Irish American Writers & Artists

July 24, 2017

7.18.17 IAW&A SALON: A Melting Pot of Talent Served Up at The Cell Theatre

Filed under: Uncategorized — by kdaly321 @ 1:47 am

By Maureen Hossbacher

Photos by Christopher Booth

A song in Gaelic was the fitting start to a special IAW&A Salon with an immigration theme. Dubliner Ailbhe Fitzpatrick charmed the audience with a sweet, a cappella version of “Baidín Fhéilimi,” an old Irish song about a boat that goes out to sea never to return, which her mother used to sing to young Ailbhe at bedtime.


Ailbhe Fitzpatrick

The salon was curated and hosted by IAW&A Board Members Brendan Costello and Karen Daly who put together an amazing evening in keeping with the expansive goals expressed in IAW&A’s mission statement, which in part defines the organization as “a force for inter-ethnic and interracial solidarity, understanding and active cooperation.”


Brendan Costello

Our understanding of the complexities of West African immigration to the U.S. was greatly enhanced by the fascinating presentation of Lawrence Harding, a Sierra Leonean from Freetown who, aided by storyboards and some mood music provided by host/DJ Costello, used his family history as illustration. Harding, a physical therapist, is also an accomplished dancer with the Brooklyn-based Fist and Heel Company, whose works draw from the traditions of Africa and its Diaspora.


Lawrence Harding

Akram Alkatreb has worked as an art critic and journalist, contributing to many major newspapers in Lebanon, London and Syria. He was born and raised in Salamiah, Syria, a city renowned for its poets, and has published six collections of poetry in Arabic. The poignant work he shared at the Salon spoke of war, love, and yearning for what has been lost:

Maybe we can meet, by chance, in a history book

that praises the kings of the Stone Age.

You’re losing birds, soul, trees

and mother tongue.

Do you know how much we love you?


Akram Alkatreb

More than a year since his last reading at our Salon, IAW&A board member Sean Carlson returned to the Cell Theatre fresh off a 2016-2017 fellowship at the Writers’ Institute at the City University of New York. Reading from the manuscript of his first book, a yet-untitled nonfictional narrative of departure and arrival, Carlson shared a humorous and moving excerpt that explored the role of groceries in the immigrant experience: the day Aunt Eileen boiled the watermelon in the turkey roasting pan.


Sean Carlson

After providing some unobtrusive but atmospheric noodling on his guitar as background music for the last two readers, the gifted young musician from Buenos Aires, Omar Haddad, took center stage and morphed into his rock n’ roll persona to perform “ Downside Up,” a rousing song of his own composition. A guitarist, singer-songwriter, violinist and front man for his band “THIS,” Haddad’s influences include jazz, rock, pop, Latin and classical – and he can do it all!


Omar Haddad

After a break for a little imbibing and socializing, Ailbhe Fitzpatrick returned to kick off the second half of the Salon with her stirring interpretation of the well-known Irish love song, “Raglan Road.” The versatile Fitzpatrick is also a music producer, pianist and award-winning documentary filmmaker.


Karen Daly

Poet William Leo Coakley prefaced his performance by reminding us that the song we just heard was written by Patrick Kavanagh, whose masterpiece “The Great Hunger” described the famine that brought so many Irish to America, and by commenting that our nation of immigrants now has a government liable to harm rather than help refugees. His poems focused on their plight: the perilous voyage of Syrians to the island of Lesbos; the trauma of Palestinians, refugees in their own illegally occupied country. His final poem, which appears in the current issue of the Irish magazine Cyphers, was about our exiled ancestors, who rarely returned to the homeland except for a visit. A Bostonian and now also an Irish citizen, Coakley recently returned from London, where he read at a Poetry Society benefit for Doctors Without Borders.


William Leo Coakley

Next up was Virginia Vasquez, a Puerto Rican writer and artist based in New York City who performed “Seeing Red,” a lyrical essay inspired by the 2016 presidential election. The piece, which expounds on the painful implications of racism in America, forewarns: “The truth was televised and is coming for all of us.” Vasquez is completing an MFA in Creative Writing at CCNY, where she also serves as Vice President of the MFA Reading Series.

Maryam Alikhani’s magnetic presentation of several of her poems intertwined words from other languages with English, like patterns woven from colorful strings into Persian rugs. One recalled the “heart of science” of her homeland, Iran; another the significance of trees in our lives. All reminded us that languages can be bridges instead of barriers. Alikhani teaches English at CCNY and is a doctoral candidate at Teachers College of Columbia University.


Maryam Alikhani

DSC_0105To bring the evening to a close, guitarist Omar Haddad, at right, who had generously provided background music for most presenters, served up a virtuoso interpretation of “Danny Boy.” His dexterity and impeccable technique made his performance a treat to watch as much as listen to –a stunning finale!

As the crowd happily dawdled before dispersing, the joy and fellowship in the air was palpable. Reflecting on the evening, first-time presenter Lawrence Harding commented in a post-salon email: “Our stories, while different, really brought home to me the confirmation that the drive that brought us to America is real and cannot be diminished by a political manipulation, xenophobia or “isms” of any kind.”

Mission accomplished.

The next IAW&A Salon will be at Bar Thalia at Symphony Space at 95th Street and Broadway, on Thursday, August 3, at 7:00 p.m.










July 13, 2017

7-6-17 IAW&A Salon Begins Its 7th Year at Bar Thalia with Drama, Fiction, Song, & Tributes to a Friend Taken Too Soon

Filed under: Uncategorized — by scripts2013 @ 10:31 pm

by John Kearns
Photos by Gordon Gilbert

The IAW&A Salon, which started at Bar Thalia in June 2011, began its seventh year at the Symphony-Space cafe on July 6th with an evening featuring plenty of drama as well as poetry, fiction, and song.  It even included the presentation of this year’s McCourt Awards to recent graduates from the Frank McCourt High School.

