When me and a bunch of poets went out on the Poetry Trail
WITH SANDY YANNONE
Last week, Limerick was very pleased to welcome again US poet Sandy Yannone, during her second journey to Limerick and Ireland. Sandy was born in Connecticut, and holds a PhD in English from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She currently directs the Writing Centre at the Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington.
Her poetic production has been strongly influenced by the 1912 Titanic sinking, a tragedy Sandy has always been interested in, and which creates a connection between the US poet and Ireland. A tragedy which speaks directly to Sandy’s soul, and which she finds impossible to keep hidden: through the faces of those passengers, Sandy shapes the faces living in her verses, echoing the cheers and the cries which alternated during the unlucky journey of the transatlantic. This never-ending parallelism with contemporary tragedies, like the Orlando shooting in Florida in Summer 2016, shapes her poems, confusing the spaces and mixing the times, setting autobiographical events on board of that ship and recalling far dates in her everyday life.
During her beautiful reading on Thursday 20th April, at Narrative4 – as part of “April is Poetry Month in Limerick” – Sandy was able to lead us listeners among the passengers, on the lifeboats, and in her own memories, like invisible spectators of a life we didn’t live, but so close to that intimate part which can’t help standing in terrified astonishment in front of such terrible tragedies, of both past and present. In this sense, we went down with the Titanic, and became helpless witnesses of Orlando shooting.
It was an amazing experience, and I can’t forget mentioning the excellent John Liddy reading, too, who gave an astonishing performance of his new poem, Madrid, to an enthusiastic audience.
Both Sandy and John, with Edward O’Dwyer, Dominic Taylor and myself, took part in the Poetry Trail organised by the Limerick Writers’ Centre, on Wednesday 19th April.
The Poetry Trail is the visual concretisation of what “Poetry Month in Limerick” means: filling up the city with poems that catch passengers’ attention as they walk along the street. Suddenly, they realize that the poster on the window of their favourite coffee shop is not the promotion to an event, a festival or a concert. It is much more: few lines hanging there, waiting for someone to read them, and react.
In fact, getting in touch with poetry also means reacting, and Sandy’s verses can’t help leading the reader to an intimate reaction. A great poet and a lovely woman: Sandy will always be welcomed in Limerick, as poet Edward O’Dwyer said, “like a beloved adopted daughter”.
Intern, Limerick Writers’ Centre
12 Barrington Street, Limerick, Ireland