Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Gift

In the early part of the afternoon I went to the International Street Performers Competition, which was located in and around Merrion Square. It was great to see people so enthusiastic about many different kinds of performers- some of whom were pretty out there. There was one guy from New Zealand who could dislocate his shoulder and put his whole body through a tennis racket. He ended his performance balancing on a giant chest of drawers that was on a roller while juggling two fiery batons and a machete- the crowd went wild!

After that, I stopped by the National Gallery of Ireland. They had a small but very nice collection of Irish art as well as art from around the world. I was a little disappointed that Caravaggio's The Taking of Christ had been borrowed for an exhibition in Rome- I was looking forward to seeing it. One great thing that I did discover was that I really like the work of Jack B. Yeats, an Irish painter who was the brother of William Butler Yeats. I had never seen his work in person before and seeing it gave me a much better sense of this style.

The lawn of the National Gallery.

A statue of George Bernard Shaw- one of the few works I was allowed to photograph.

In the evening, Leila and I went on the Dublin Literary Pub Crawl. Our tour guides were two actors who gave us a history of the pubs and pub culture in Dublin, acted out scenes from Irish plays, recited Irish poetry, and asked us trivia questions along the way. Their excerpt from Beckett's Waiting for Godot (they pronounce it GAH-doe, with the emphasis on the first syllable, as opposed to guh-DOE) was excellent-very physically comedic. They talked about "the pub, the poet, and the pint," the way in which the three are intertwined. Despite the stereotype of the Irish being drunk all the time, the pub is actually integrated into the culture in a beautiful way, I think. The pub isn't just about getting drunk- it's about conversing with your neighbors about what's happening in the city and the rest of the world. It's about community. During the Irish War for Independence, the Irish leader Michael Collins used to go to the pub to get all his information about the British- that's how tight-knit the social network was.

Needless to say, the life of the pub has been and continues to be an important influence on the Irish writer, the place where many writers such as Joyce and Wilde fine-tuned their wit. The impact of the pub and the city on the writer is eloquently articulated in a poem called "The Gift," written by Brendan Kennelly:

It came slowly
Afraid of insufficient self-content,
Or some inherent weakness in itself,
small and hesitant,
Like children at the top of the stairs,
It came through shops, rooms, temples,
Streets; places that were badly-lit,
It was a gift that took me unawares,
And I accepted it.

This poem was beautifully recited to us by Colm, one of our tour guides. He also gave a beautiful reading of Seamus Heaney's "Mid-Term Break" (check it out if you haven't read it, it's pretty intense).

We stopped at several historic pubs along the way.

I just really like taking pictures of Guinness...

One of our stops was Davy Byrnes! Here's the inscription on the window of the passage from Ulysses.

At the end of the tour, they had a final trivia quiz. One of the questions was-surprise, surprise-"name the three Nobel Prize winners in literature other than Heaney,"and because of that, I won the grand prize- a Dublin Literary Pub Crawl T-Shirt!

Leila and I posed with Colm in front of Davy Byrnes- notice my t-shirt in-hand. I also couldn't resist picking up a copy of the Dublin Literary Pub Crawl book, a comprehensive "guide to the pubs of Dublin and the writers they served."

As the sun was setting, I grabbed this shot of the Liffey.

1 comment:

  1. Just had to say The Liffey is breathtaking at night. My brother made it his screen saver!