In Biography, Musing

2 weeks ago I spent 2 weeks in Ireland. Right now it feels like a dream. I put together all my posts (sans pictures) to try to recapture some of the magic. Putting them together gives me a chance to breathe and remember. Too often, I go too fast, do so much that my mind forgets to take time. The pictures are absent because I enjoyed the narrative flow as it is. It feels almost like a poem so please read it that way.

Mary A. Stevens II, June 28 · 
Obligatory take off photo. And yes I totally splurged for an upgrade for the overnight flight. But it’s a fast flight. Under 6 hours. It’s just like flying to CA (maybe even faster).

I miss Penelope and Luna already!

Traveling in Be Good To People shirt which is my lucky charm while traveling!

Also no makeup bc overnight flight and I’m really wishing I had some on in these pics.

Mary A. Stevens II, June 29 at 4:43 PM · 
First day in Ireland. I’m so exhausted so hitting the hay early. My writing cohort seems talented and interesting. I’m already feeling inspired even through my tiredness.

Had fish and chips in a trad Irish pub tonight.

It’s PRIDE in Ireland today and the town is alive with rainbows and energy.

I haven’t figured out a foreign SIM card yet so I’m on WiFi only. If you need me, use messenger or what’s up. If you have an iPhone, texting should work. Xoxo

Mary A. Stevens II, June 30 at 7:03 PM · 
Day 2 Ireland. Book of Kells, library and Trinity campus.

Mary A. Stevens II, July 1 at 7:51 PM · 
Day 3 Ireland. Misread schedule and missed breakfast 🙄 but was on time for the first event, a bus tour of Dublin. Our guide, Connor, was deeply knowledgeable and finally I understand the role of WWI and the Irish revolution.

The cross pics are in the city park and it’s gianormous like Central Park. It has a zoo and playing fields and a big cross where the Pope has spoken 2x.

We went to the Jameson Distillery but it was 11am and I missed breakfast so I hope to go back.

The Arbour cemetery, where 14 of the executed rebels are buried, was profound. I need to research the text that’s chiseled in the walls pictured. It’s essentially their Declaration of Being and dreams for the world. It’s the first (only?) such document to be specifically addressed to Mankind and Womankind.

Then there is a pic of bathroom signage that gives scale to just how much someone might drink on any given night.

Finally, we are enjoying a campus concert from behind the lines. We went past one of the barriers with a group of women from Dubai. We bonded in our shared rebellion of structures meant to contain us.

Mary A. Stevens II, July 2 at 6:18 PM · 
Day 4. Dublin flashback day. 
When I was here in 1997, we got to Dublin tired and hangry but all the restaurants were closed. By the time we found an open pizza joint, the only pizza had mushrooms (I’m allergic). All I wanted was to be alone to sulk and let my mood starve itself out.

Today was day 2 of sharing our works. I realized I feel exposed and so deeply seen while sharing and I needed some anonymity time. I skipped the evening festivities and wandered around the city looking for food and distraction.

I wandered into wool shops and touched everything I could. I may have to come home with a blanket or a sweater for Penelope. I just finished reading Children of the Lir and found beautiful jewelry of the swans. It reminded me of my dad, who loved swans, and had 4 living children at the time of his death. I also found this woven shawl that captures color in a way I cannot even describe.

I went to the restaurant I’d planned on but it had just closed. In fact, all the restaurants in that area were closed. I couldn’t help but laugh at how like 1997 it was. But this time, I had music and no one else I was beholden to. I simply wandered in a new direction and found a different restaurant. I ended up with a delicious salad.

I’m so grateful for how I’ve grown since that first trip to now. Life is a brave and beauteous thing.

Mary A. Stevens II, July 3 at 3:30 AM · 
I took 2 pages of notes yesterday. I love folklore, fairytales, and myth and I’m trying to find my way of writing them.


