Irish American Writers & Artists

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.

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