by Karen Daly
Photos by Cat Dwyer
We tried not to mention the recent heat wave but we do want to thank the terrific presenters and appreciative audience who came to the mid-August IAW&A Salon at the Cell on a steamy New York night. They were rewarded with a program featuring several poets, singers, fiction writers and two glimpses of growing up Irish American.
It’s safe to say that the emotional heart of the night of the 16th belonged to a special guest, Guatemalan-American filmmaker Luis Argueta. “Abrazos,” the second documentary film in his immigration trilogy, shows a group of children who travel from the U.S. to Guatemala to meet their grandparents, cousins and in some instances, siblings, for the first time. Luis showed a few minutes of the film and entertained our many questions about his work and about the families shown in “Abrazos.” By the way, “abrazos” means “hugs” and salon-goers, all of us descended from immigrants, did embrace Luis and his work.
In honor of “The Races of Castlebar” in August of 1798, when the French landed in Mayo to help the United Irish rebellion, Salon producer and the night’s host John Kearns cleverly taught some Irish history in an excerpt from his novel in progress, “Worlds.” John’s character Seamus Logan entertains his fellow steerage passengers with tales of the first heady days when the Irish and French armies first took Ballina and later forced the Redcoats to break ranks and flee from the county seat, Castlebar.
Kathleen O’Sullivan presented two iMovies from her charming illustrated memoir about her childhood on Isham Street in Upper Manhattan. In “Flushed,” she’s a kindergartener traumatized by the long marches to the bathroom with the whole class and the resulting lack of privacy. In “Learning to Pray,” the young Kathleen, drying dishes with her mother, practicing her prayers, begs her mother to say a certain prayer to “Cheeses.”
Another presenter who stepped back in time to his childhood, Mark Donnelly shared a funny monologue about his boyhood desire to be a cowboy. Complete with hat and bandanna, Mark showed the audience why Gene Autry and Roy Rogers were kid favorites in the 1950s.
A poet published in the Paris Review and other magazines and publications here and abroad, William Leo Coakley read his poem “Votive” about a widow lighting a votive candle in an Irish church. Then he read from an unpublished novel by his late friend Mary Bringle, “The Children’s Bullet.” Set during the Troubles in Belfast, it describes a visitor and a family being invaded by what William calls “the delicate British troops.” Bringle wrote more than 20 novels including “Hacks at Lunch” and “Murder Most Gentrified” and based on the sample, we agree that “The Children’s Bullet” deserves to find a publisher.
Bernadette Cullen, an adjunct professor at the College of New Rochelle, read three poems: “So Many Questions,” “If Only We Could” and “A Deep Thirst,” an evocation of how to greet the day after a long night.
Versatile singer/actress Ryan Cahill— she studied acting and musical theater at the HB Studios, performed off Broadway and in light opera companies—sang two folk songs: “My Johnny Was A Shoemaker,” in which a woman hopes that her intended will return from his navy service as a decorated officer and marry her. In “The Bird Song,” birds of all shape and size converse, sometimes sidetracked, about the art of love and courting.
Saluting his muse with the poem, “She,” John Anthony Brennan offers his poem in recognition of “all Muses without whose inspiration and encouragement we as artists would surely struggle much harder.” “Gullion: Mountain of the Slopes”, is John’s tribute to Sleive Gullion, the ancient volcanic mountain that played an important role in Irish history, mythology and folklore, and which sits near John’s hometown of Crossmaglen, Co. Armagh. Buy John’s memoir.
Andre Archimbaud says that while he carries a very French name, he carries Ireland in his heart. He revealed that heart tonight by reading two tribute poems: “A Lot of Everything” for a friend’s late mother, and “My Luck of the Irish” about his uncle, Ken Corrigan.
Actor/singer/writer Annalisa Chamberlain’s new passion project is building a portfolio of classical and folk music. Tonight she shared a sample with “Then You’ll Remember Me” from M. W. Balfe and Alfred Bunn’s 1843 opera “The Bohemian Girl, ending the Salon on a clear, sweet note.
The next salon will be on Thursday, Sept. 1, at 7 p.m., at Bar Thalia on Broadway at 95th Street.