Karl Geary – Montpelier Parade Launch at the Irish Arts Center

How it’s New York: In New York at the Irish Arts Center
How it’s Irish: Irish writer Karl Geary launches his first Novel Montpelier Parade.

Karl Geary reading from Montpelier Parade at the Irish Arts Center – photo by Andy Ryan

He has crafted a compelling story of longing, love, loss and isolation with vivid characters and a driving narrative that made me not want to put the book down, and sad when I was finished reading.

What a delight it was to get the chance to hear my old East Village pal Karl Geary read this past Tuesday night at the Irish Arts Center!  It was yet another wonderful evening of collaboration put together by the innovative folks at the IAC, with Jenna Nicholls and Gerry Leonard providing musical counterpoint and an insightful conversation with Poet, Playwright and Actor Dael Orlandersmith.  I got a chance to sit down with Karl before the show and it was fantastic to get a further look inside the characters and inspirations behind this fantastic first book.



The Pictures of Dorian Gray

How it’s New York: Visit to a New York bar.
How it’s Irish: It’s an Irish bar named for an Oscar Wilde character.

In the East Village of New York City there is a bar called Dorian Gray and this week I made my inaugural visit. It styles itself as Simple, Cheery, and Charming—which it is, and that will have to suffice as a review as I was only there long enough for one beer. And therein lies a tale.


Irish-American writer Jimmy Breslin dead at 88

How it’s New York: Jimmy Breslin wrote about New York: “a New York Institution.”

©David Shankbone [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

How it’s Irish: Breslin was Irish-American.


Newspaper icon Jimmy Breslin dies at 88

Jimmy Breslin, the street-savvy, Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper columnist whose two-fisted prose championing the little guy and pillorying those who betrayed the public trust made him a New York City institution for more than 40 years, died Sunday. He was 88. Breslin, who also turned out a string of fiction and nonfiction books, died of complications from… (more…)

When Irish eyes are rolling… (Hail the Unnamed Irishman)

How it’s New York: Trump is from New York.

Donald Trump, making Ireland Nigerian Again.

How it’s Irish: It’s St. Patrick’s Day tomorrow, and Trump wanted to find an Irish proverb to read to Enda Kenny.

Because of the day that’s in it, Irish people, such as Irish Labour secretary Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, he of the piercing blue eyes who called Trump a “fascist” right after the election (and the video of him saying it went viral, watch it below), are in the U.S.

Ó Ríordáin is here to participate in Irish Stand, a ticketed event at Riverside Church with such people as New York-based writer Colum McCann, “West Wing” actor Richard Schiff, and representatives from the Food Bank for New York City, the Jamaica Muslim Center in Queens, and politicians. Performances are curated by our friends at Artists Without Walls.  

Proceeds are going to the A.C.L.U., who have been staunch in their defense of those at risk under Trump.

No doubt this is also why Sean Spicer wore a green tie to the press briefing today, at which he once again yelled at the press.

But the real reason for this post is  that I simply could not resist the joy (O frabjous day!) of Trump reading a Nigerian poem and thinking it’s an Irish proverb.

Before you say “this is not culture!” remember: proverbs and poetry are culture… (more…)

New Book on Irish Music by L.E. McCullough

How it’s New York:  Latest book from L.E. McCullough focuses on Irish-American musical heritage
How it’s Irish:  2-volume set offers 4 decades of Irish music scholarship


L.E. McCullough started writing about Irish Traditional Music in 1974.

He hasn’t stopped yet.

What Whistle-Flyer 150dpi-trimA new publication titled “What Whistle Would You Play at Your Mother’s Funeral? — L.E. McCullough’s Writings on Irish Traditional Music, 1974-2016″ gathers in two volumes the more than 300,000 words on Irish music and culture the prolific musician/scholar has published in 43 years of teaching and research.

Published by Silver Spear Publications in PDF and paperback formats, Volume I contains Dr. McCullough’s three major academic works — his landmark Ph.D. dissertation (Irish Music in Chicago: An Ethnomusicological Study) and earlier M.A. and B.A. theses (The Rose in the Heather: Irish Music in Its American Cultural Milieu and Farewell to Erin: An Ethnomusicological Study of Irish Music in the U.S.).

