The Grapevine Art & Soul Salon
Credit to worldfromaboveHD for this warmup video.
We invite all participants in last December's Abroad Writers Conference to join us in this special chamber set up for an ongoing salon gathering to share impressions from that time spent together in Dublin.
A Beginning ...
Last year, nearing winter solstice, I found myself coming home to a place I left at least a century and a half ago, traveling in the genes of great-great grandparents from Ireland across the Atlantic. They entered the United States to the north and worked their way south, where they settled in to live as I knew their descendents, including my father and mother: as farmers and cotton mill workers, whiskey makers and sellers, who seemed to have no consciousness of having come so far, no Irish brogue, no tales from home, but whose love for storytelling was alive and well in the new world. Those genes finally made their way into education and art in my generation, genes that I passed along to my son Jonathan.
We were coming home together in this great aircraft, a mode of travel that didn’t exist when our ancestors left Ireland in ships. Some were called coffin ships because so many of their passengers perished. The great flying machine was bringing us in through a cloudy sky until we got our first glimpses of Ireland’s green fields, a green so deeply rooted that I know it in the color of my eyes.
Maybe you have heard or said some casual thing and then remarked: I can feel it in my bones, and perhaps you meant, as I might have, that you recognize a deep affinity with what has been said. Here, I am talking about that bonedeep affinity that expresses itself in some memories. I felt it entering Dublin and going by taxi to Butler's Town House to check into the Abroad Writers Conference, and walking next door to Ariel House, climbing the stairs to unpack my American self and get her ready to clasp hands with her Irish self and have one of the great times of their life.
While working intermittently on my book manuscript over the past twenty years—the one I brought with me to Dublin for the AWC workshop in December 2015—an image once emerged from the cemetery in front of the church I was writing about, an image of laughter coming from the graves of people long dead and gone. I thought of giving the book, a work of autobiographical fiction, this title: Can These Bones Laugh? The title drifted into my file of possibilities, but the image of memory locked into bones, the longest-lasting pieces of our incarnation, stayed with me.
That notion of bone memory was with me as I began working on the introduction to our Dublin Diary feature for this issue of The Grapevine. I wanted to begin with what it feels like to be a member of the Irish diaspora coming home, of the sense of belongingness that haunted our time in Dublin and in the Irish countryside. Jonathan felt it as well, as you will see in the pieces we include here at this gathering place we are creating for those who spent last December together in Dublin, UNESCO’s City of Literature that holds so many memories of Nobel Prize winners William Butler Yeats, George Bernard Shaw, Samuel Beckett and Seamus Heaney, as well as James Joyce, perhaps Ireland's most famous and esteemed writer who is not among the Nobel winners (though his Ulysses often tops lists of most important novels in the world), and the inimitable Oscar Wilde, whose home and statue are on view.
Below are links to presentations we have put here to get us started. Please join us by sending in any pieces you would like to contribute to the conversation about what it was like to be there last year in December. We are looking for impressionistic pieces of any kind, introductions and reviews of work published, poems, riffs, lasting memories, favorite moments, appreciations, praise, Irishness, food and drink, hospitality ... whatever you would like to bring to the salon chamber in conversation with others.We will put the pieces up as we get them, over a period of months, and we can all browse from time to time to see what's new. Send documents to email@example.com. If you have a photo you’d like others to see, send that as well.
There must be a special place in literary paradise for people who make a career of creating opportunities for others to live creatively, to fulfill potential, to express passion and insight, to contribute cultural wealth to the world we all live in and love. That would link Nancy Gerbault, conference organizer, and Leah Maines of Finishing Line Press, in an eternal cycle of individuating artists creating, recreating, and sharing what they make. A special thanks to Leah for offering me the opportunity to read in Dublin and to Nancy for making our stay in Dublin so lovely in so many ways.
HAPPY ANNIVERSARY, FOLKS!
Barbara Knott, December 2016
Copyright 2016, Barbara Knott. All Rights Reserved.