Mary A. Stevens II
, July 3 at 7:25 PM · 
Day 5: Ireland
We started today with a craft seminar on creating truth and believability in fiction. I haven’t fully processed it yet to think about how those themes apply to the internal worlds created in poetry but I’m looking forward to expanding my knowledge of honesty.

Took the Dart to Howth and met a local (and incredible) author Hillary Fannin. I was thrilled Morris to be on the Irish Sea. It’s wild energy hits you the moment you leave the train. The smell of sea water, crab, and frying foods beckons you to the mysteries of the oceanside town.

Then we went to Poetry Ireland for a live music journey. Man this was incredible. I was enraptured. I took very short videos in deference to the artists so please watch them. Each artist is a virtuoso of their craft.

Mary A. Stevens II added 10 new photos., July 4 at 8:10 AM · 
Bus tour

Mary A. Stevens II added 29 photos and a video., July 4 at 8:10 AM · 
Howth

Mary A. Stevens II added 8 photos and 5 videos., July 4 at 8:10 AM · 
Poetry Ireland music event

Mary A. Stevens II, July 4 at 7:53 PM · 
Day ? Ireland. 
Today was about writing. Pictures are of my rough notes and free writing from throughout the day. It is unlikely to make much sense but I cannot think how else to capture today.

Mary A. Stevens II, July 5 at 3:02 PM · 
I cannot stop laughing. I do have to wonder why I’m studying how to create believability in writing.

Mary A. Stevens II, July 5 at 6:07 PM · 
Ireland: day of knobs and knockers
The morning started with a fascinating about how certain details lead us to a robust understanding of a character.

Sadly, I did not know when I tweaked the tits on the fireplace when leaving the Yeats exhibits that knockers and knobs would be the theme of today so you’ll have to create that picture in your imagination. Please enjoy the other knobs and knockers provided for your pleasure (I continue to enjoy mine). *not all pics are knobs or knockers but I’ll leave that to you to decide.

Finally, the night ended with 2 inspiring poetry readings. I have a fetish for hearing poetry, especially from the author’s mouth.

Mary A. Stevens II added 11 new photos — with Jessica Klimeshand 2 others., July 6 at 4:04 PM · 
Trim Castle

Mary A. Stevens II added 21 photos and 2 videos., July 6 at 4:06 PM ·
Loughcrew and the most haunted building I have ever been in. Honestly the only haunted building that’s felt not so safe to me. Usually I totally love them.

Mary A. Stevens II added 39 photos and a video., July 6 at 4:12 PM · 
Hill of Tara

Mary A. Stevens II, July 6 at 4:25 PM · 
Picture Day Ireland. I took about 80 pictures today. How crazy. You’ll need to check out the Ireland album to see them all. I’m putting a few favorites here.

We started at the Hill of Tara which I’ve been looking forward to all week. It was amazing until it downpoured and I realized just how waterproof my jacket wasn’t. I was struck by how much the view looked like Bell Gate from the hill by the 5 bay or where the old pool used to be.

Then we went to Loughcrew which I enjoyed the energy of more than Tara until I went in the haunted house (video in album). Seriously haunted. And I usually connect well with spirits/energies but these ghosts definitely didn’t like their house being a museum.

Lastly was Trim Castle. I was cold and wet and was ready to go 10 minutes in. I feel very Irish now. But castles are inherently cool so I still loved it.

It’s the halfway point in the program. I have more time behind me than ahead. I’m trying to suck up every last morsel of this experience. I feel fed intellectually for the first time in a very long time. I’m discussing politics and philosophy. I’m writing and reading and listening and growing. I also feel supported creatively in a new way. There’s something about someone saying ‘I see what you are after and I think you could do it better’ that is quite beautiful. I feel closer to my vision and can see a path of learning beyond the meager talent I was born with.

Mary A. Stevens II added 24 new photos., July 7 at 5:51 PM · 
Ireland free day. 
I wanted a time where I could sit by the sea and write and so I took today to do just that, though got much less writing in then I had planned. I rode the DART to Dun Laoghaire (pronounced Done Leery, not Dun Log-hairy).