Volume II, subtitled “Everything Else”, covers a wide range of Irish music performers, instrument-makers and music events — 122 essays and reviews, journal articles and concert reports, blog reflections, album notes, newspaper features, seminar presentations, whistle-playing tips … and a screenplay.


Barnes and Noble hosts Sept. 22 book signing for new Interfaith prayer collection

How it’s New York: “Bridge to the Sacred” presents 200 prayers and meditations for daily renewal arranged by topic – an Instant Serenity Aid for subway rides, crosstown bus treks and elevator waits

How it’s Irish:
Irish traditional musician and author L.E. McCullough co-edited an anthology of Interfaith prayer that includes memorable Irish and Irish-American sources

bridgetothesacredfcTHE CO-AUTHOR of a new book of inspirational prayers describes their collection as an Instant Serenity Aid.

“Everyday life is becoming more stress-filled than ever, it seems,” says Rev. Elizabeth Bansavage of Woodbridge, New Jersey. “We wanted to offer readers a compact, easy-access volume that would revitalize their spirit in just a few minutes.”

Bridge to the Sacred: A Collection of Interfaith Prayers presents 200 prayers and meditations for daily renewal chosen from 44 world religions including several Irish and Irish-American sources including Fr. Mychal Judge, Blessed Catherine McAuley, Archbishop John Carroll, St. Brigid, St. Patrick, St. Dymphna and ancient Irish folk prayer.

Rev. Bansavage and her co-author, L.E. McCullough, Ph.D. will be on hand to sign copies of the book Thursday, Sept. 22, from 7:00-8:00 p.m. at Barnes & Noble, Menlo Park Mall, 55 Parsonage Road, Edison, New Jersey.


‘Irish Pubs in America’ informs about ‘locals’ and entertains

How it’s New York: A lot of the pubs in the book are located in New York (and why should they not be?).
How it’s Irish: With a whole book about pubs, stout, whiskey and good honest craic, how could it NOT be Irish?
Irish Pubs in America is Robert Meyers and Ron Wallace's look at a selection of Irish pubs in the United States. (Cover art courtesy of Deeds Publishing.)

Irish Pubs in America is Robert Meyers and Ron Wallace’s look at a selection of Irish pubs in the United States. (Cover art courtesy of Deeds Publishing.)

Few institutions occupy the same revered status in Irish and Irish-American culture as the “local,” the neighborhood pub. Everyone has their own favorite local; this reviewer happens to have a soft spot for Tierney’s Tavern in Montclair.

But what makes a pub authentically Irish?

Surely there is more to it than having a few kegs of Guinness, Harp and Smithwick’s on tap and Céad Míle Fáilte engraved over the doorway.

Robert Meyers and Ron Wallace seek to answer that question a little bit, and provide a good list of places to have a pint, with “Irish Pubs in America: History, Lore and Recipes.” The result is a quite entertaining and informative look at locals and the people who love them.


Review: Bruce Springsteen-inspired children’s book “Born to Run: The Story of Johnny 99”

How it’s (New York) New Jersey: The Boss, of course61EZBlxt9AL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_
How it’s Irish: Bruce Springsteen is hugely popular in Ireland!

Matthew Orel, a Springsteen scholar and contributor to “Backstreets,” reviews “Born to Run: the Story of Johnny 99.” This review assumes some knowledge of Bruce Springsteen’s music… for a review of the book primarily as a children’s book, visit Backstreets.com.

The book description:

Johnny 99 has been caught racing in the street─again. Now he’s in trouble with his dad─again. Wanting to assert his independence and in hopes of finding adventure, Johnny 99 leaves his hometown to travel across the country. He returns home a changed car. 

The book is for sale, signed by the author, at the Backstreets website, too, so Springsteen parents might want to take a gander. Backstreets also wrote: 

  • “KID, YOU BETTER GET THE PICTURE BOOK… You don’t have to be familiar with Springsteen’s work to appreciate the sweet story and Johnny’s road trip… but for those of us who are, you can play Spot the References and see if you get all 99. Wendy’s story is beautifully illustrated by Matt Hall.”
    – Backstreets

