Monday, June 21, 1999

Modern Irish Language & Culture; Prof. Joe Nugent /Breen Ó Chonchubhair


SUMMER 1999: Celtic Studies 102A, and 102B, Modern Irish Language & Culture; Prof. Joe Nugent /Breen Ó Chonchubhair   (Received B for 8 units. Not audited.)

Intensive Irish workshop-The language brought thousands of years ago to Ireland by invading European Celts remains a living tongue. We will cover the equivalent of  one full year’s instruction in the Irish language. We will learn to speak and write...lectures to place Irish in its cultural context..we will introduce you to the history of Gaelic—from its Indo-European roots, its role in the Troubles, to its present re-emergent state...& how it shaped the contours of Anglo-Irish culture.

TEXTS:
Teach Yourself Irish—Ó Sé agus Sheils
Foclóir Gaelge Béarla —Ó Dónaill
Pocket Irish-English Dictionary & tape
Irish Grammar: A Basic handbook —McGonagle

Plus films and other readings in English and Irish: folk sayings, dinnseanchas, songs, poems, etc. Blind Raftery, Brian Merriman’s Midnight Court, Behan’s The Hostage (in Irish), Myles naGopleen’s At Swim Two Birds, An Beal Bocht, Maurice O’ Sullivan’s 20 Years A-Growin’, Nuala Ni Dhomhniall, Peig Sayers, James Joyce, etc.
Guest lecturers include Drs. Kathryn Klar, Daniel Meila, Julian Boyd, John Bishop.

Sunday, June 20, 1999

Preparing for the Summer Solstice



Father’s Day and Verona's birthday, the actress as Lady MacBeth, cannot distinguish between stagelight and perfumed sky; she weeps for the death of her 60 years. The day burns lust-red. We raise champagne glasses and read poetry to the sky. The guest proves this on film for posterity.

A young Peruvian offers an armload of long-stemmed red roses to the actress. I pin a rose to his lapel and come to understand that brief moment of bronzed youth is disguised as a name. We compare ages. Sing the old songs to keep from falling off the earth, recreating the words that dreamed us into being. Verona blows out the candles. We run naked into the sea at sunset.

Floating in the chill depths below the Mesa, we look back at the North American plate. Mt. Tamalpais, place of my conception. Nothing came between my mother and father: this is why I exist. The moon slides over the water. Bioluminescence scribes itself upon the waves. Our tongues answer the ocean.

The suicides of Bolinas: literary invention proscribing reality. A woman boasts she was the last one to speak to Brautigan. I think of Lew going off into the forest. No heroes, words failed them. Sick to death of the intertextual “I”, I vowed not to write about love, and so, became mute; but the poetic Left has sacrificed the author. We need a new altar for the new millennium.

Afraid of the nunneries, I was a deliberately bad child. I collected an insurance of venial sins—white lies—to keep back that abiding fear of God’s prison gate. I thought “zounds” came from the slurring of “God’s wounds.” As did “swoon.” Wounded, we’ve lost the group art of oral tradition. Blame St. Augustine, the first man to read without moving his lips.

The slow sibilance of speech went underground, the death of the spoken word. The monastery scriptoriums fell silent. The esophagus interred in the sarcophagus; subterranean words devoured the silvered sleep of bones. My father died silent in winter, alone on his birthday. A stranger by choice, his heart failed him. Word of his death restores something of my father to me.

We bring in summer, talk about ancestors. The names we carry into the future. Pegasus wheels across the sky. Orion no longer hunts. The Bear dances. A name spoken, a gift crusades into the west. I want a dragon constellation for the dragonslayer. A name place where eagles come to land. Like a cloistered lady-in-waiting, I swoon from the scent of kisses. Orpheus’s tongue in our ears. Other than ourselves, we have little to offer; no talismans or silk scarves. The enduring song of the storm approaches.

At the end of the millennium, protocol demands we exchange sexual pedigrees. The dread acronym: subtext and context. I weep for the extinction of spontaneity. Dress code: who’s got the raincoat? No longer embarrassed, I come prepared for any storm, though months may pass without sign of precipitation. Except it could be any century.

Wounded, we heal a little of ourselves on this raft, ride the transitory night to completion. We don’t take issue with futures, take no prisoners. Only small translucent sacks flung in the midden heap for some future archaeologist to contemplate. Donning my habit, I celebrate the longest day, my vows clearly written—protean words spilling onto the page.


1999, revised 2000