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135 In the summer of 1958 the first Magi to arrive bearing gifts for the Poet’s House, the third of my rescued Harmonist dwellings, ­were my Irish friend Professor Walter F. Starkie and his lively Italian wife, Ita, who came for a month’s residence (29 on town map). Walter had grown up largely near Dublin because his father had served there as the last resident commissioner of national education for Ireland under British rule at the turn of the century. Walter often stole time from his studies to explore less frequented paths and the brightly colored wagons where Tinkers lived. (Tinker was the Irish name for Gypsy.) He was more attracted to their music, however, than to the pots and pans the Tinkers made and sold for a living. From them he learned how a fiddle could cast a glamour, or spell, upon what­ ever needed recovery or repair, be it a lost sheep or a broken heart. Romanichals also taught an eager Walter the folk songs of middle Eu­ rope while he remained in Italy following World War I. He once made a bet with a former Trinity College classmate that he would be awarded free meals and lodging from ChaptER 15 Poet’s House and Beyond 136 New Harmony, indiana Gypsies outside Budapest or Prague once he had played for them the old songs and tunes that he still remembered. Starkie won his wager. Back in Dublin, Walter resumed visits to the famous Abbey Theatre. He was familiar with its writers and actors from his youth and subsequently became its director, forming a close friendship with Ireland’s greatest living poet and playwright William Butler Yeats. They worked Jane Blaffer Owen welcomes Dr. Walter and Ita Starkie to Poet’s House, 1958. Photograph by John Doane. John Doane Collection. Courtesy of Special Collections, University of Southern Indiana. Poet’s House and Beyond 137 passionately to prevent the partition of Ireland, believing rightly that a shared pride in their creativity and art could unite Catholics and Protestants and forestall the devastating religious wars that followed the golden years of the Abbey Theatre.1 Walter’s Irish Catholic heritage and aspirations for peace, however, did unite and delight some New Harmonists. Children gathered regularly after school on the lawn between Poet’s House and the Rawlingses’ ­ house to listen, spellbound, as Walter played his violin. And after supper, the few parents who cared about theater and I would sit quietly outside while he read from Yeats’s collected plays. Little did Professor Starkie realize that Professor Starkie performs for a rapt audience in Murphy Auditorium, 1958. Photograph by John Doane. John Doane Collection. Courtesy of Special Collections, University of Southern Indiana. 138 New Harmony, indiana he was preparing us for the return of theater to New Harmony.2 (Twenty-­ five years later, drama graduates and directors from the University of Southern Indiana and the University of Evansville, as well as Actors’ Equity Association professionals, would bring workshops and per­for­mances to our community. But let’s not preempt the future.) In its long history, Poet’s House has nurtured many visitors of­renown—scholars, writers, poets, musicians, and artists—who have in turn nurtured New Harmony’s townspeople.3 In the fall of 1988, Poet’s House welcomed the artist John Hubbard, who came at my invitation to capture New Harmony’s indwelling spirit. Hubbard’s eye and hand offered a reality outside the confines of the brick, wood, and limestone surfaces of New Harmony. The ­ etchings that evolved from the charcoal drawings he made during the time he and his wife, Caryl, spent there justified my initial faith in his sensitivity and skill.4 His rendering of the Poet’s House is tender and devout, as ­were the Harmonist hands that built it. May all ­houses that have been physically restored heed the counsel Sir George MacLeod gave me after his first visit to New Harmony in 1962: “Look upon each ­ house as a birthing cradle for vigorous, fully awake babes. Don’t put waxed dolls in them.” Poet’s House, in par­ tic­ u­ lar, remains such a place for poets, artists, and writers in need of the profound stillness that fosters creativity. During the ­ mid-­ 1950s, while Lipchitz continued progress on Notre Dame de Liesse–Descent of the Holy Spirit, I continued to apply myself to the earthier demands of locating a site for his creation in New Harmony. I owned no property other...


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