- Nótaí na nEagarthóirí: Editors’ Notes
In October of this year, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that a deadly fungal pathogen had infected virtually all of the oak trees in the Bay Area, and would likely eliminate the species in the region. This news was especially chilling for San Francisco resident Elizabeth Creely; her personal essay “Daire Nua: The New Oak Grove” employs the oak as a focal point in the telling of her family story. Notwithstanding the silences and discontinuities of the family tale, she has found that the Creelys do seem to have always lived near oaks, or so the fragmentary history suggests. Thus, when she hears of a fungal infection attacking plants, Creely instantly connects the dots to the Irish Famine of the 1840s—the aboriginal calamity that set her family on its westward journey. A journalist and activist, Elizabeth Creely is now working on a memoir of a family camping trip.
The interconnectedness of Ireland and America has usually been looked at through the study of political life, of immigration and its after-effects, and of literary and filmic representations of the two countries—and only rarely through the visual arts. Yet, as Dr. Éimear O’Connor notes, in the decade after 1925 two New York galleries played key roles in encouraging Irish fine art. The Helen Hackett Gallery showed work by such impressive figures as Jack B. Yeats, Patrick Touhy, and Paul Henry. The Irish Art Rooms was the brainchild of Patric Farrell, a promoter of Irish arts with a flair for publicity. At a time when Irish artists were ignored by the new state, the promise of a market abroad gave tangible support to the task of “re-imaging” post-Treaty Ireland. A fine example is Seán Keating’s painting The Tipperary Hurler (1928), which was exhibited at both New York galleries. Éimear O’Connor is the author of Seán Keating in Context: Responses to Culture and Politics in Post-Civil War Ireland (2009), and the editor of Irish Women Artists 1800–2009: Familiar But Unknown (2010).
For poets, the work of remembering a deceased parent often becomes a sort of self-elegy—an event that occasions not only expressions of loss but also, in [End Page 5] Dr. Barry Sloan’s words, “sustained explorations of the course and significance of their relationship with the dead.” Here, Sloan considers how John Montague and Paul Durcan take very different tacks in charting the loss of a parent. The death of Molly Montague features prominently in The Dead Kingdom (1984), but in the end, her son moves on from his uncertainty about her love by moving outward toward his partner and child. In contrast, in Daddy, Daddy (1990), Durcan obsesses with his late father and the often disturbing memories he bequeathed his son. Durcan’s paradoxical achievement, Sloan argues, is to silence his father’s voice while at the same time keeping that voice alive. The author of Writers and Protestantism in the North of Ireland: Heirs to Adamnation? (2000), Barry Sloan has lately written on memory in Irish writing in Éire-Ireland and the European Journal of English Studies.
Anchored in place, lyrical in tone, but sparing in detail, our suite of short poems from Joan McBreen may strike a reader as embodying the proverb that “less is more.” McBreen’s poems here walk a careful path between bareness and plenitude: we see this when a rain-soaked visit to Kate O’Brien’s grave ends with the image of a tilted headstone; when an empty strand on Omey grows saturated with the sensual smell of sea-wrack; or when, at the close of “Black-berries,” bowls of freshly picked fruit give way to the sight of “harsh stars” at nightfall. This duality is most striking in “Vilhelm Hammershøi: The Poetry of Silence,” where McBreen leaves an exhibition of the Danish minimalist’s paintings compelled to buy flowers, an impulse gesture “against the heartbreak of survival.” Now living in Renvyle, Joan McBreen frequently lectures and reads both at home and abroad. In 2009, Salmon Press issued her fourth full collection, Heather Island.
Readers of this journal recognize the “Radharc ar gC...