Celtic Junction Arts Review
Issue 10, Imbolc 2020
Archiving and Articulating Celtic Heritage
In this issue:
Acting Locally, Engaging Globally · Irish College of MN Registers 300th Student · Aonach Mhacha · A Connemara Summer · Ruminations on the Penelope Episode of James Joyce’s “Ulysses” · Journey to Uncertainty · Ireland Inspired · Smile by Roddy Doyle, a Book Review
Welcome to the February 2020 Imbolc edition of the Celtic Junction Arts Review
Like one of James J. Hill’s unstoppable 1880s train engines billowing smoke as it careens and bellows (‘Come on, Ireland! Come on, Minnesota! Yes, we can!’) across the chilly prairie, our dynamic cultural center in St. Paul, Minnesota is indefatigably contributing to the global conversation and expanding footprint of Irish culture, heritage, and economic development.
This is very evident in our first article “Acting Locally, Engaging Globally” by the Celtic Junction Arts Center’s Executive Director, Natalie Nugent O’Shea. She provides an insightful overview of significant meetings of the Midwest Association of Irish Cultural Centers in Chicago in November 2019 and the National Irish Cultural Centers of North America in New York in January 2020 that she attended hosted by Ireland’s consular services where the regional, national, and international energy currents animating Irish culture were articulated. The Chicago meeting was addressed by Ireland’s Ambassador, Dan Mulhall, who described the remarkable transformation in Ireland’s prosperity and confidence over the last 41 years since he first joined the diplomatic service. The Irish government, he asserted, is actively promoting a Global Ireland strategic initiative to deepen and energize its Irish diaspora, particularly in America. In New York, the attendees were addressed by Christine Sisk, Director of Culture Ireland, and Patricia Philbin, CEO of Galway 2020 as that city begins its year as the European Capital of Culture further demonstrating Ireland’s confidence as a bustling European nation and the Irish diaspora in America is encouraged to contribute its support and presence.
Then I offer a brief celebration of the progress made by the Irish College of Minnesota since classes were offered in the McKiernan Library beginning in August 2017 as we passed a substantial milestone in our Winter quarter in January 2020 when we recorded our 300th registered student, Sue Clarke, in Lavinia Finnerty’s Irish T.E.G. class. We look forward to getting our 500th registered student later this year.
Réamonn Ó Ciaráin, chairperson of Aonach Mhacha, the new Irish language cultural center in Armagh City in Northern Ireland gives an account of its genesis and ambitions now that its state of the art £2.25 million building will be opening in early March, 2020. He visited us at the Irish Fair of Minnesota in August 2019 and toured Celtic Junction and donated to the Irish College and the McKiernan Library his magnificent book, Cúchulainn Ulster’s Greatest Hero (Gael Linn 2017), a retelling of mythological tales from the ancient Ulster Cycle. Deepening our international connections and bridging Minnesota with Ireland, Celtic Junction Arts Center will begin an exchange and partnership of people and ideas with this new center as the year unfolds.
Kate (Cáit) Daly, a diligent Irish language student of the Irish College’s classes taught by Tom Jeffers and Lavinia Finnerty in her charming article “A Connemara Summer” offers a magical account of her studies in Connemara in 2019 where she attended a month long immersive summer language program run by the National University of Ireland – Galway in An Cheathrú Rua.
Mary McCormick, a local writer and regular participant in the literature and history classes held by the Irish College, provides a meditation on her reading of James Joyce’s monumental modernist novel, Ulysses (1922) and her memories of her maternal grandmother, Mary Kathryn Colleran whose wit and Irish-inflected phrasings reminded her of the unsinkable Molly Bloom. This grandmother, like Joyce’s spouse, Nora Barnacle, was an assertive and caustic Galway girl.
Jane Kennedy, a Minnesota-based researcher into the roots of Irish emigration, offers an astute and compelling historical account of the difficulties faced by impoverished Connemara emigrants in the harsh winter of 1880 after journeying more than 3700 miles from the west of Ireland to western Minnesota. This is one of the most poignant episodes in Irish emigration history to this state and the controversy over their treatment garnered national headlines at the time and tarnished the reputation of Archbishop John Ireland whose response to their plight was ambivalent at best.
Kate O’Donnell, a student and artist from St. Paul, Minnesota now studying at the University of Manitoba in Canada, explores her significant emotional and spiritual bonds to Ireland. She attended primary school at Our Lady of Good Counsel school in south Dublin and she illuminates in her radiant and beautiful art her reflections on Ireland’s landscapes and vistas.
Lily O’Donnell, a student and writer from St. Paul, Minnesota (and sister to Kate O’Donnell) now studying at the University of Winnipeg, writes a review of Roddy Doyle’s novel Smile (Viking 2017) about Victor Forde, a troubled and recently divorced middle-aged man. Her own memories of visiting and studying and socializing in Dublin enriches her appreciation of Doyle’s bristling wit and psychological observations. Doyle, one of the leading voices in contemporary Irish fiction, is famous for his early novels The Commitments and The Snapper and won the Booker Prize for Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha (1993).
Please enjoy the variety of voices in this edition articulating the energy animating Irish culture whether in St. Paul, Graceville, Chicago, New York, Armagh, Winnipeg, Dublin, or Connemara. Yes, we can!
Patrick O’Donnell – Editor, contributing writer, and founder of the Celtic Junction Arts Review; Director and founder of the annual Irish Arts Week; and, Director of Education and founder of CJAC’s Irish College of Minnesota (and proud father of Lily and Kate O’Donnell.)