The Sunday Salon: Literary Ireland

On December 29th, after a semester learning about Irish film, literature, and history, I set off on a two and a half week tour of Ireland and Northern Ireland. I have a lot of issues with travel, so I was delighted to find that I actually enjoyed myself (besides the stomach cramps and Martian death flu, of course) and I spent a lot of time thinking, as well as rushing about from site to site with my tour group. Because we covered so much ground, my coverage of my trip will take up a few posts—three, most likely, but perhaps more if more comes back to me.

A lot of the “literary” part of “Literary Ireland” consisted of us reading poetry at important sites. I read at the Hill of Tara, where the banquet hall used to be, and in front of Countess Markievicz’s cell at Kilmainham Gaol, among other sites. Our site visits were a lot of historical sites, for obvious reasons, which I was over the moon about—I love cathedrals and castles, especially ruined ones. I even kissed two of them, little Galadriel blessing kisses. (You can take the woman from her The Lord of the Rings, but you can’t…) But we did visit several sites of literary interest.

We spent several days in Dublin at the beginning and at the end of the trip—I’ll be devoting an entire Sunday Salon to Chapters, the most fantastic independent bookstore. On New Year’s Day, we went to the Dublin Writers Museum. I’d actually been before; to celebrate my high school graduation, my parents and I travelled to England and Ireland. (My photos from that trip consist of the sky, the landscape, and photos of me standing in front of things in County Clare.) To be honest, it’s not my favorite—it offers a brief overview of Irish authors and has a pretty sizable collection of their possessions, but it’s a very small space. It’s still worth a visit, though. Unfortunately, photography wasn’t allowed, so here’s a photo from Glasnevin Cemetery to make up for that. (There were several graves with the exact same statuary. Awkward.)

The next day, we left Dublin to make Waterford by nightfall. (Yes, we did go to Waterford Crystal, and, yes, I did break a glass.) For tea, we stopped in Laragh at the Wicklow Heather Restaurant and dined in their Writers’ Room. It’s a lovely room with cabinets practically stuffed with first and other rare editions of Irish writers’ works, including a first edition of James Joyce’s Ulysses (one of seven hundred and fifty!), a book of Yeats’ poetry signed and inscribed by him, and, of course, an Oscar Wilde cabinet. (I’d mention Samuel Beckett, but I find him cruel, so there.) This is a copy of Rennell Rodd’s poetry collection Rose Leaf and Apple Leaf, which has an introduction by Oscar Wilde; the inscription reads, “To Madame, with my best compliments, Oscar Wilde”. I’ve seen and read his handwriting! Swoon.

A few days later, we visited Coole Park, the home of Lady Gregory and a famous haunt of W. B. Yeats. We got there late, so the light was fading fast, but I actually enjoyed that. With Lady Gregory’s home missing, the dense, dark trees, and a variable lake, there was something romantically spooky about it. We had to walk past a thick copse of woods to get to the lake to do our reading; I tried to get photos of its freaky atmosphere, but alas, they didn’t come out. This is Lady Gregory’s autograph tree, which features her own signature, her husband’s, Yeats’, and George Bernard Shaw’s. Yeats’ autograph should be directly under that ten.

My notes start to fail me here, as I’d contracted my Martian death flu and spent my time either suffering under the pressure of my sinuses or spacing out under the influence of decongestants. Whee! But while in Sligo around the ninth, we visited W. B. Yeats’ grave in Drumcliff. (I, shamefully, nodded off in St. Columba where we were listening to a lecture; again, sick as a dog.) Several of our members read appropriate poetry here. This is a photo of the memorial in front of the church, which I quite liked.

Back in Dublin at the very end of our trip, we had a free day. My friend Isobel and I visited several museums, which were delightful (bog bodies!), but we had tea at a cafe we just randomly found on Grafton Street. Imagine my surprise when the stained glass windows inside bore a striking resemblance to the art of Harry Clarke, one of my favorite illustrators (some of his originals were on display in the National Gallery!). Of course, they were actual pieces of his, and the cafe, Bewley’s, has a fantastic literary heritage. It’s mentioned in Dubliners and Patrick Kavanagh often visited, as did Beckett. (Hsss!) It was a delightful treat to just stumble across it, especially as the last major literary site of the trip.

And that’s it for the first installment. Next week, I’ll be talking about seeing Little Women at the Gate Theater in Dublin.

This week has been my first full week of classes. I’m pretty tired at the moment, but it’s nice to finally be back into the swing of things. (And being able to claim an elliptical machine for myself every other morning has definitely helped.) I did manage to mess up my back pretty badly in Ireland from sleeping on the bus and generally being poor to it, which will take a few more chiropractic appointments to fix. I also managed to book my hotel room for Dragon*Con this week and I ended up liveblogging the Florida Republican Debate for my school newspaper, which was… interesting. I’m just about to polish off Mélusine, but I don’t know what I’ll be starting on next…

TheOneRing.Net is giving away a statue of Gandalf the Grey until Wednesday. The Baen Free Library is full of free downloads, including The Shadow of the Lion and On Basilisk Station. Night Shade Books is offering Butcher Bird and Grey as free downloads at the moment. Vertigo Comics is offering free downloads of the first issue of several series, including Fables, The Unwritten, and Y: The Last Man. (And you will go download The Unwritten.) Small Beer Press offers several of their books as free downloads, including Kelly Link’s Magic for Beginners. If I’ve missed your giveaway or freebie, drop me a line!

Is there any you’d like me to elaborate on in future posts about my trip?

8 thoughts on “The Sunday Salon: Literary Ireland

  1. Oh yes, Chapters is wonderful! I could have spent days rather than just a few hours there. I’ve only been to Dublin and would love to see more of Ireland some day. It won’t happen for a while, so in the meantime I’ll enjoy your recaps 🙂

  2. Ooh it sounds absolutely wonderful. I would love to see Ireland at some point… hopefully soon! I’m sorry you weren’t feeling well… enjoy the new semester!

  3. Pingback: The Sunday Salon: Little Women « The Literary Omnivore

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