by Karen Daly
A hearty crew came out to the Cell Theatre on the frigid evening of Tuesday, January 22nd for another stellar evening of fiction, poetry, and wonderful song at the bi-monthly Irish-American Writers and Artists Salon.
John Kearns hosted and led off with an excerpt from his novel-in-progress, Worlds. Janey Dougherty, a secretary in 1950s Philadelphia, is having an affair with an executive at her office, James Logan. James, who is engaged to marry another woman, goes on a business trip for a week without telling Janey. When he returns and seeks her forgiveness, she gets him to break off his engagement and their relationship quickly goes back to normal. We look forward to hearing more of Worlds.
Guenevere Donohue described the creative inspiration that the salon engenders. She gave us an example of that inspiration in the form of a hauntingly beautiful love song, “What It Is.” This new composition came into being after Guen’s conversation with Owen and Moley O’Suilleabhain, the singer/songwriters of Size 2 Shoes, at a previous IAW&A salon.
Novelist, poet, and professor, Christy Barrett-Kelly read several poems from a forthcoming collection. Christy has written for film, television, and theatre and is currently completing his first novel, Nobody Said.
Inspired by the sudden drop in temperature to the deep freeze, Jack Di Monte sang “South To A Warmer Place” by Alec Wilder and Loonis McGlohon. Jack has now sung a few times at the salon, and yes, he warmed us up.
Larry Kirwan read from his novel, Rockin’ The Bronx, set in the “only borough on the mainland” during the wild early 1980s, the time when John Lennon was shot and Bobby Sands MP died on hunger strike. Larry described how Irish Republican politics and traditional music intertwined in the bars of the Bronx, and gave an account of how a fiddler dominated a session as seen through a musician’s eyes. Rockin The Bronx was published last year and is now available as an ebook on all platforms.
After the break, Seamus Scanlon presented a striking new story linking a cat-free Galway and New York. His recent collection As Close As You’ll Ever Be (http://www.cairnpress.com/pages/titles) was selected in the Best Short Story Collections of 2012 by the Library Journal. Congrats, Seamus!
Kevin Holohan read a new short-short story “The Six Other Faces of Frank Byrne” which shows the public and private faces of an apparent hard man, Dubliner Frank Byrne as he struggles with family illness and the displacement and disconnection of the expatriate before finally cracking and spilling out over the edges to an unsuspecting fellow passenger on his return flight to New York. Kevin said: “This character came into my head, left behind six tiny stories and then left. I can’t say I was entirely sorry to see him go.”
In a delightful close to the evening, singer/songwriter Tara O’Grady treated us to her new song about Billie Holiday, “Gardenia Girl.” Tara wrote the song after learning that the jazz legend had Irish roots — her Irish great-grandfather was named Fagan and she was born Eleanora Fagan. Tara also discovered another personal link to Lady Day. Holiday is buried in the Bronx, directly across the river from Queens where Tara grew up, overlooking the Whitestone Bridge. Tara will soon record “Gardenia Girl” on her third album, A Celt in the Cotton Club.
Though the temperatures outside were freezing, it was a warm, convivial, artistic gathering inside the IAW&A Salon. The next Salon at Bar Thalia is on February 5th. The next Cell Salon is on February 19th. If you are a member and would like to present, send an email to IASalon@hotmail.com.