#132: The Irish Holiday

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(Not sure what this photo is, but it came up when I searched Irish!)

It’s time to discuss the Irish holiday, St. Patrick’s Day, and its connections to me. I don’t really associate much with the holiday, considering I don’t have any Irish heritage in me (I’m pretty sure at least), but there are some parts of it that are significant to me regardless.

Let’s talk about the first one: Shamrock shakes. Indisputably one of the best elements of this entire holiday season, the shamrock shake from McDonalds is the perfect blend of peppermint goodness right into your mouth. I used to get them more frequently when the time came, but there aren’t any McDonalds near Stamford (at least that I’m willing to drive to just to get a simple peppermint shake.)

Also, at CVS, Rite Aid, and Walgreens, candy is on sale usually soon after the holiday or afterwards. Because I don’t celebrate the holiday much, I can at least celebrate a temporary candy sale when I see one.

When I went to Quinnipiac University, which has an especially large Irish heritage to it, people celebrated the holiday by visiting Aunt Chilada’s (as they would normally celebrate big occasions.) This is also around the time that the college hockey season seems to catch up to itself, which Quinnipiac absolutely looks forward to.

There was a 5k in Stamford over the weekend, complete with celebratory music in the streets and areas roped off for runners and marathoners to jog and sprint down. I went to the gym with Alex for about 40 minutes while all this was happening. That’s about the extent to which I feel comfortable running/walking at one time, so no 5ks in my future, especially not on St. Patrick’s Day.

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Meeting Desmond Egan

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Yesterday, I had the privilege of meeting and hearing from the renowned Irish poet, Desmond Egan, at the Irish Great Hunger Museum in Hamden, Connecticut. The Great Hunger Museum, which I had not visited before then, had surprised me as well. In the process, I had a great night and learned much from his performance.

When I first heard that Egan would be coming to the museum, I knew I had to go. Despite my other obligations, this one took precedence. I would have also had lunch with the man had I not decided last minute to attend my class that was occurring at the same time as the lunch instead. All of these opportunities and more, available because of a good poem and an honorable mention. It’s baffling, but so surprising!

I visited my friend Joe, and we decided to go together. First of all, the importance and magnitude of this event was displayed as soon as I read the flyer advertising it. To go, I needed to reserve a seat. Reserve! I called immediately on the day of and got the last two seats.

When I first got to the museum, I looked around and noticed all of the incredible art to be seen, a few of which really struck me. A certain large painting of red, white, and black colors called “Anguish” had a dramatic, sad effect on me. While sitting down and waiting for the performance, I noticed a few bronze models that also had a similar effect on me: they exuded depression and grief.

Before the showing, Professor Cormier, the creative writing professor at Quinnipiac, introduced me to Mr. Egan. I shook his hand and said a few words. He mentioned that he had read my poetry from the Donald Hall prize, and I was excited immediately.

During the show, Mr. Egan read many poems about the Famine of 1847-1849. It really struck me how drastic and important this event was on not just Ireland, but the United States and Europe. The depression and starvation of the Irish people lead them to emigration, and they took their feelings of grief and suffering with them. Even the environment of Ireland seemed to weep, as the famine had killed over 1 million Irish people and left even more without a home in a foreign country.

However, the show was not all serious and sad. After finishing with a poem about staying hopeful for the future of Ireland, Mr. Egan delved into simpler matters. Simpler matters, thus, means less serious, more joyful, and more every-day things. While I appreciated Mr. Egan’s insight into the famine, this part of his performance had me thinking of how great a poet and artist this man must be, to be able to switch from severely depressing to light-hearted and cheerful in a quick moment.

After an hour, he ended the performance by singing “Danny Boy” in Irish and in English. I was amazed at how multi-talented he is, but also surprised at how much more meaningful the song seems when it is sung in both languages.

While the audience was cheering, I walked up to the podium again and started to help out by selling the books of poetry he had. You could really tell how genuine and happy he seemed to be there, just by standing near the man while he chatted with the people buying books.

I offered to buy one as well, which he signed and wrote a message for.

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All in all, it was a great time with great people and a great performer, who seemed genuinely happy to be there.

On April 10th, I’ll be performing my poetry for a large audience. This will be the first time I perform in front of a large group of people, but I am not weary or nervous; in fact, I think I’m better prepared having watched Egan perform last night. He made it all seem so natural and easy. If I can exude even the slightest bit of his performance in mine, I think it will go well.

Shorter Nights

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Oh, there’s long night up ahead, I think,

While I know in my head it’ll be a short one.

I watch the window and hear the reverberating of

Collegiate Irishmen, or wanna-be Irishmen,

Parading and prancing through the streets,

Through the conventions of higher learning,

The “establishment”, the “system”, the “institution”,

As if the establishment is out to halt their

Pretending-to-be-Irish,  like it’s a secret, a disguise

They wear and are ashamed of admitting, a self

They wish they could shun for just one night, like a

Superhero without his mask or a cape to fly with;

One would then think that they would try to act like

Those they admire or pretend to be so fervently.

I don’t mind the insecurities brought about by a

Partial heritage to an island in the Atlantic, but I know

It’ll be a short night as soon as I manage to sleep

Away the disturbances from those damn Irishmen

Because I have a Spanish exam in the morrow, and

Have no desire to fail it for a few drinks and

A plate of corned beef and cabbage on the side.