Reading the Poetry of one of my ancestral homelands and how it has affected my perspective.
Rev. Jonathan David Faulkner.
Barnes and Noble is an exceedingly wonderful place, my wife and I jokingly both have said we could spend the entirety of our paychecks there. Something we will not do, because that would be irresponsible. As bibliophiles we love walking through the store, seeing all the new books, smelling the smells of books, it is a wonderful experience. For Christmas we were both given Barnes and Noble gift cards and with those we both bought books we had been eyeing on the shelves as we walked through. Mine was a book of Irish Poetry entitled: “The Poems of the Irish People.” I believe they were meant to be stocking stuffers, not very big, fitting perfectly in a Stocking, but it is a treasure trove of Irish Poems.
As long as I can remember I have loved learning about Ireland. As a Faulkner, my history is eternally tied up with the land and the Irish people. I did my Middle School International Fair project on The Shimmering Isle and even made Beef and Cabbage for the occasion. In recent years I have been reading on Celtic Spiritually, not just St. Patrick but St. Bridgett and others. In The All-Ohio State Fair Youth Choir we sang an old Irish blessing at the close of almost every concert and I have always had a strong desire to one day visit Ireland.
I started on this Journey after reading Sarah Shin’s book “Beyond Colorblind” in which she encourages her readers to discover and find the joy in their cultural backgrounds: “White is not a monolith” someone has said and so Shin wants us to: “Dive deep into our own cultural heritages and histories” even as those who identify as White. That is, White/Caucasian is made up of many different cultural backgrounds and histories. Go to a place like Frankenmuth Michigan if you want to experience a re-enactment of Bavarian Germany or to any of the many Authentic Irish Pubs in cities across the country, places where a pint is always waiting and your family when you walk in.
And so I have been reading the Poems of the Irish people and in doing so becoming more connected and grounded in the history and culture into which my ancestors were born. There are two lessons I have learned while reading these poems, or at least had reinforced. 1. That the land is very important to the Irish and 2. That the people themselves are very important to the Irish.
Most of the poems I have read so far are about the land, most notably how beautiful the land is and how amazing it is that it brings forth the crops. There is a wonder at creation here that can and often does lead to a wonder and worship of God. This was my reaction the first time I saw a picture of the fields around Killarney, with sun shining through the clouds. According to the family stories, my own family were potato farmers who came to the New World to farm the rich land of lower Canada before settling in Michigan (modern day Port Huron).
Along with the land, the people are also extremely important to the Irish. This comes out not just in the poetry, but in the art and songs and in every interaction I have ever had with anyone from the nation of Ireland. Irish Pubs were places of family and community gathering, and they still are, even in America it is hard to find an Irish Pub that is not, in some way, oriented towards the family. Just take a peaks at Banjo Irelands Rend Collective and their discography with albums like: “As Family We Go” and even: “A Jolly Irish Christmas” indicate the centrality of the hearth and home in Irish culture and the importance of table fellowship.
In all of this, I have learned much about myself. I have always found farming fascinating, even though I have no skill for it myself, and my family and doing hospitality as a family, is a value I hold dear. I look forward to continuing to read Irish Poetry and learn more about my cultural heritage.
What is yours? Have you read any books by those who went before you? Be they Irish or German or Swedish or from some other part of this amazing world? You never know what you could discover about yourself.