Yesterday, there was an event held on campus. Now, this event was one that I wasn’t going to, but at the last minute, my professor begged the class to go. So, I rearranged my schedule and I went. We were each asked to pick a poem to read. Now, it had to be an Irish poem, it didn’t have to be in Irish, but it had to be about Ireland or of Irish origin. I knew what poem I would read. It was going to be by Seamus Heaney, because he is who I did my major project on last semester, and if need be, I could talk a little bit about him. I decided to read “Scaffolding,” mainly because I didn’t want to read “Digging” or “Mid-term Break.”
Masons, when they start upon a building,
Are careful to test out the scaffolding;
Make sure that planks won’t slip at busy points,
Secure all ladders, tighten bolted joints.
And yet all this comes down when the job’s done
Showing off walls of sure and solid stone.
So if, my dear, there sometimes seems to be
Old bridges breaking between you and me
Never fear. We may let the scaffolds fall
Confident that we have built our wall.
The program opened with traditional Irish dancing (soft-shoe) and a reading from James Joyce’s “The Dead.” Yeats was a crowd favorite. One other reader chose Heaney (“Blackberry Picking,”) that comforted me. Old Irish poetry was also read. My old professor did an interactive storytelling, much like what we experienced in Salt Hill.
What makes me sad is that this reading, this celebration of art, was not greatly attended. The University has been doing different series centered around Literature. For instance, the Great Writers, Great Readers series has been a success. But, that series doesn’t allow students to get up and read something that they love. It is a great event, because students have the chance to interact with other writers. It holds a different purpose than these poetry readings though. There is also an event where students read their works, after they have been accepted into the Literary Journal, on campus. Again, this isn’t a highly publicized event.
I’m glad that I went to this reading. It was an hour and a half of appreciating great works of art with other people who also appreciate it. The quote above is attributed to Seamus Heaney, that’s probably why I picked it. But I think that it still holds true. Poetry has never changed the world, but it does change people, and people change the world. Literature is a lens that allows people to better understand society. Hopefully, these little readings will continue to grow.
The head of the Irish Studies Department, Greg Maney, reading.
Professor Navarra acting as a traditional story-teller.
A special collections librarian reading some Old Irish Poetry.