Celtic Junction Arts Review
Issue 13, Samhain 2020
Archiving and Articulating Celtic Heritage
A quarterly publication of the Irish College of MN
“I found a new life,” stated the celebrated and iconic abolitionist Frederick Douglass (1818-1895) about his 1845 four-month sojourn in Ireland. As we enter our fourth year of publication, this edition of the Arts Review celebrates such transatlantic links and bridges between Ireland and America in its articles.
Aine McCormack writes that after arriving in Ireland in 1845, Douglass met the most significant political leader of the era, the ‘Liberator,’ Daniel O’Connell (1775-1847) who warmly welcomed him and invited him to speak and share his platform at Conciliation Hall in Dublin. Douglass conducted his own lecture tour of Irish cities promoting his Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass autobiography depicting his life in slavery and his escape to Maryland. He found Irish audiences free from prejudice and open to his appeals for abolition. His regeneration and renewal in Ireland is a theme sounded in the next two articles.
Mary McCormick, a regular Arts Review writer and soon to be a new teacher of contemporary Irish fiction in the Irish College of Minnesota, examines the work and relevance of Colum McCann, one of the most significant figures in Irish and American contemporary fiction who visited Minneapolis in 2013 and again via Zoom in 2020. He is perhaps most noted for his National Book Award winning novel Let the Great World Spin from 2009. Her second article describes a visit to the mythic Hill of Uisneach and how her understanding of the poetry of William Butler Yeats (1865-1939) deepened her appreciation of its mythological significance where the goddess, Ériu (who gives her name to Erin) is, as legend claims, buried beneath a stone marker. The deep identity between Irish Americans and Irish nationals was beautifully affirmed by her local guide as he recounted a visit to New York and in conversation with a friend, he said: “They’re (Irish Americans) just like us.’ His friend said: ‘They are us. . . ‘
James Curran, a new contributing writer at the Arts Review, discusses his childhood sense of St. Paul as an Irish city, his discovery of his Curran Connemara roots and the deepening of his sense of his Irish heritage. These explorations were enhanced through taking many literature and history classes on such topics as the authors James Joyce, George Moore, and John Millington Synge and a survey/discussion class on the ‘Irish in Minnesota’ at the Irish College at Celtic Junction.
Continuing our international outreach and active linkage to our sister center in Armagh, northern Ireland, Réamonn O’ Ciaráin, director of its new cultural centre, Aonach Mhacha, concludes in this issue his three-part series of translations into Irish of scenes from Homer’s great epic of homecoming The Odyssey with “The Test of the Bed.” His previous translations were the basis of this fall quarter’s Irish class: ‘The Odyssey in Irish’ in which students translated and discussed the scenes under the watchful eye of our resident Irish College language teacher, Lavinia Finnerty.
I conclude my three-part short and compressed Irish literary history “A View from the Mississippi” discussing how Minnesota – in such figures as the schoolteacher Fenian William B. O’Donoghue buried in Rosemount – and Ireland are interconnected. The rise of nationalism in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries as O’Donoghue’s life attests had reverberations even on the Minnesota prairie. The start of the Irish Literary renaissance under the guidance of William Butler Yeats and the formation of the new Irish state following the period of turmoil from 1916-1923 propelled the creation of an extraordinary body of writing in English. Authors such as Yeats, James Joyce and Samuel Beckett raised that work to a canon of world significance.
In her article, “Instinct, Innovation, and Inspiration,” Natalie O’Shea outlines how the Junction coped with the challenges of the pandemic and created an unprecedented six-hour “stream-a-thon” fundraiser on October 24, 2020 in response to a $100,000 matching challenge offered by a friend of the Junction to create a new classroom for the Irish College by October 2021 as well as operating and reserve funds. Supporters of the Celtic Junction have raised $66,000 so far in response to that challenge.
We are very blessed with the support that has been shown CJAC in this disorienting year – as evidenced by the Heymann’s thoughtful and charming testimonial – and we are sure that our best years are ahead of us.
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.
Carillon RoseMeadows – Digital Curator, occasional contributing writer, and architect of the Celtic Junction Arts Center’s web presence.