The Keane Edgeby Brendan Patrick Keane
- Exorcism of my inner Peter King
- Gas question: why give Ireland's enormous wealth away? the Norweigan alternative
- Bashing the Irish -- a break neck run down on Ireland's history of betrayal
- Stephen Fry to appear on Gaelic soap opera Ros na Rún
- Stolkholm Syndrome infects Dublin
I walked into the den of teachers. I was on their turf again. Teachers have a particular sense of smell that sniffs out the unprepared. I know this from my days at Bronx Science, the rival to Stuyvestant where Frank McCourt taught so many people to write and free themselves to write. My connection to Frank McCourt is tentative, except as a reader, and so I walked into the Teacher's Union where he was being honored by those that knew him, with the feeling like before a big exam. I immediately recognized the crowd as being teachers. Maybe it's
Last night, after the memorial for Frank McCourt was just ended--pictures to be posted in a separate article--I was inspired and decided to walk up Broadway--the spine of New York City--like Pete Hamill touring
As more and more learners are becoming fluent speakers of the Irish language, the physical communities where Irish has always been spoken are suffering the incursion of English by vacationers and new residents who think the Gaeltacht is pretty, and Gaeilge something the natives better stop using when the lordling English speaker is in the vicinity.
People participating in the Irish language renaissance are counter-acting this English language invasion with new communities, and proposals for new communities across the country (ar fud na tíre) so that the Gaeltachtaí don't have to go saving Ireland's cultural heritage and identity alone.
Concubhar Ó Liatháin writes--here--in the Irish Times, about work being undertaken right now to co-opt for Irish-speakers, the Ghost Estates that were abandonded by developers and banksters all over the island in the wake of the Celtic Tiger.
Just before he died, Daniel Cassidy released a pioneering book that begins to prove how American slang has a root in the Irish American urban experience. As usual, Cassidy was among those who have begun to This is a small taste compiled from Daniel Cassidy's We don't normally exclaim "Gee whiz" or "Gee whilikers" anymore. We associate such talk with a classic time in New York, when Irish Gaelic was the secret language of the slums, an Irish Gaelic word which means Irish love words were once all over pop songs pumped out from Tin Pan Alley. Mother Macree, or mother of my heart, was a huge hit from those early days of pop. A big name in early popular theater, was Irishman Dion Boucicault who wrote The Streets of New York, and included lots of Gaelic in the titles and dialogue of his blockbusters. Irish pet names like If you want to cully support, you're calling on your Speaking of body parts, the Irish put their Gaelic mark all over the stiff, or corpse, which comes from the word Irish Gaelic was a secret language in Éire, which was once an Ireland riddled with foreign spies, and so it was a language to keep the copper (the catcher, the thinker) from catching on. Cop comes from The most hated idea in Cassidy's book is that the Irish invented the word--not the music--jazz. The Irish had a good role to play in jazz music, from the genesis of tap dance to the Dorsey Brothers, but the word is a separate thing. Cassidy quotes Billy Taylor: "Duke Ellington hated the term, as many jazz musicians do. We're saddled with it. But the music was always called something by someone that had nothing to do with the music itself. ... Duke called jazz, Negro Music, because he was trying to trying to write music that reflected the thoughts and feelings and the expressions and emotions of the African-American race." The term jazz came from the newspapers. The first use of "jazz" came from the hot writing of Irish American sportswriter Edward Scoop Gleason in the San Francisco Bulletin in the spring of 1913. He used it repeatedly, and it stuck, so much so that he was given a couple of column inches by his editors to define the new word for curious readers who would go on to make jazz the hottest slang word of the 20th century. The word is uncontroversiablly the work of an Irish American writer who propogated it from the street speech of Irish San Francisco. It was later applied to the music. Scoop Gleason's area of Irish San Francisco is called Boyes Hot Springs, where there are bubbling naturally hot water springs. That's where jazz comes from. In Irish teas is pronounced chass or jass and means heat. Cassidy's essay is much more detailed on Gleason's use and defintion of the word jazz that was put on Negro Music by music writers who lifted it from the sports pages. Jazz was first used to describe a slugger at bat unleashing the jazz at a ballgame, just like it was applied later to the trumpet player in the speak easy joint unleashing his jazz music. There is no argument I have found that Scoop Gleason is the first writer to use the word repeatedly in print. The argument is whether or not the Irish speaking Irish of San Francisco had achieved the passing of their Gaelic Irish word for "heat" into American English in the familiar form of "jazz." Instead of considering this, the snoots prefer to say the word jazz comes from the unknown, leaving Scoop, with lots of Irish writers using Irish speech, in the dust of neglect.
