The song Waltzing Matilda, an Australian bush song, was written in the late nineteenth century. Australian Eric Bogle used lyrics from the tune in his anti-war derivative “And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda,” and Tom Waits followed that with his very personal “Tom Traubert’s Blues,” which incorporates lyrics from Bogle’s song.  Wait’s recording was at the heart of presenter Tom Mahon’s work “Hanoi’s Most Dangerous People,” at Tuesday night’s Irish American Writers & Artists’ Salon at The Cell.  But unlike the anti-war sentiment of Bogle’s version, Mahon effectively used Waits’ recording as the backdrop for his cathartic journey back to Vietnam, where he served as a soldier during the Vietnam war.  A beautifully photographed journey accompanied by a nice twist on an old tune. 

First time reader, Kate McLeod (photo above) read a personal essay, “What the Sock Drawer Says” which came to her when she was pondering a heaping drawer full of  single, mismatched socks and thought of it as a metaphor for her life. Single  again, after she lost her husband, she felt out of place and like a stranger.  McLeod’s piece included a wonderful segment/impersonation of Martha Stewart on how to organize a sock drawer and some insights into an extraterrestrial conspiracy that looks into the possibility that losing socks in the rinse cycle of washing machines around the world may be an alien phenomenon.  Kate, a journalist and playwright, is a wonderful addition to our growing group of talented artists. 
Pat Hanrahan read another excerpt from his novel/thesis in progress. We met another of his main characters, John Fitzgerald, who has moved back to his old home, having separated from his wife. John now has to listen to his father, instead. Pat mentioned that reading aloud, hearing his own voice in front of an audience, leads to hours of rewriting, which he believes has really aided his writing process.  Perfect. That is exactly what Malachy McCourt visualized when he first suggested the salon format.
Another first time reader, Gary Ryan, (photo left) presented several short poem and prose pieces borne of experiences in both New York City, where he lives, and Mississippi, where he grew up. At one point he was able to mention Faulkner and the ill-fated Donner Party in the same sentence. Deft, Gary. 
Charles Hale followed, debuting his short video Breathing of an Ancestor’s Space and Time (featured in earlier blogpost). By understanding the events that surrounded one incident in his grandfather’s life he was able to get the “feel of things,” he was able to breathe from my grandfather’s space and time.  Mark Donnelly read three scenes from the play he is writing about Mother Jones, an Irish immigrant who was a prominent union organizer in the American Labor Movement in the early 20th Century. A very spirited reading.  And Kathy Lawrence read from Becoming Irish, her memoir. Kathy read a light story–the time she and her Mom went to the Irish Consulate for citizenship and end up shamelessly flirting with some handsome cops. And a dark story–A 1912 family photograph reveals a terrible secret that has ramifications for Kathleen and her siblings to this day.  As Kathy says, she comes from a family that never stops giving…literary material, that is. 
Novelist Honor Molloy read from The Carpet with the Big Pink Roses on It by Maeve Brennan  This work is  from Honor’s series on reading stories to children, which are written by a variety of writers. Watching Honor you had the sense that she loved being able to let the story flow through her. A great story performed by a great reader.
Kevin McPartland read from chapter two of his soon to be published, coming of age novel, Brownstone Dreams. It’s a story set in sixties Park Slope, Brooklyn, and is based on his deceased cousin Robert’s tragic life. Another great Brooklyn story from this much anticpated novel. 
Pat Fenton, along with the wonderfully expressive and talented actor, Jack O’Connell, read from his play Stoopdreamer and Other Brooklyn StoriesThe play is about a lost part of Irish working-class Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn, and some of the characters who lived in it before Robert Moses drove the Prospect Expressway through the very heart of it in 1953, and divided it forever. Pat recently added the words Brooklyn Stories to his title, since, as he said, “The arts in Brooklyn are pretty hot now, and that new title has more universal appeal.”
Billy Barrett, (photo above) closed out the evening reading from his memoir in progress Highway Star. Billy carries himself with the bravado of a new crowned prince in urban street confessionals. Vivid, poignant and gritty or maybe he’s just decided to get his life off his chest. “Fat and forty ain’t that bad…” he says with a smile.
The next Salon will be at the Thalia Cafe, located at Symphony Space on the corner of 95th and Broadway, beginning at 7PM. For info on joining the Irish American Writers and Artists or attending a salon, contact Charles R. Hale