I’ve seen Bruce Springsteen in concert a bunch of times. I’ve written blog pieces about him. When I write those pieces, whether for myself or publications such as Backstreets magazine, I might toss a lyric reference in to the title, or sprinkle references in to the body of the text. It’s fun for me, especially if I can get the context right; or maybe add a bit of nuance to whatever is being discussed. Then I’ll see if readers pick up on the references and how they’re interpreted. For example, when discussing Bruce’s just released box set from The River that includes a new CD of previous unreleased outtakes, I tried out Stray Bullet as it’s both a song title and also a description of the songs; it’s also my favorite song on the disc. Occasionally, I’ll find a columnist doing likewise; a local gossip columnist where I live used to throw Springsteen references in to his daily columns, daring fans such as myself to locate them. When the late Jeff Zaslow took over the Ann Landers column, he’d also routinely toss Springsteen references in to the daily advice.

Born to Run: The Story of Johnny 99, takes this relatively simple concept of sprinkling references in to a narrative to an extreme level.

This new picture book by Wendy Parnell, illustrated by Matt Hall, crams nearly 100 credited references (and a few more that are either un-credited or accidental) in to a total of just 150 lines of text,

sometimes with three or more references on a single line. Some of these are obvious enough, for example, the scene in town (“Lucky Town,” of course) at night being described as “From the Factory on E Street to the mansion on the hill,” while nods to songs by Joe Ely and Mike Ness in which Bruce lent a harmony vocal, are obscure even to many hardcore fans. One reference, to the small town of Marfa, Texas, managed to escape me… assuming that’s a Springsteen reference. I can’t ever be sure.


Podcast #34: Belinda McKeon and Ronan O Snodaigh

How it’s (New Jersey) New York: Author Belinda McKeon lives in the city and teaches in New Jersey; Rónán Ó’Snodaigh of Kila recently rssheadphones1performed at the Irish Arts Center.
How it’s Irish: Belinda and Rónán are both Irish, and several of the authors in “A Kind of Compass” are Irish as well.

We spoke to Belinda McKeon about  “A Kind of Compass,” a short story collection with fiction by 17 writers, and to Rónán Ó Snodaigh of Kila about his solo work and direction. t 

Featured song Glen Hansard’s “No Mercy,” from Glen’s new CD “Didn’t He Ramble.”

Review: The Green Road

How it’s New York: The novel is set partly in New York, where Dan, one of the Madigan children, lives for several years after leaving Ireland.
How it’s Irish: The Madigan family’s soon-to-be-former home is in County Clare, and it is here that the whole family gathers for a rather tenuous Christmas dinner. Anne Enright hails from Dublin.

“The truth was that the house they were sitting in was worth a ridiculous amount, and the people sitting in it were worth very little.”

Such is Anne Enright’s almost Tolstoy-esque summary of the Madigan family in her newest novel, “The Green Road.”

GreenRoadWith her husband dead and her four adult children now living in different parts of the world, 76-year-old Rosaleen Madigan makes the decision to sell off Ardeevin, her family’s longtime home in County Clare. But most of the book really isn’t about the selling of the house – it’s a subtly powerful telling of the stories of the people who once lived there.

Dan, the “spoilt priest,” is a gay man living in New York at the height of the AIDS epidemic in the early 1990s. Emmet is doing humanitarian aid work in Mali in 2003. Constance is the wife of an opportunistic real estate developer and the mother of three, coping with a breast cancer diagnosis in 1997. Hanna is trying to eke out an acting career while raising a baby, with varying amounts of support from her rather boorish live-in boyfriend.

And for Rosaleen, increasingly an embarrassment to her children, there is forever the haunting refrain of “Roisin Dubh,” the ballad of “dark Rosaleen,” playing in her memory as she reflects on her life thus far.


Podcast #33: Conor Lovett and Mike Farragher

How it’s (New Jersey) New York: The production of “Waiting for Godot” is taking place at the NYU Skirball Center; Mike Farragher lives in New Jerseyrssheadphones1
How it’s (Scottish) Irish: Samuel Beckett was Irish, as are Judy Hegarty Lovett and Conor Lovett of Gare St. Lazare Theatre; Mike Farragher is Irish-American. Featured tune is from Iona Scottish Session, a Scottish session in Brooklyn.

We spoke to Conor Lovett about the Gare St. Lazare production of “Waiting for Godot” by Samuel Beckett at the NYU Skirball Center. For our money, Gare St. Lazare are the best interpreters of Beckett in the world. Alice Farrell spoke to Irish-American author Mike Farragher about his new book, “A Devilish Pint.” 