Sadly George Kornienko, bartender and part of owner of Rocky Sullivan’s and Marty O’Brien’s pubs, passed away on the same day as our salon. So, we dedicated the evening’s session to him.  George was a spirited and energetic man who supported writers and musicians and made everyone feel welcome.  He touched many lives.

1b Mary Courtney

Mary Courtney

Singer and musician Mary Courtney kicked off the salon playing guitar and singing “Mandela,” a favorite of George Kornienko’s.  For her second song, “Saoirse” (Freedom), she accompanied herself on bodhran.  To conclude her set, Mary put down her instruments and performed in the sean nos style a rousing rendition of “Irish Ways and Irish Laws.”  Mary performs every Friday night at An Beal Bocht in the Bronx.

2 Maria DeasyMaria Deasy

Opal Taylor-Besson and Rob Hille performed a scene from “Mine” by Maria Deasy.  Opal is Rebecca, a Manhattan paralegal, who learns of an explosion in one of her client’s West Virginia mines, trapping 8 miners underground. Rob plays Tom, her paralawful paramour.  As rescue teams attempt to bring miners home alive under media scrutiny, Rebecca embarks on a journey that questions Tom and everything about the world around her. What is the distance between those who push paper and those who dig deep?


Opal Taylor-Besson and Rob Hille

“Mine” embarks on its journey on: July 31st / 4 pm,  August 2nd / 7:30 pm, and August 5th / 3:30 pm. Purchase tickets.   Help us bring “Mine” to life!  Contribute here.

4 Gordon Gilbert

Gordon Gilbert

Gordon Gilbert read a series of short poetic monologues from an
as-yet-unpublished book entitled Noir Cityscapes – voices of those New Yorkers,
human and otherwise, who live by night.

5a Thomas MolyneauxThom Molyneaux

Thom Molyneaux introduced us to Old John from his play about Shakespeare and  the making of Richard the Third  “Re’Wrighting  the Creeping Venomed Spider King.”  In a monologue Old John  wryly and  dramatically recounts the famous Battle of Bosworth Field which proves the story of the evil murderous Richard is a lie and that if they want to “cover the seats in the theater with arses” they’d best play the lie not the truth.

6 John McDonaghJohn McDonagh

John McDonagh tried out some new cabbie stories about passengers heading to the hospital. He will be using his new material in his one man play Cabtivist at his next performance Wed July 19 at the Payomet performing arts center in Truro Cape Cod.

7 Brendan Costello & 2 award recipients

Each year the IAW&A awards graduating seniors from the Frank McCourt High School who show promise in writing with our McCourt Award.  Just before the break Brendan Costello presented checks to this year’s recipients Lajiere Blake and Katie McCarthy.  

After the break, I was very pleased to have actors Maria Deasy, Annalisa Chamberlin, Jack DiMonte, and Mark Butler read an excerpt from my novel, Worlds.  Near the end of the novel, Paul Logan, Laura, and Gavin make it to Broadway in Times Square.  With a parody of Broadway playbills and poetic descriptions of the lights of Times Square, the excerpt brings Irish nationalist Paul to the corner where he will be dropped off and where he learns that Laura is the daughter of a Northern Irish Protestant.

8 readers for John Kearn's novel

Mark Butler, Jack DiMonte, Annalisa Chamberlin, and Maria Deasy

Rosina Fernhof read Jenifer Margaret Kelly’s “Creative Writing 101”- a short fiction piece based on a young girl’s experiences in a Creative Writing class in a late-1960s Miami Catholic Girls School.  The work portrays how the young girl came to the writer’s life, the places it took her, and the things it saved her from.

9e Rosina Fernhoff

Rosina Fernhof

Salon regular, novelist and short story writer, Kevin R. McPartland read from a new chapter of his novel in progress entitled, Brooklyn Rhapsody.  In the chapter we encounter a lone stranger, deeply disturbed by his war experiences and convinced he must find a member of a local Brooklyn American Legion Post before night’s end. All in attendance agreed that Kevin has something in the fire with this novel for sure.

a10 Kevin McPartland

Kevin R. McPartland

John Brennan read two original pieces “The Flawed Mortal” an homage to the great Russian author, physician, and playwright Mikhail Bulgakov and “Oliver” telling how Phelim Brady, the Bard of Armagh gave aid to Bishop Oliver Plunkett and his close friend John Brennan, Bishop of Cashel. when they were on the run in South Armagh.

a12b John Brennan

John Brennan

Brent Shearer, who read a short story called “Miriam’s Martini,” runs “In the Front Row, On the Dole,” the only NYC readings blog that tells authors when they have droned on too long by use of our exclusive Drone-On-Meter.

a11 Brent Shearer.jpg

Brent Shearer

Annalisa Chamberlin sang two songs, accompanied by John Kearns on guitar.  The first song, which she learned from her grandfather named George, was the folk song, “Where the Honey Wind Blows,” recorded by the Brothers Four.  Annalisa’s second song, a stirring rendition of “With or Without You” marked the 30th anniversary of U2’s Joshua Tree album and the band’s recent performances in the New York area.

Annalisa Chamberlin and John Kearns

Join us at our next salon at the Cell on Tuesday July 18th for an evening on the theme of immigration to the US from Ireland and around the world.  Curated and hosted by Karen Daly and Brendan Costello, the event promises to be an evening to remember!  Here is the 2017 Salon schedule: 

See you there!

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