I was cranky and so I bought an ice cream cone. As I stepped up into the bench, a man said “that’s a novel way to eat your ice cream” (and this begins the story I’ll write when I get home. Better subscribe to my blog at BeingNinja.com now so you don’t miss it 😂).

I walked 30 minutes to the end of the pier and sat on the sea wall. I watched a dog race down to the water and run around then look surprised when he fell in. He had to wait for a wave to lift him onto the slippery rock and he was joyous with the adventure. I believe I was looking at Wales, at least that’s what I was told and it makes good story. The sea air was blustery and cold but the sun was shining and I may even have a slight tan. I wrote straight on for an hour before I began my trek back to meet the group.

We ate lunch and walked around the town. I bought myself earrings and a suncatcher made by local artisans.

Once back in town, we hustled to a pub, Buskers on the Ball, and caught the end of the US Women’s World Cup 🏟. Finished up with another short walk and hit 20,000 steps today!

Mary A. Stevens II added 6 new photos — at Abbey Theatre., July 8 at 7:33 PM · Dublin, Ireland · 
Ireland Day Monday. 
Woke up to the sounds of construction. Wish the Irish would wait until 9am to start jackhammering. I’m afraid to use ear plugs because then I won’t hear my alarm.

We started the Day with Alison Wellford’s Writing the Unreal. Where before we talked about creating believability, today we talked about falsehoods and lies (aka metaphor) in writing. Where is that line? What is our social contract and how can we use it? At what cost?

This afternoon we had our workshop for our second set of writing. I was more nervous about this one because it’s a mixed style of prose and poem memoir and I really am not sure where it’s going. But it was well received and I at least want to keep in it.

Finally we went to see The Unmanageable Sisters at Abbey Theater. Wow. It was an amazing construct of women in the late 60s at once beaten down and finding ways to be spirited anyway. I loved them all and I’m rooting for them.

Mary A. Stevens II added 27 new photos., July 9 at 8:02 PM · 
Ireland Tuesday #2. 
Began the morning with the same breakfast I’ve had since forever. I miss my protein shakes. Never thought I’d get so tired of dippy eggs.

Went to a wonderful talk by Hugo Hamilton. I love hearing author’s read their own work. It’s a profoundly intimate and magical experience. We continue to have deep conversations about craft and life. I haven’t captured the essence of the larger container our words create. I hope I give you hints at least.

Took an hour to go see the Seamus Heaney exhibit. It’s an exhibit inside a bank. It’s free. It’s amazing. It shows his creative space and notebooks. I can barely imagine being such a powerful writer that someone should give a shit about my notebooks. There’s everything from a paper crane mobile to video of his funeral. There’s recordings of him reading his poems and of others reading them. Newspaper articles from the time to place him within the greater Irish context.

Then some anxiety attacks/anxiety management strategies before reading at an open mic. It was the first time I’ve picked poems to represent me and to stand in front of the group and read them. I read 2 short goddess poems and 1 autobiographical. I pretty much had tunnel vision and just read the words off the page and tried to make them shine. I kept to lighter subject matter because I wasn’t sure I wouldn’t chicken out if I planned to go too dark.

Dinner at a pub. Leek and chicken pie is amazing!

Finished the night with a midnight walk. I was longing for alone time and it’s so light being this close to the solstice that I wanted to touch the magic night.

Mary A. Stevens II, July 10 at 9:01 AM · 
Contemplating the Breakfast Club.

Mary A. Stevens II, July 10 at 1:43 PM
Seen on a car: A hard on doesn’t count as personal growth.

Mary A. Stevens II added 35 photos and 5 videos., July 10 at 5:37 PM · 
Ireland Wednesday #2
The day started with a craft seminar on translation. It was a fascinating philosophical discussion about how you choose to translate and we went through several writing exercises. We took a Latin phrase and translated it phonetically, literally (-ish), and feelingly. I’ve posted pictures of my process and my final poem to give you a taste. It’s totally self indulgent. I hope you’ll forgive me.

