Touring the Wild Atlantic Way and the Mythic Sites of Ireland
Before I turned to dust I wended my way further west, past Galway into Connemara’s epic landscape. My destination was picturesque Clifden, home of the Marconi towers, where aviation pioneers Alcock and Brown first made landfall after successfully crossing the Atlantic for the first time by powered flight. Here, I cooled my engine, enjoying a jar in a local bar where a merry session was taking place. My partner pitched in a couple of songs, and we felt part of the narrative.
From Connemara we pushed on north – making pilgrimage to key Yeats’ sites in the year of his 150th anniversary. Sligo was making a big deal of it, the Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann was just about to kick off and his face was everywhere (as Dylan Thomas’ was in Swansea last year for his centenary). Riding past the roadside banners it was moving to finally make it to his modest grave in Drumcliffe graveyard, where his father had delivered sermons from the pulpit. And then onto Glencar, the beautiful waterfall that inspired ‘The Stolen Child’ (and our own writing as we sat in earshot of its soft thunder). This ‘pink noise’ is most conducive to creativity – affecting the brainwaves from alpha to theta, making the synapses leap like Irish dancers.
Most thrilling of all for me was the visit to Lough Gill, the site of the ‘lake isle of Innisfree’. Here Yeats played as a child, but it was in London, on Fleet Street, that he was inspired to write the poem of longing, after the sound of a fountain reminded him of the ‘lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore’.
Also in the cauldron of his imagination at the time was Thoreau’s Walden, which describes the American’s attempt to live a ‘life in the woods’ for a year, building his own cabin. And when ‘Innisfree’ is read in this context, it echoes across the Atlantic, from Sligo to Massachusetts, where Thoreau built his small cabin and lived alone (except for visits from his mother who lived close by) in a ‘bee loud glade’. That dream of independence, however realistic, resonates with many of us who find ourselves like Rilke, ‘alone in the world, and yet not alone enough/to make every moment holy.’ The shore-line presents the possibility of escape from a world that places its demands upon us; and it can appear in unexpected places. Yeats stumbled upon the littoral in the middle of a busy London street. It can occur in any place, at any time, and is ultimately a state of mind, a moveable feast. Such routes as the Wild Atlantic Way provide a tangible visual analogue for this quality – but the littoral can be experienced wherever you are. All we have to do is, in the words of supertramp poet, WH Davies, ‘stand and stare’ and notice what novelist Colum McCann phrased: ‘the miracle of the actual’.
Kevan Manwaring ©2015
‘Leisure’, WH Davies http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/leisure/ [accessed 11/09/15]
Carr-Gom, Philip, Talk at Druid Camp, Glos., August 2015
Clements, Paul, Rough Guide to Ireland, Rough Guide: London, 2015
McCann, Colum, TransAtlantic, Bloomsbury: London, 2014
National Library of Ireland, Dublin, The Life and Works of WB Yeats: http://www.nli.ie/en/intro/exhibitions.aspx
Rilke, Rainer Maria, The Selected Poems of, Picador: London, 1987
The Collected Poems of W.B. Yeats, Wordsworth Poetry Library: Ware, 1994/2000
The Tain, trans. Thomas Kinsella, Oxford Paperbacks, 2002
Thoreau, Henry David, Walden, or A Life in the Woods, 1845
Wild Atlantic Way http://www.wildatlanticway.com/
Yeats Society/WB Yeats Memorial Building, Hyde Bridge, Sligo, Ireland: http://www.yeatssociety.com/
See the show inspired by our trip!
‘The Hallows’ performed by Bríghíd’s Flame (Kevan Manwaring & Chantelle Smith).
When the world ends what stories will you tell around the fire?
The land is a wasteland – a kingdom of crows. B, a raggedy young survivor on the run, is tired, hungry and cold, and it is getting dark. Then she hears an eerie singing …
Irish mythology meets Post-Apocalyptic Myth-Punk!
Storytelling, Song, Poetry, & Music (Harp, Guitar, Shruti Box, Bodhran, Bones).
31 Jan: Glastonbury Assembly Rooms http://www.assemblyrooms.org.uk/event/brighids-flame/?instance_id=323
10 Feb: Enchanted Market http://theenchantedmarket.com/
1 Mar: Rondo Theatre, Bath http://rondotheatre.co.uk/whats-on/