They say there’s magic here in the Emerald Isle, something in the way the Gulf Stream and far-north latitude mix. Or maybe it’s the way the politics of grievance mixes with an ancient instinct for utterance. The first literature of any race is always symbols, incantations, poetry. (Realism comes last, ultimately expressed in nonfiction storytelling.)
So magical thinking wafts in through the open window in our youth hostel’s Quiet Room where we are reading aloud the plays-in-progress of this odd mix of theater and journalism – our Amagh Project 2014. In one very promising play – a satire of the malarkey storytelling industry here, it seems to me – three automatronic crows have speaking parts. In the next play, as we’re reading, three crows gather on the crown of the slate roof just outside the window, black on black against a glowering sky that might rain one minute, and turn cloud-puffed blue the next. One of these crows – or are they rooks, or ravens? – emits a piercing sound that I swear has something of the dramatized human voices we’re projecting just inside the window. They stick around for the rest of that one-act, mockingly. It’s spooky.
After that is Kimberley’s script, in which a 63-year-old W. B. Yeats, ensconced in his Georgian townhouse in Merrion Square, Dublin, voices his resentments and delusions. I’ve been recruited to play Yeats. Me, a 63-year-old smiling public man, not three days past having wandered through Merrion Square, among school children.
My left eye’s problem, after six months of an idiopathic retinopathy that put a little colored distorting disc in the middle of that eye’s vision, is still with me despite last month’s laser treatment. But after I see a pair of Yeats’ old-man glasses at the National Library in Dublin, I’m struck by the fact that he, like Joyce, apparently required a patch over the left eye in old age. And now my eye problem seems to be going away. Homeopathic magic.