Then we got on the purple party bus and went to Joyce Tower by the sea (in my opinion Joyce is one of the most over-rated authors of the 20th century. Sometimes I like a writer more as I age or learn more. I like Yeats more now than I used to though he’s still not my fav).

Then of the Glendalough in County Wicklow to the church lands and lakes there. Had a fabulous moment with a deer (not quite as cool as when one licked me but nearly).

12,000 steps today. Finishing some homework and then I’m off to bed. Only 3 more sleeps left in Dublin.

Bee sting and ice cream
Summer’s offering
No answer approaches the questions
Turned to stone,
A tool for Sisyphus

Mary A. Stevens II added 19 photos and 3 videos., July 11 at 6:45 PM · 
Ireland, 2 more sleeps.

Today began with an interesting reading by Catronia Lilly. She talked about place as a character which I very much enjoyed and makes me want to write a book of ecopsychology poems growing on that theme.

Then I went to a live music/reading at the Seamus Heaney exhibit that was sublime.

Workshops, readings by graduating seniors, and drinks rounded off the night.

Oh, and I bought new Birkenstock’s.

Mary A. Stevens II added 27 new photos — at Trinity College Dublin Global., July 12 at 8:35 PM · Dublin, Ireland · 
Last sleep in Dublin. 
It’s hard to believe we’ve reached this point in the journey. I came here as an ‘I’ and I’m definitely leaving as part of the ‘we’ that is the Pan European MFA Program. My writing is already growing and changing and I have done 1/10th of the stuff I’m excited to work on.

We started the day with our last craft seminar which was on portraying technology in writing, specifically in dialogue. We touched on everything from how to physically structure the page to introducing tech as character.

I had my final mentor tutorial to go over my body of work thus far (which I’m alternately excited about and want to trash everything in what feels like a very stereotypical artist’s tension tantrum). I have a mile long reading list that I want to buy a new bookshelf for. Sometimes I don’t read new authors because I’m overwhelmed by the sheer volume of choices. But when someone takes the time to say “I see you and what you’re doing. I think you’d enjoy this”, how can I help but listen?

Lastly, Pearl and Jessica graduated. They are both such lovely ladies and I look forward to hosting them in PA. I’m sorry I only get 1 summer semester with them. We went to a fancy dinner and ate delicious food but honestly, I miss my kitchen and my protein shakes. For those who really know me, I ate fish multiple times on this trip. Not shellfish, actual fish that swims and has scales. This is a huge leap for me as I’m totally intimidated and under educated about fish. I also always over cook it. The fish tonight was sublime. Also had beef carpaccio for the first time (I think. Might have had as a kid) and deconstructed cheese cake where the cheese was the most amazing ball of tangy creaminess. It was even better than the ice cream.

Now is 1:30 am (Dublin) and I’m mostly packed and showered. My cab comes at 8:30am provides this app doesn’t fail me. Fingers crossed for an easy travel day! Penelope and Luna—I’m coming home 😘

Mary A. Stevens II, July 13 at 1:22 PM · 
Last Dublin morning.

Moved the cab to earlier thank god because the driver couldn’t figure out how to get to me. I tried to explain that I was on campus and then he’d say “Temple Bar?” (No not even close!) It was crazy stressful and would’ve been really tight since he picked me up at the original time I said. (I moved it 30 minutes earlier). Once I got in the car, he drove fast-fast and that was good if a bit terrifying at times.

Went through “pre-customs”. Not sure what that means for Philly. But I love that the man said “Welcome home.”

Once again on a plane (with obligatory takeoff photos) now headed to Home but also away from home. My heart feels big enough to encompass many worlds.

I love Penelope’s nod at the end of the video. I like to pretend she knows I’m coming Home 😂

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