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Wilde Readings Open Mic:

Make Poetry Great Again (Though It Was Always Great)

Irish Ambassador to the United States Daniel Mulhall. Photo by Douglas Graham.

His Excellency Daniel Mulhall, the Irish Ambassador to America, drew a hearty laugh from the audience at Friday night’s Irish Evening of Music and Poetry.

As a daily counterbalance to the insanity on Twitter, Mulhall sends out a few lines of Irish poetry every morning.

To the audience at the poetry reading last week, Mulhall joked that he’s starting a campaign: “It’s time to Make Poetry Great Again.”

After the laughter died down, HoCoPoLitSo board members could be heard muttering amongst themselves, “Poetry was always great.”

But timeline quibbles aside, HoCoPoLitSo was thrilled to welcome the ambassador and sterling poet Vona Groarke to the forty-first Irish Evening.

Last Friday morning, in tribute to Irish Evening, Mulhall sent into the Twitterverse a few lines from Groarke’s beautiful poetry:

Anyway, the leaves were almost on the turn
And the roses, such as they were, had gone too far.

It was snow in summer. It was love in a mist.
It was what do you call it, and what is its name
And how does it go when it comes to be gone?

There’s at least one thing that Mulhall and U.S. President Donald Trump share – they like to start the day with a Tweet. But oh, there’s a world of difference between them.

The poems Groarke read on Friday night were both tender and fierce. Her “Pier,” was well applauded for its verve in chronicling the leap from a pier into the Atlantic on Spittel beach, on the West coast of Ireland. Though Groarke confessed that she hasn’t yet made the leap herself, she’s watched it done, she said, a bit sheepishly. And the poem proves she can feel it.

Vona Groarke. Photo by Douglas Graham.

Many in the audience commended Groarke’s translation from the Irish – the first by a woman poet – of “The Lament for Art O’Leary.” This poem chronicles the mourning and protest of a wife, keening over the body of her Catholic husband, killed by the Protestants, ostensibly for having too fine a horse. And Groarke’s translation was both sensual and sorrowful.

The selections of prose Groarke read from Four Sides Full, her book of prose about art frames, were illuminating, particularly the anecdote about the show of empty frames in the Hermitage in Leningrad, signifying the hiding of artwork to preserve it.

Poetry and music brought some 300 people together last Friday night. Perhaps verse can heal divisions in countries, between people, if we only open our hearts to others’ stories.

 

Susan Thornton Hobby
Recording secretary

 

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