Saturday, June 22, 2013

Dingle Library and Catholic Church

Irish Potato Famine

I have been on a trek to learn more about Ireland's famines, particularly the one Jonathan Swift referenced in A Modest Proposal and the last famine, known as the Irish Potato Famine. I traveled to Skibbereen yesterday and learned there were a total of 13 famines in Ireland's modern history. However, the potato famine stands out because it led to a mass emigration from Ireland. At one time Ireland's population was over 8 million and now it is down to 3-4 million. The truth is an island the size of Ireland cannot support a large population. The population will most likely not fully recover.  The complexities of this is in relation to families and connectedness within and without families. In Oklahoma many people claim Irish heritage and most likely their ancestors came to America during the Irish Potato Famine. Another point I learned yesterday is that Ireland was actually exporting food during this famine. It probably would not have been enough to sustain the hungry Irish but it did send a message of lack of priorities to the common man.  I am researching stories as well and read an interesting story yesterday about how some people were mistaken for dead during the famine and buried alive.  One three year old boy was buried and found alive three days later. He remained crippled his whole life, most likely from his mother breaking his legs to fit inside the small coffin. I have his name in my notes but can't recall it at the moment. Today, I traveled on to Dingle to visit the library and the Catholic Church. The library has many, many books documenting stories from the famines. I was able to spend time there making notes and learning.  The interesting tie to the Catholic Church is that this particular church in Dingle (probably most for that matter) served as a soup kitchen of sorts for the people. They served soups and breads to the hungry. Mothers brought children in the morning for breakfast before sending them off to school. As a sude note, even today in Ireland, students rarely are served lunch at school. I will post pictures as I switch from my iPad to my phone.  

Friday, June 21, 2013

Clonakilty and Skibbereen

This beach is very near the launching point for Irish immigration to America, many leaving after the Great Potato Famine. I will write more about the Famine and these locations as I have time. 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

James Joyce Museum and the Writers Museum

After Bloom's Day at Liz's, we went to a fundraiser and had a Joyce breakfast of egg, tomato, bacon, black and white pudding (nope-I didn't eat either), kidney and onions and toast. We left there and went to Dublin to the Joyce museum and the Dublin Writer's Museum. I did not realize how many reknown authors hail from Ireland. I took pictures in both places. The Joyce Center was great, allowing photos, but I took several pictures in the Writer's museum before I saw the sign about no photographs.  I learned so much about Joyce's book Ulysses while in Dublin. The following include a sketch of Oscar Wilde and a first edition of Bram Stoker's Dracula

Bloom's Day--Celebrating James Joyce around the world

June 16th Dublin is the setting for James Joyce's masterpiece Ulysses. One reason I am in Ireland is to learn about Joyce and his writing, which is why staying in his childhood home in Bray was such a delight. We woke on June 16th and had Victorian ladies coming to our door for a visit before the morning activities started. Each lady sang a song and shared their background with me. One lady was in a creative writing class with my host Liz and also performs in a show at the various festivals in Ireland.

At 10:30 we moved to the front lawn where quite a group of people met to celebrate Ulysses. They read or performed passages from the novel or shared their own personal connections to Joyce. It was inspiring to see young and old alike celebrating.

Friday, June 14, 2013


Today, after landing in Dublin and getting my bearings, my husband drove us to Trim where we toured Trim Castle, largest Norman castle in Ireland) also the setting for Mel Gibson's Braveheart). But for me the highlight will be tomorrow going to discover where Jonathan Swift lived and worked. His love, Stella, had a cottage here too. My students read A Modest Proposal about the Irish potato famine. I will look for ways to bring true stories from Ireland back to use in that unit. They also might read Gulliver's Travels as well. Speaking of Gulliver's Travels, I heard a program on NPR related to sleep, the mind, little people, and Jonathan Swift. Seems he believed little people emerged into a world he could observe during his sleep. He would fall asleep in a certain position in order to rouse them. These nightly events led to Gulliver's Travels.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Telling the story

Today, I am at the airport in Tulsa waiting for a delayed flight. Fortunately, I learned through my other travels to have two hour layovers for international flights. So the delay should not be a problem. 

I have thought and thought about this trip. How do I find the story, my story? There certainly will be things to write about but my purpose is to write creatively. Learn to write fiction. I am still nervous about writing short stories. But this opportunity will definitely help me with this weakness and make me stronger in the classroom. My workshop will be with a woman who just published her ninth novel. My host is also published. I will be in great hands.