The Irish word for "language" means "tongue:" Just like the word bailiff came from the Gaelic word A word that should be brought back is "joint" for place or establishment or room. It's a word that instantly conjures an entire world of old New York. It comes from the Irish word for protection or shelter, a place with a roof, such as in the root of the Irish word for penthouse, Eugene O'Neill was another huge name in early American pop culture. His plays were also high art, but riddled with Irish themes and language. His favorite word for money was jack, which is a straight-up glom from the Irish tiach, or money or purse. A guy with a jack-roll, was a guy with a wad of cash, spoondoolies or dollars, rolled up. Spoondoolie is one of those old slang words that got resurrected recently in video games, along with Simolions, the currency of Sim City, an urban planning computer fantasy. They're weird English takes on Irish Gaelic expression for a big pile of money or suim oll amháin.
Not everyone is hip to the process where words in one language get misheard and pronounced differently in the new language. In Irish if you want make sure someone understands your meaning, you say, Diggin tú? It's a normal phrase you hear at the end of sentences all the time. In America, An duigeann tú? Became Diggin you? or You dig? It takes a certain knack to understand how closely related the concepts and sounds of tuig and dig are to each other. Most scholars go by their goofy hunch, that tells them that Irish Gaelic is some dead language no one ever spoke. In fact, it was the first language of most Irish Americans that came here in the big flood of Irish after the famine, when that famine adversely targeted Irish-speaking areas first and foremost, sending Irish speakers to America before anyone. In the anti-Gaelic mind, Irish language is a queer idea, and way too vast a thing to even engage--easier to kill it than to incorporate it into an academic's repertoire of reference. The academic makes this decision usually because he or she is already burdened with three centuries of censorious English state propoganda about the meaning and origin of Anglo-American civilization, which did not come about like their poets' tell us it did.
I want to understand mermaids, and I suspect Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill might be one. The Irish poet around whom all other Irish poets school--as readers and translators--came to NYU's Ireland House on a torrential night of rain this Saturday past. We came to hear her talk about and read from her new book, The Fifty Minute Mermaid. She spoke in two languages. Her primary language is Irish, which has as many words for water, as the Eskimo have for snow. She is immersed in the language as in an acquatic universe. Her poetry catches listeners like Ogma, who would drag them by fish hooks chained from his own tongue to theirs.
I have very strange ideas about Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill. I only know her from the poems I've read and studied as my first real work at learning Irish. She writes of tongues in Irish, where the word She said the Irish people lost something in translation. Imagine parents speaking nothing but broken English to their children, lest they be infected with the disease of their own language. Much feeling that once had voice, was lost in the broken language. This was how Irish was taken from so many Irish people in the years of independence, in the wake of the famine. Shame shut Irish out, cut off their tails, and left them afraid of the water, on an island, that once enjoyed a native haute cuisine of fish.
The poems Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill read were like magical medical reports on the trauma done mermaids. It was a fifty minute therapy session, as the book she read from--Fifty Minute Mermaid--is a diagnosis by a poet with enormous imagination.
Saint Patrick died on March 17th, and so Hibernophiles, lovers of Irish tradition, around the world raise their glasses, and remember the man that banished the snakes of human sacrifice and slavery from Ireland.
We are a diaspora over the world, and Ireland is a cherished place to us. May all Irish learn to be learnéd in ár ndúchais, owr nookush, our heritage, arís, areesh, again, so that green Ireland will not be severed from its roots. Éireann go Brách, Of Ireland forever.
That's Berní talking with John Joe Daly about her son in grade school who's bullying other children, and stealing things and stuff like that. It's a still shot of a scene from part 1 of episode 11.03, which you can watch here. The Irish language television station has been revamped on-line, and the Flash interface makes it so easy now to watch.
That's Tadhg there with his wife. He's the owner of Tigh Thadhg, the pub his son Jason is talking about turning from a traditional haunt into a techno thing. Tadhg is publican and undertaker in Ros na Rún and is trying to get his son Jason to elevate his game from DJing, and take on the family business. You can watch the episode 09.03, here.
That's Adelaide who was left standing on the altar, and came back to hit Mack with the news later-on, that she was pregnant with their baby. He's trying to be up-standing, and support her as the father, but he only wants to be friends. Adelaide has issues. You can watch the episode here. It gets messy when Adelaide starts using the baby to restore the relationship, but Mack is not having it. Watch them try to figure it out in part 2 of the 11.03 episode, here.
Flute and bodhrán player Kieran Munnelly sat down in an informal exchange between musicians with Bobby McFerrin. Thanks to Kathleen Biggins of WFUV's A Thousand Welcomes for posting this gem of good will and music.
The exchange between Irish rhythms, melodies and Black rhythms and melodies is one of the earliest experiments in the history of modern popular music. The first musical theater came from this exchange, and this is how tap dance was invented, between step dancers from Ireland and Black dance masters getting jiggy together in Manhattan not so long ago.
