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Monday, June 28, 2010

First Week at National University of Ireland at Galway

The way our studies are set up, we have a background lecture at 10:30 AM and a writer's workshop at 2:30 Monday thru Thursday. Fridays are usually clear unless we have a field trip planned, which we did the first week. Students usually have a choice between poetry workshop or fiction workshop, but since the group was so small (9 students), we decided to blend them together. The first day, we had a background lecture by Hubert McDermott from NUIG who gave us a wonderful, personal lecture on James Joyce and the story The Dead from the book called "The Dubliners." You can tell that the Irish are fiercely proud of their literary heritage and excited to share this with others. Not only did we get a lot of personal, contextual information about James Joyce's life, but he included a map outlining where all the important historical buildings still stood, should we choose to visit them. We also got clued in to where some of the local names came from. Like Bogden round-about didn't register with us until we were told that Michael Bogden was the real identity of the character who died as a young lad in the story, the one that was in love with the main character's wife, who was in reality Joyce's wife. That afternoon we had our first workshop because we had turned in poems and short stories on Tuesday, which were photocopied for everyone and ready to go. For non-writers out there, the workshop process is a priceless commodity to those of us who write. Our friends and family may think our writing is wonderful, but without someone critiqueing our work, we have no idea where we can improve which makes us much more competitive should we submit our works for publication or for contests. It should make us better writers in the long run, but things can almost always be improved. Then the trick is learning when to quit and leave it the heck alone! At 5:15 there was an informal reception at the campus bar. They provided sandwiches, onion rings, fried chicken and spring rolls along with 2 drinks. I opted for a ginger ale and then a small bottle of wine, Gato Negro. It was really good, too! Most were enjoying Guinness or Cider. The next day we had an engaging lecture by poet Dr. Louis de Paor. He explained how he liked his poetry to be at the intersection of a major event, like a birth, death, leaving home, marriage, etc. It is the point where once you pass it, there is no turning back to the way things were. That afternoon we began workshopping some of our fiction. Friday, we all went on a field trip to Coole Park (Lady Gregory's estate) and Thoor Ballylee (summer home of W.B. Yeats and family). For those who don't know, Lady Gregory was an amazing woman, a tireless defender and supporter of the Irish arts, mostly poetry and theater. She was a good friend to Yeats and he spent a lot of time at Coole Park and wrote a lot of poetry based on his experiences there. After marrying, Yeats bought a smaller place down the road a piece that he fixed up for his wife Georgie and where their family spent most of their summers until things got so unsettled in Ireland that it wasn't safe to be there. Thoor Ballylee is the site of Yeat's famous tower where he retreated to write near the end of his life. Friday night we went exploring downtown Galway which was like Greenwich Village meets Haight Ashbury meets Eureka Springs. It was amazing with cobblestone streets and window boxes with colorful flowers and street musicians. We ate at a great Thai restaurant and while we were leaving around 10PM, it was just starting to threaten darkness and we headed home after a long day and long week. Your cultural lesson of the day is that apparently if you don't get your bill in an Irish or English restaurant, you must get up and approach the cash register because they don't want to rush you. If you are waiting on your bill, you could be waiting a very long time. Saturday morning we woke early and headed to the farmer's market in roughly the same area we were the night before. It's near St. Nicholas Cathedral, near Shop Street. We found amazing produce, very hip clothing, hand tooled leather, live chickens, fresh cut flowers, scones, cheeses, handmade jewelry, jellies, crepes, etc. It was an amazing market and shop street had more street musicians and cute little shops. I found all kinds of great stuff there. A spot of bad news is that while we were running across an uncontrolled part of the round-about, I must have strained my foot because then I could barely walk. I cancelled the rest of my plans for Saturday and Sunday to just rest. The farthest I walked was just to the grocery store so that I could eat in. The good news is that apparently I didn't break anything and I just have to not overdo it. I'm not the only one with very sore feet, but I am twice as old as everyone else and have to remember that. Friday night we had a big potluck over in apartment 38. We played a game that's like Pictionary meets Telephone. You write a saying down on a piece of paper, the next person draws a picture from that saying, the next person writes their interpretation of the picture and so on and so forth until the end and you get your own saying back. When we read them back to everyone, we were literally rolling on the floor laughing. Those of you on Facebook know that Sunday night we played "Never Did I Ever" which someone my age should never do with a bunch of 20-something year olds, LOL. I was the second one eliminated. What chance did I have? Facebookers can see my pictures in FB in a photo album labled "Writers in Galway." I will see if I can upload at least a few here. We'll see if I can figure this out.

Oh, and over here bangs are called FRINGE!!

:) Ciao! Catatonic1

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