By Karen Daly,
We filled another cold night with warm spirits, camaraderie and our brew of poetry, song, and fiction at the Irish American Writers & Artists salon at the Bar Thalia on February 5, 2013.
Arnine Weiss led off with a piece from her new novel SHE AIN’T HEAVY, a story of friendship, loyalty and second chances. Teddy Warner, the proverbial girl from the wrong side of the tracks moves from her small Pennsylvania town to Philadelphia to live with a childhood friend. A carbon monoxide accident the first weekend leaves Teddy with no money, no friends, and no place to live. Arnine’s book, published by Academy Chicago is available as an ebook; the hardcover is slated for release in April. Early readers call it “a triumph” and “feisty and fun.”
“Were you only obeying when you ignored the cuts and scars on the boys’ bodies, ignored the blatant evidence of caned flesh on backs and backsides? The classless children of Dachadoo didn’t deserve your concern, did they, Doctor McNulty?” There was a deep silence, then sustained applause, as Tom Phelan gave a passionate and emotional reading from his novel NAILER, in which a former industrial school inmate seeks justice—or is it revenge? —for the children betrayed by the Irish church and government. Books Ireland calls NAILER “a hard-hitting thriller.” For more information, go to www.tomphelan.net and www.facebook.com/tomphelannovels.
Singer Jack DiMonte treated us to one of his favorite songs, “Love Came on Stealthy Fingers,” written by jazz legend Bob Dorough. Jack has performed at the salon several times and he educates us with his interesting musical choices.
Christy Kelly held the crowd spellbound as he read from his developing collection of poetry. The poems included
Lazy October with Cows
Christy, a poet, screenwriter, and novelist is writing a novel titled NOBODY SAID.
Guenevere Donohue thrilled the group with a story from her theatre piece, Killer Is My Name, about growing up in the Bronx as one of six wild American-Irish kids whose father was an ex-Marine, a poet, an iron-worker, and spy. Salon regulars who have followed this particular work got serious payback for being there, and await more stories.
John Kearns read an excerpt from his generational novel in progress, WORLDS. In this chapter set in New York City in 1910, Father Sarsfield Logan, S.J. goes to Washington Square Park seeking news about the young woman, Esther, whom he had found beaten in the street and had taken to St. Vincent’s Hospital. To his great surprise, he finds Esther not at home recuperating but giving a passionate speech to her fellow strikers in front of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. When Sarsfield approaches Esther to compliment her on her speech, the young woman decides to enlist the older Jesuit in her cause.
John is multi-faceted; he hosted the evening and also authored the poem read by Mark Butler. In honor of James Joyce’s birthday on February 2nd, John played a recording of “Bid Adieu to Girlish Days” Joyce’s only known musical composition.
After the break, Kathleen Walsh D’Arcy announced the St. Pats for All Parade on March 3, 2013 in Sunnyside. Details at: http://www.stpatsforall.com
Then novelist Jeanine Cummins captivated the crowd with an arresting excerpt about the first terrifying moments of the Irish famine from her new novel, THE CROOKED BRANCH. The story is told alternating historical and contemporary chapters, set in the west of Ireland in the 1840s and in modern-day Queens. Penguin is publishing it just in time for St. Patrick’s Day; it goes on sale March 5th.
Tom Mahon read two pieces from The Wide Valley, his work of prose-poems which tell the stories of settlers of upstate New York’s Mohawk Valley—from the first trappers to the Irish immigrants who came to dig the Erie Canal and build the New York Central Railroad. In Young George Kelsey, a farmer is murdered by his worker but the man avoids prison because George testified on his behalf. When Peace Comes describes the promises people make to themselves, what they’ll do when peace comes after World War II. Despite the promises, prayers and hopes sent aloft, peace never comes to the valley. There’s always a war or one brewing and the Mohawk Valley, like the rest of the country, must sacrifice again, again, again. Sensitively read and well received, Tom.
Mark Butler gave a rousing reading of John Kearns’s poem “Let Words Be Slaves,” a clever, passionate homage to love poems, contained within… a clever, passionate love poem. This poem was used in John’s play In the Wilderness, co-produced by Mark.
Jim Rodgers returned to read from his novel LONG NIGHT’S END. The protagonist, Johnny Gunn, returns to his flophouse on the Lower East Side, having been banished from Sunnyside by his wife because of his drinking and his affair with Molly Farrell. Back on Ludlow Street he repairs to his local bar, where we meet Olive, the sensual Lebanese bartender who, while serving him his “tonic,” seeks to save him from himself. The scene ends with Johnny and his friend Frankie headed to yet another dusty gig with their over-the-hill rock band. We’re eager to see if redemption really will find Johnny and to hear more of Jim’s work.
John Paul Skocik brought his acoustic guitar to the stage to sing three funny, sad, and touching original songs. The songs were (in performance order) “A Bastard Like Me,” “Post 9/11 Society” and “Ordinary Life.” His band Girl To Gorilla is recording their new album and each song is to be featured. Their first album “Super Deluxe Custom Experience” is available on Itunes, CD Baby, Rhapsody, and Amazon. The final song “Ordinary Life” was written for his wife, Jessica, who joined us at the Salon and is expecting the couple’s first baby, Little John, around Saint Patrick’s Day
In finale, Malachy McCourt announced performances of A Couple of Blaguards at the Irish Arts Center on the weekend of February 15-17 to benefit victims of Hurricane Sandy in Breezy Point, NY. Blaguards, of course, is the autobiographical account of the brothers McCourt (Malachy and his late brother, Frank) and their years growing up in poverty in Ireland. February 17th is the IAW&A day at the production. (So, please join us!)
A man of many talents, Malachy charmed us with some stories from the play; recited the Yeats poem The Stolen Child and lead us in a rousing version of Carrickfergus.
For information on the benefit, go to http://irishartscenter.org/benefit_breezy_point.html. IAW&A is planning a group for the February 17th performance. Watch this space for details!
photos by Mark Butler