In a similar vein, Irish traditional musicians Liam Ó Maonlaí and Paddy Keenan, traveled to Africa as part of a documentary, that explores the African and Irish musical traditions together. You can watch that documentary online, here.
Séamus Blake's Míle Fáilte is New York City's only bi-lingual Irish Gaelic radio program, broadcast from his native Bronx across the tri-state region and across the world via an archive of his broadcasts available on-line--here. His program is chock full of media from the universe of Irish language music and literature, while connecting up the Gaeilgeoirí and their friends to what's the latest from Ireland's most interesting cultural movement--the re-popularization of our heritage's language.
I sat down with Séamus in Manhattan to learn about his life, his family from Clare and to pick his brain for better insight into the Irish language movement. I've broken the interview, which was four hours of enlightening conversation, into morsels that you can play and listen-in on yourself.
In the first clip embedded below this paragraph, I asked Séamus to speak to me about his family from Clare. His parents were emigrants from the west of the county to the South Bronx where he grew up. He speaks about John Walsh's study from 1926 on Irish speaking in that area of Ireland, and on the extensive Gaeltachtaí in that era, which numbered nine counties at the time. Blake's family were in the middle of the language shift that would reduce Ireland's Irish-speaking community dramatically during, ironically, the post-colonial period. Economic factors and psychological issues of self-worth affected parents who felt it advantageous to speak little or broken English to their children, rather than their native language. Bi-lingualism was not understood, or rejected as an option. He speaks of the Gaelic League and Seán Ó Tuama's analysis of the learning community from middle class Ireland and their relationship to the dialects spoken natively by people living in the west. He speaks about the caighdeánach and the standardization of the language, and great writers like Máirtín Ó Cadhain who wrote in his own dialect, and was Blake's teacher at Trinity.
The conversation will continue, and next time with more Irish on my part. Know this about Séamus Blake: he has been broadcasting bi-lingually in Irish since 1978. He has lived on the Árainn Islands and was a Fulbright scholar for two years at Dublin's Trinity College. He has been a teacher and lecturer at Queens College, NYU, John Jay College and The Gaelic Society of New York. Currently, he is a tenured professor at Nassau County Community College; the Irish Language Editor of the quarterly academic journal 'New Hibernia Review;' and the senior bibliographer of the Celtic section for the annual Modern Language Association bibliography. Less than a year ago, Irish America magazine named him with Bono, Van Morrison and Gabriel Byrne on the Global Top 100 list for his towering achievements and contributions to Irish American heritage, which, comes from Ireland and can persist, as it has with him so tirelessly, here in a new world.
The Irish live in a much wider area than just Manhattan in the lár (urban center). Traditional Irish music events such as the seisiún and the céilí pop up all over the region at various times. This is an incomplete list, but a good place to get started.
The list below works well with Maureen Donnachie's Ceol agus Rince calendar, which can be found here, and compiles gatherings happening among the musicians, listeners and dancers around town that create the unique seisiún and céilí culture of New York City.
A seisiún is an event (imeacht, imockt) where Irish traditional musicians go to play tunes from the large traditional repertoire. The audience can be a listening crowd, or when they're not, a threatening din.
What's happening is the launch of an extraordinary new genre of multi-media literature, The West: a collection of short fiction by Eddie Stack which is now available as an iPhone app. It contains an ebook of seven short stories, 60 minutes of spoken word with music by Martin Hayes & Dennis Cahill; the song Memories by Ron Kavana and several digital paintings by Phillip Morrison. This is excitingly new. The format collides music, literature and painting to an iPhone experience that brings you back to a different place. It's inspiring, and it is just the format to capture the spirit of collaborative art produced in a traditional pub like Ó Tuama kept in Penal Times or John B. Keane owned in Listowel, where music and spoken word are hand in hand.
Here is an excerpt from the IM-interview you can read in whole further below:
Where are you from?
The Irish language is in a strange state nowadays, especially when it comes to native speakers raising children. More people know how to conduct themselves in the language than you would ever think by visiting Ireland, and yet more and more children in the Gaeltacht are shunning it as a first language, because the larger society has severely debilitating shame-issues that make speaking Irish in public in Ireland less normal than speaking émigré languages there. The message given to kids in Ireland is still such that English is normal, and Irish is to be turned off in most situations on the street. Add to that the unmet demand for Gaelscoileanna, where parents want more and more to send their children to Irish-medium schools because the education is better, but the government won't build them in time, preferring lip-service and no-hope waiting lists.
