Excitement and Relief at “Global Ireland” Reading

Filed under: Blog |

Cory Kruse, Prairie Schooner intern, reviews the extraordinary appreciation and appreciation of the extraordinary of all things Ireland during Prairie Schooner's "Global Ireland" poetry reading on March 28th at UNL's Great Plains Art Museum. 

Stepping into the Great Plains Art Museum last Thursday evening for Prairie Schooner’s “Global Ireland” poetry reading, I didn’t know quite what to expect. Having never previously attended such an event—and as an avid reader of prose, not poetry—my expectations didn’t stretch far beyond the assumption that I would listen to Irish poets read their work. The event proved to be much more than just this, however. The poets—Ray McManus, Drucilla Wall, and Eamonn Wall—actively engaged with an eager and receptive audience of nearly ninety people in a way that was accessible, informative, and inspiring. Reading work that covers a diverse range of topics and issues, landscapes, and themes, each provided a brilliant display of poetic talent—and of the human spirit.

Ray McManus, author of Driving through the country before you are born and Red Dirt Jesus, was the first to read from his collections, providing a look into what it was like to grow up in the South as an Irish-American from a working-class family, and what it means to form an identity. Using humor, as well as biblical allusions, he explored this theme—coming of age—in a way that was fun, relatable, and poignant. Second was Drucilla Wall, the author of The Geese at the Gates (featuring poems that were written during her time studying at UNL). Addressing a range of topics—from environmental concerns and an appreciation for the landscape, to the “indomitable way” in which human relationships impact our lives—Drucilla stirred the audience with her exploration of the extraordinary found in the ordinary and in “turning something over in our souls” through being open and receptive to every moment. Eamonn Wall, Drucilla’s husband and author of Sailing Lake Mareotis and A Tour of Your Country, among many other titles, capped the evening on an especially high note, sharing his work on Ireland and on personal experiences and memory. “Wedding Dance” described a traditional Irish wedding, what Eamonn called “the second most exciting event in Ireland—just behind a wake.” In “All the Worshippers,” he recalled a time of walking through the city on a Sunday morning and reflecting on the glory of the little things, that all things can serve as worship. “4 Stern Faces, South Dakota” told of a family road trip to the Black Hills, and the complicated and multi-faceted feelings such a trip evoked.

Thursday night’s reading was a special one—a triumphant one. People arrived early and stayed late, seeking an opportunity afterwards to speak with the three poets and to receive autographs. Even for a poetry novice, the event was moving, exciting. It awoke within me a new appreciation and respect for poetry—almost relief born of the realization that even I, who knew next to nothing about poetry, could engage with, and be moved by, this impressive and dynamic form of literature. Throughout the night, and for many hours after, I yearned for more.