I’m not sure how anyone else measures life successes, but Umar from Multi Pizza Curry and Kebab, with whom I share just a few words of compulsory English, offered me a chai and a sweet made by Atiq’s mother while I waited for my wrap. When I told him he’d made my day, he said, “I want people to be happy.” I generally feel more at home among people who live with a strong sense of an ‘elsewhere,’ and I think, often, about how much Irish identity is shaped by home/ elsewhere (my undergrad thesis on the late poet Derek Mahon was about the ‘elsewhere’ in his poems), the departures and arrivals, the longings and the returns to places that have changed and can never be the homes they once were. Derek Mahon has said in various ways that this is actually the condition of modern life.
a). Do you have an experience of an elsewhere? This could be a longing for one county while living in another, a longing for the country while living in the city, longing for a particular time that’s gone but feels present. Have you ever identified this in another person? How would you describe this quality? Is it an identity? Or a longing for identity? Does any of this, for you, have to do with being Irish? What is being Irish? The deep questions I am interested in for the final prompt! Don’t shy away now! Set a timer for 20 minutes and make yourself at home in questions about elsewhere.
b). (As always) respond to any of the following. What does it make you think of? What does it make you feel? What does it remind you of? What does it make you want to do/ see/ be?
Irish-made stuff inspiring me this week:
- Dragana shared Gemma Dunleavy’s song/video “Up De Flats” earlier this week, and I can’t stop listening, as well as feeling an inexplicable local pride — I don’t live in or even near those particular flats, but I am surrounded by other flats, which are both ‘other’ and — because I grew up within very similar architecture and culture in my hometown in Romania — home. This song is a bop!
3. All this thinking about ‘elsewheres’ had me going back to the writing of Derek Mahon (23 November 1941 – 1 October 2020). Seamus Heaney and Derek Mahon most influenced my early poetic sensibilities. Seamus Heaney was the first reason I ended up in Ireland; Derek Mahon was the reason I kept continued to feel at home in the world of Irish poetry (where, as you’ll see below, it is not necessarily easy to feel at home). Here, he is writing about Louis MacNeice, a poet who influenced him greatly:
Thanks to everyone who wrote along with me these last 6 weeks! If you did and you enjoyed it, send me a little message, on Instagram or at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know.