New York City is the perfect place for such attitudes to be diagnosed and cured, because languages flourish here, especially among school children, where bi-lingualism is a right, and something to be proud of and to use. More and more Irish in New York, and people from any heritage at all, can see Irish language as a resource skill. It's here that people realize that learners of Irish gain access to Europe where it is an official language, access to the Irish media universe which is truly unique and compelling, and access to a global community of Irish speakers networked in major cities across the world--not to mention access to the Irish speaking community in Ireland which is popping up proudly all across the island despite the unfathomable kibosh against public Irish speaking over there.
It is not the usual skill, and such unusual skills are what make children stand-out on applications to presitigious universities, such as Harvard, which is but one of scores across the United States and world, where Celtic, Gaelic and Irish studies programs are flourishing with growing budgets and expanding missions.
The Irish traditional music community of New York esteems the source musicians who come to town from Ireland, and when Matt Cranitch came to visit from his native Cork this past weekend, the fiddlers were assembled, sessions organized, and a master class offered to draw water directly from the well. Cranitch is the one of the world's foremost authorities on the distinctive style of Irish fiddle that comes from the Sliabh Luachra nexus in the Cork-Kerry-Limerick border lands.
The event that was his visit was made possible by Phil Weir, a Scotsman with a passion for learning traditional musics. Weir is bringing the Cape Breton master, Stan Chapman to town soon--stay tuned. When Cranitch landed at JFK, he was whisked from plane to cab to Union Square, in time to lead the seisiún there that happens every Saturday afternoon, started by fellow Corkonian Donie Carroll and promoted by the very friendly banjo player Dan Neely. Some of the pictures from that seisiún were taken by Michael Leahy who stopped in with his camera. The pictures from the class were taken by Marian Lawlor.
The next day, Weir had set up a master class, and signed up more than twenty fiddlers from across the tri-state area to sit-in on Cranitch's instructive session. His teaching style is reknowned, and he is the author of a brilliant book on Irish fiddle, which can be found here.
Cranitch comes from an Irish-speaking family steeped in the music. He grew up attending fleadhanna cheoil, as can be read about in an interview available on-line, here. Later, as he developed as a scholar, he became a specialist in indigenous music, and focused on the Sliabh Luachra style where he was born. He was tutored by Mick Duggan, whom he would make the subject of his academic work. He studied original manuscripts by Pádraig O'Keefe, the great Sliabh Luachra fiddler from Gleantan, Castleisland, just down the road from where my mother grew up in Ballymacelligott.
Since then, he has been a member of many iconic bands, such as Na Filí, with which he released an album of slow airs with Gael Linn called Aisling Gheal. That was followed by three more albums: Any Old Time, Phoenix and Crossing with various other artists. In 1994, Sliabh Notes was formed and they released their first CD shortly thereafter. His return to academic work in the research of indigineous music, came in the wake of the success of his Fiddle Book, and a meeting with Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin. He was awarded a Senior Research Scholarship from the Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences and is recognized as one the great musicians and scholars who understand Irish traditional music from its core, at the roots of regional style.
Colm Tóibín's new appointment at Princeton University ensures he will be in New York with more frequency we can hope, and it's an opportunity to hear the great Irish author speak when he comes to town. I was lucky to catch his talk at NYU's Ireland House a fortnight ago, where he was on hand to meet his many many fans. Everyone at the event seemed to have his new book "Brooklyn" on their laps, and the room was alive with knowing laughter when he referred to Éilís and other characters from this book about exile, because Tóibín is a storyteller with a loving following.
I've read "Blackwater Lightship," and the memory of the women in that book will never leave me. That's why I have to read "Mothers & Sons," because it promises more of his famous power for empathy. "The Master" was an audio book for me, some books I want to be told to me as by a storyteller from a time when people gathered to listen to literature. It's about a fateful period in the life of Henry James by an equally prolific novelist and essayist. (You can have a little bit of that experience, as Tóibín reads excerpts from "Brooklyn" in the embedded lecture below.) I have read many essays by Tóibín, who writes widely and masterfully. His latest book, "Brooklyn," I now have, and will begin reading this week, at home in that very borough. The characters of "Brooklyn" are not necessarily at home there, but are in that liminal place between home and the emigrant's new life abroad.
It's about a woman who leaves Tóibín's hometown in Wexford to find a new life here. Ireland House was emotionally charged when he spoke, as so many seemed to share these exile experiences, and at the end, Tóibín made a connection with a woman (pictured to the right with her son) whose relative was on the golf team back home with his own aunt, a model for the book's main character. You can see Tóibín looking very happily and nostalgically at a black and white photo she had brought with her, that showed the friends in golf gear at the clubhouse in Enniscorthy.
Eileen Reilly, the Associate Director of Ireland House, (pictured to the left) has kindly made the entire audio from the event available to readers of this column. That is her voice introducing Tóibín, and you can listen to Tóibín's discussion just below: