people in recovery, their friends and family, to participate in authentic culture.  Created in response to the damaging effects of public drunkeness on March 17 and the negative perception of the Irish, SSPD will be a family friendly event for ALL who want an alternative way to celebrate. The goal is to reclaim the true spirit of the holiday through the very best in contemporary Irish music, dance and comedy.  The venue is Regis High School on 84th and Park Avenue and will run from 3PM to 7PM.  The website www.soberstpatricksday.org will be up next week. Stay tuned. 

Tom Mahon began the second half of the evening with a riotous tale, “What Made the Elephants Happy,” which was written in direct response to an appeal made by Mikelle Terson at last month’s Thalia Salon.  Mikelle introduced a writing contest , which costs five dollars to enter, with all of the proceeds going toward saving elephants from extinction.  As Tom explained, he started the story in response to Mikelle’s discussion of elephants and in the old Irish tradition of spinning tales “just kept going.” Very witty. 

Kevin McPartland read from his novel in progress, Brooklyn Rhapsody. Kevin began by sharing with the audience that he’d recently started on the novel and until the day before Tuesday’s Salon was undecided whether the novel should be written in the first or third person.  And then, as often happens with artists, the muse appeared–“First person, Kevin”–and that was it.  If Tuesday night is an indication of what’s to come, Kevin, or his muse, definitely made the right choice. Terrific and very “Brooklyn.”

We were honored to have with us Kathleen Donohoe, the winner of this year’s Irish American Crossover Writing Contest, who read “The Bearing Wall,” an excerpt from a chapter of her novel, You Were Forever.  This particular passage concerns a fire widow, whose husband, a fireman with the New York Fire Department, has been killed in the line of duty. 

Playwright, poet and novelist, John Kearns read a segment from his first novel, The World, in which the sixteen-year-old main character, known as “The Artist,” realizes while watching a Fourth of July fireworks display that he is falling in love. 

And, as is often the case, we were blessed to have Malachy McCourt say and sing the final words, which he did leading the gathering through a beautiful rendition of “Will You Go Lassie Go.” This is becoming a wonderful tradition and one that all presenters look forward to. How often have I heard, “Will Malachy be here tonight?” We can only hope he will be at every Salon for years to come. 

The next Salon will be on February 21 at The Cell Theatre, 338 W23rd Street, beginning at 7PM. For more information on joining the Irish American Writers & Artists you can contact Charles Hale at chashale1@yahoo.com.

February 2, 2012

IAW&A in NJ! Authors Kathleen Hill and Mary Pat Kelly head to Montclair

Filed under: Essay,Events,Film,Literature — by johnleemedia @ 7:03 pm
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Reading, Discussion, Wine and Cheese at Watchung Booksellers in Montclair, NJ, co-sponsored by Irish American Writers and Artists

The Irish American Writers & Artists takes the show on the road with a reading and reception at the Watchung Booksellers in Montclair, NJ on Thurs., Feb 16, 2012 featuring two noted authors.

Writer Mary Pat Kelly’s award-winning PBS documentaries and accompanying books include her historical novel Galway Bay, now in development as a TV mini series, To Live for Ireland, a portrait of Nobel Peace Prize winner John Hume and the political party he led; Home Away from Home: The Yanks in Ireland, a history of U.S. forces in Northern Ireland during World War II; and Proudly We Served: The Men of the USS Mason, a portrayal of the only African-American sailors to take a World War II warship into combat, whose first foreign port was Belfast. She wrote and directed the dramatic feature film Proud, starring Ossie Davis and Stephen Rea, based on the USS Mason story. She’s written Martin Scorsese: The First Decade and Martin Scorsese: A Journey; Good to Go: The Rescue of Scott O’Grady from Bosnia; and a novel, Special Intentions. She is a frequent contributor to Irish America Magazine.

Kathleen Hill teaches in the M.F.A. program at Sarah Lawrence College. Her first novel Still Waters in Niger was named a notable book by the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, and was nominated for the Dublin IMPAC Award. The French translation, Eaux Tranquilles, was short-listed for the Prix Femina Étranger. Her second novel Who Occupies This House was recently published and was selected as an Editors’ Choice by the New York Times. Her stories have appeared in Best American Short Stories, Pushcart Prize XXV, and The Pushcart Book of Short Stories.

Watchung Booksellers is at 54 Fairfield Street, Watchung Plaza, Montclair, NJ 07042 (phone: 973.744.7177). The event starts at 7 PM.

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