Photos by Christoper Booth
In a spirited night with much joking and much seriousness, writers and singers celebrated the common and uncommon ground of the Italian and Irish American experience as the Irish American Writers and Artists Salon welcomed Italian Americans Writers at the cell on Tuesday July 19th.
The event was inspired by the recent publication of Paul Moses’s book An Unlikely Union: The Love-Hate Story of New York’s Irish and Italians, according to event organizer and gracious emcee Kathleen Walsh D’Arcy. Moses read an excerpt featuring radical labor organizers and lovers Elizabeth Gurley Flynn and Carlo Tresca who met during the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike in Lawrence, Massachussetts. Despite their unconventionality, Moses recounted, the cultural differences in that era between the Irish and Italians ultimately divided them.
Curator and host Kathleen Walsh D’Arcy
Peter Quinn, a founder and former president of Irish American Writers and Artists, provided a gracious and funny introduction for Moses. In the spirit of the evening, he gave a bit of history of the divide between Irish and Italians. Then to great laughter, he jokingly explained the cultural differences by imagining an Italian Joseph and an Irish Mary producing a Hispanic Jesus, noting, for one that Joseph could not have gotten into the carpenter’s union unless Mary was Irish. Quinn, a celebrated journalist and political historian, is the author of Banished Children of Eve, Hour of the Cat, Looking for Jimmy, and The Man Who Never Returned.
The evening began appropriately with Alisa Rose who has a background in opera but now is engaged in Irish Studies. First, she sang, “Turna A’ Surriento,” a traditional Neapolitan song composed in 1902 by the Italian musician Ernesto De Curtis with words written by his brother, the poet and painter Giambattista De Curtis. Then Rose sang “McNally’s Row of Flats,” an Ed Harrigan song from his comedy McSorley’s Inflation as revived by Mick Moloney. To help Rose fund her album, see gofundme.com/AlisaRoseCompelled and to see her event schedule go to alisarosemusic.com/the-schedule
Next up, Elizabeth Primamore read the prologue of her play in-progress called, Nevarca (Newark, New Jersey), which sketches the emotional and psychological edges of three generations of an Italian American family. Primamore’s work has been published in the anthologies Literature and Gender and New America. She studied at HB studio and her full-length play, Undone, received readings at The Flea, The Cherry Lane, and Ensemble Studio Theatre.
Co-Curator of the Italian American Writers Association and Queens Poet Laureate, Maria Lisella, read poems about leaving home and living in a new country. Lisella’s most recent book is Two Naked Feet. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and won the Allen Ginsburg Poetry Award among other honors.
Malachy arrives for a rare appearance at the Cell
For the first time, an IAW&A Salon break included cookies
The second half of the evening also began with song. Mary Deady, a celebrated singer, keeping with the evening’s theme, talked about the song in the Christmas scene in the immigrant coming-of-age movie Brooklyn. Then she sang a song in the same vein, ‘An Clár Bog Déil,’ – The Soft Deal Board,” a Munster love song written in the early 19thcentury and attributed to an Augustinian friar, presumably before he took the habit! Deady’s second song, “Good Night, New York,” written by Judy Gold, is about immigration, the journey and finding courage. Deady was a lead soprano in the National Folk Theater of Ireland, touring extensively throughout Europe, the U.S. and Canada. More recently she performed with Jeff Cubeta at The Laurie Beechman Theater in their show, My Love is a Wanderer—A Fictional Memoir in Song.
Rosette Capotorto, a Bronx native, read poems from Bronx Italian, including “The Mother of a Priest.” Her fiction and poetry have been published in many anthologies including Are Italians White and The Milk of Almonds.
John Liam Shea
Another Bronx native John Shea read a ghost story that included the ghost of a very disappointed Irish mother. Shea’s novel, Cut and Run in the Bronx, published in 2012 by Dublin’s 7Towers Press, met with critical and commercial success.
Staten Island was also in the house in the person of Tim Ledwith, a writer and editor, who was raised in an Irish-American family in a mostly Italian-American neighborhood on Staten Island. Ledwith delighted the crowd with an excerpt from his memoir featuring the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge construction’s impact on his Irish American family.
The versatile Maureen Hossbacher shared three poems, including “Lesser Known Saints”, which will appear in the next Paterson Literary Review. Another, entitled “Artists,” appealed to other poets in the room, Maria Lisella and Margaret McCarthy, who acknowledged some essential attributes of artists: “the insight / the eye / the ear / the tongue / a steady hand / but mainly the gall.”
The inimitable Malachy McCourt who founded the IAWA Salon, ended the evening recounting tales of the “Italian influence” in his hometown of Limerick to the delight of the crowd. He included one story of how a Limerick local got invited to a box seat at an Italian opera in Dublin. McCourt then sang, “There is an Isle” to end a lovely evening.
Join us for a mixture of presenters new and familiar at our next IAW&A Salon at Bar Thalia (95th & Broadway) at 7 pm.
More fun with photos by Christopher Booth: