by John Kearns

Chicago photos by Kevin McKee

Philadelphia photos by Cherie Ann Turpin

The IAW&A Salon took two more successful road trips  in October, our first Salon in Chicago and our second Salon in Philadelphia.  Both events were marked by outstanding readings and performances — and both resulted in plans for more Salons!

IAW&A Salon at IBAM Chicago 2013

On October 12, Mary Pat Kelly, IAW&A Boardmember and author of Galway Bay, moderated a panel of readers at the Irish Books Art and Music (IBAM) Chicago 2013 at the Irish Heritage Center on Chicago’s North Side. Mary Pat and I gave a short introduction to our Salons and to the IAW&A as a whole.  After that, the readings began …

Jerry O’Neill read “Hurrah” which was an indictment of the Vietnam war and all of the demons it bought to a generation which will not be buried until we are. Next, he read a love poem to his wife, “Carol” about when they met and how their love grew through the years. He followed this with “Da” which was the story of the relationship and love between Jerry and his father and how it changed over the years. Jerry concluded with  “Danny Boy’s Reply” which would be the last verse of “Danny Boy”. It would be Danny’s reply to his beloved Da.


Ellen Anne Burns and Jerry O’Neill

Ellen Anne Burns introduced us to the work of Una Woods, a  Belfast minimalist poet whose work was brand new to all of us. Ellen read a selection from her 2007 collection Afternoons and from her most recent collection of notepoems found in an icicle for an eye, published in 2012.  For more information on Una Woods, visit her website,, or her Facebook page.


Chicago presenters

Since we were meeting in the Irish Heritage Center, I read a passage from my novel, The World, in which the 15-year-old character, The Youth, sneaks off to his high school library to read about the Irish War of Independence and discover his Irish heritage.

Mary Kunert read three poems dear to her heart.  The first, “They Soar,” was a awe-inspired tribute and eulogy to our astronauts, the ultimate thrill seekers of our world.   The second, “She Waits,” was written for her mother who is waiting patiently for her dad to come for her.  The last, “Summer Evening Music,” draws a picture of the Norman Rockwell existence in which she grew up, before all roads were paved and everybody had air conditioning.


Chicago presenters

Mary Kanak read an excerpt from her family memoir, Ripples of Connections, where she remembers her childhood on the Williston block in Wheaton, Illinois in the 1960s as being a simpler, slower more innocent time. She and her sister and two brothers were allowed to play outside in the summer time at night with what seemed like a dozen neighborhood kids until the streetlights came on. So summer days were long and lazy. There was no air conditioning in her house, and so they flipped their pillows to the cool side. They had the windows open over their beds hoping for a breeze and the crickets lulled us to sleep.

Monica Dougherty read from her historical novel, Rose’s Ring, a fact-based story told through an inherited family ring.  After more than 20 years of researching her family history, she discovered the story that she never knew about her ancestors in Ireland during the years of the Great Hunger and also of their connection to tumultuous events in America, the country of their refuge.

Maureen Connolly read a moving short story told from the point of view of a Native American in the midwest.

At the end of the Chicago Salon, both presenters and audience members took IAW&A membership forms and some have since joined the organization.  Mary Pat Kelly urged those in attendance to set a date for the next Chicago Salon, which they did for this month.  Hopefully, this first Salon was the beginning of many fruitful gatherings of irish American Writers and Artists in Chicago.

Philadelphia Salon II

The second Philadelphia Salon was also a tribute to Nobel laureate, Seamus Heaney and was organized by Siobhan Lyons of the Irish Immigration Center in conjunction with the Inis Nua Theatre Company and Barn Star Productions. It took place on October 25th at the Hotel Brotherhood, just south of Center City Philadelphia.  The Hotel Brotherhood, a building with a storied past as a union hall for African-American hotel workers after the Civil War and a speakeasy during Prohibition, played host to a full house of 40-50 people for this second IAW&A Salon in the City of Brotherly Love.

Jared Delaney, playwright and actor, from Inis Nua Theatre Company acted as MC for the evening.

He introduced me and I said a few words about the IAW&A’s mission and activities and invited those in attendance to join the organization.  I then read a Seamus Heaney poem, “Lovers on Aran,” followed by a poem of my own, “Aboard the Aran Seabird: Leaving Inishmore.”  Since Heaney was a great master of  traditional forms, I read a sonnet of mine called, “When Herald Midnight Tolled July the Fourth.”  I finished up with “Valentine Avenue, Bronx, NY” and “Transmigration of Soul.”


Honor Molloy

Honor Molloy read from her novel Smarty Girl: Dublin Savage about how Noleen wants to be in a commercial for Smarties candies.  When Noleen does get a job on television, working with her real-life father, she is disappointed to see that her father spends more time with his television family than with his real family.

Marian Makins, poet and singer, read Heaney’s “Requiem for the Croppies” and sang a beautiful sean nos version of “The Wind That Shakes the Barley.”


Marian Makins

Robert Berry, artist who is in the midst of composing a graphic novel of Joyce’s Ulysses, read the excerpt from Heaney’s poem “Station Island” about the narrator of the poem’s meeting the ghost of James Joyce.


Marni Rice

Marni Rice presented a charming story about her poker-playing grandma, who initiated Marni and her sister into the game at very young ages.  Marni introduced the tale with some music from her accordion.

John Liam Shea read a short passage from his new novel, Cut and Run in The Bronx.  The book is both a critical and commercial success, and his hilarious passage dealt with the responsibilities of the NYPD and the responsibilities of a community.


Full house at Philadelphia’s Hotel Brotherhood

Two actresses performed a comical play by Jared Delaney inspired by a famous soccer player’s biting another player on the field.  Jared’s play imagined what would happen if children began imitating their soccer heroes and began biting one another in their games ….

Paddy O’Neill, accompanied by a fiddle player, played some traditional Irish tunes on his flute, including some  from the north of Ireland, in honor of Seamus Heaney’s Derry origins, and the reel, “The Bucks of Oranmore.”


Paddy O’Neill and fiddler

This second IAW&A Philadelphia Salon also resulted in new members for the organization and plans for another Salon featuring all Philadelphia presenters in November.

There are also plans to start committees/chapters of Irish American Writers and Artists in the midwest and in Philadelphia.

More road Salons with different New York presenters are in the works as well.  Stay tuned!