Tune of the week is “Mary Kelly’s,” from the Iona Session CD “Island Wild.” Iona Session are havig a CD release party at Jalopy in Brooklyn on Oct. 30. For more information, visit Ionascottishsession.com (more…)

Savage F*cks of Dublintown – Kevin Holohan, Honor Molloy, Maeve Price and Michelle Woods read Joyce, Brennan, McCabe and more*

How it’s New York: The authors all live in the New York area
How it’s Irish: They are describing their Dublin childhoods


Don’t miss this… three of our own New York Irish Arts writers!savage


Screaming, mitching, cadging, lying and . . . getting away with it. Irish Childhood by them who survived it.

Four Dubliners present the recipe for a Classic Irish Childhood: one part poverty, one part sexual repression, one part evil teachers. Add a fistful of salt and serve with a side of black humor. Then emigrate.

Kevin Holohan, Honor Molloy, Maeve Price and Michelle Woods share selections by Maeve Brennan, Maura Laverty, Patrick McCabe, Frank O’Connor and James Joyce.

Short Story “Tulip Street” by John Kearns

 How it’s New York: “Tulip Street” was written by Manhattan resident, John Kearns.
How it’s Irish: “Tulip Street ” was published in the 7/22/15 Irish Echo. The story is set in the Port Richmond section of Philadelphia, a neighborhood with large Irish-American and Polish-American communities. Its author is Irish American.


Why couldn’t Daddy love the land? Maybe there was some place where God hadn’t parted the sea from the land, like an undersea island, like Atlantis. She wished she could go there. Maybe that could be her family’s happy home. Or maybe she could wait there for him, at least, and each time he shipped out, she could watch the hull pass over her and see it go by again when he returned.

An occasional carhorn sent a fading note of complaint down the narrow brick walls of Tulip Street. Potholes made the car chassis grunt. A boy shouted. Some big dog’s deep bark seemed to shake the whole block. In her little house, Danielle had gotten used to hearing and yet ignoring it all. She heard her mother’s familiar step, tread, and creak downstairs. With her eyes closed, she could see her mother rushing around the kitchen. Toastsmell roamed into her room. Morning. It had long been morning. Daddy was going away. Back to the Navy. Her nightmare! Maybe this time he would not come back. No, she couldn’t think that. It would never, ever come true. He promised.
Mom clanged utensils against pans and bowls and plates, whisking the eggs, putting a plate of stacked toast upon the table. She had called Danielle more than once, without success. Danielle was not sleeping or sleepy, but she did not want to move. She wanted to stay put, like a plant rooted in hard earth, and forget about her bad dream.
A man’s voice in the kitchen, still strange though Daddy had been back from the Navy for a couple of weeks. She wondered what noises he hears, yet ignores when he is in his bunk at sea and if it is hard to learn to ignore them. The sea noises must be strange: the splashing against the steel walls, the hum of the engine, the cawing seagulls, the scratchy-snoring sailors. It must be weird to sleep below deck, knowing there is the ocean right outside and fish swimming alongside your room. She wondered if the fish could hear the snoring and if they ignored it.


First flake of spring: a poem

How it’s New York: It’s still winter here in NY/NJ, despite a warm day on Tuesday for St. Patrick’s Day.marchsnow
How it’s Irish: Yet more reason to huddle inside and listen to some angelic music…

Subscriber Ed Broderick sent along a lovely poem this morning, capturing the sentiments of the disappointed tri-staters who are longing for spring… but we have to admit it’s lovely, with the right music in the background.

We recommend Danú’s new CD, Buan, with the gorgeous singing of Muireann Nic Am Amhlaoibh. “Bheir mo Dhuchracht” captures a mellow pensiveness that feels right for winter encroaching on daffodils trying to sprout.

seems only a few days ago I was doing this... oh wait it was

seems only a few days ago I was doing this… oh wait it was

First Flake of Spring

Getting to be that time of year
Through the trees your view is clear
The moon can only hide behind a cloud
While the wind still whistles loud
You sense deep within your soul
A feat of nature will soon unfold
When the breeze dies and all is still
Tis then you may feel an eerie chill