Thursday, June 4, 2009

Why I Am Not a Painter

Well, I've gotten over that bump. No more feeling sorry for myself--sure, I miss Dublin, but I brought about a year's supply of tea home to keep me company.

Lately, I've been thinking about my post-Emory plans...a pretty scary thought, but I have to do it. No more sitting idly on the couch! Now, I sit on the couch and do research on my laptop. It's an improvement, right? Only kidding, I do get out of the house once in a while. Anyway, I've been trying to figure out what's doable and what's not, and whether I'm even good enough, or worth it, to go and get an MFA in poetry. Today, my mother tried to convince me that I should become a personal shopper. This spurred me into action. I AM going to write. I'm going to take the GRE this summer, and I'm going to resume the writing schedule that I gave myself last semester (a poem a week, no matter how terrible it is). I'm going to write a kick-ass thesis, and then I'm going to get my MFA.

This poem by Frank O'Hara pretty much sums up my feelings on the subject (why am I going to do all of these things? because, I can't NOT do them. i can't NOT write poems.):

Why I Am Not a Painter

I am not a painter, I am a poet.
Why? I think I would rather be
a painter, but I am not. Well,

for instance, Mike Goldberg
is starting a painting. I drop in.
"Sit down and have a drink" he
says. I drink; we drink. I look
up. "You have SARDINES in it."
"Yes, it needed something there."
"Oh." I go and the days go by
and I drop in again. The painting
is going on, and I go, and the days
go by. I drop in. The painting is
finished. "Where's SARDINES?"
All that's left is just
letters, "It was too much," Mike says.

But me? One day I am thinking of
a color: orange. I write a line
about orange. Pretty soon it is a
whole page of words, not lines.
Then another page. There should be
so much more, not of orange, of
words, of how terrible orange is
and life. Days go by. It is even in
prose, I am a real poet. My poem
is finished and I haven't mentioned
orange yet. It's twelve poems, I call
it ORANGES. And one day in a gallery
I see Mike's painting, called SARDINES.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

"Harder Now That It's Over" (thanks, Ryan Adams)

I've been home for less than 24 hours and I'm already going stir crazy. Everything looks exactly the same, except for my bedroom, which has mysteriously acquired more miscellaneous objects in my absence. I'm already sitting on the couch, getting angry at the slow internet, feeling blase (oh Blogger, why can't I make accent marks?) about cleaning my room, and waiting for my friends to come around. Summer is here for sure. It feels like I never left, like I never lived in another country at all, like I've been sitting here on the couch for the past five months and suddenly became aware of it.

Is this culture shock? It feels more like the absence thereof...I miss the freedom of Dublin, and the friendliness of strangers, but I see cars driving on the right side and I'm not confused. I was a little overwhelmed at the supermarket yesterday, having gotten used to the smaller scale of Tesco, but I got over it easily enough. Hunger will do that to you. The most shocking thing of all, I think, was seeing one of those huge garbage bins yesterday (what are they called, the big metal ones? blame the jet lag) with "DUBLIN" on it. Double take!

Also, I would like to issue a retraction: my iPod is not deceased. Who knew that bad headphones could make your music go fuzzy and start skipping? Obviously not me.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Things I Will Miss (and apparently I'm attracted to the letter S)

Abrakebabra, archaeological tourism

Barry's Tea, bridges, Bus Atha Cliath

counties, cliffs, cider

Dublin (duh), doors

even D4s

the face column outside of Screen Cinema

Galway Hooker, the good milk, Grafton Street

Hodges Figges

"I'm after drinking this Guinness"

Jaffa Cakes


the lack of "th" (i.e. "De Irish are true tespians. Dey appreciate da teater." Translation: "The Irish are true thespians. They appreciate the theater."), loading up my backpack for the next Great European Adventure

magpies, Molly Malone a.k.a. "the tart with the cart"


the "ollscoil"

political history in your face, Porterhouse


the art history Reading Room, real green grass, rugby, Ryanair

sausages, Screen Cinema, my singing hairdryer, the singing crosswalks, "smuggling peas," Spar, spring lambs, St. Stephen's Green, sunlight coming as a shock

taxi drivers, Temple Bar, Tesco

upper and lower streets

"veg" with your dinner

the word "ye"

X. I got nothing.

yellow gorse flowering on the hills


Tuesday, May 12, 2009


I just saw a centipede in our bathroom. I am not normally freaked out by bugs, but there is something just wrong about centipedes. They are too sinuous.

Also, I blame this on my roommate, who recently cleaned the bathroom (badly) using the sponge that some of us use to wash our dishes. Today, I also had to move my toothpaste out of the bathroom so that she would stop using it. Can't wait to come home!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

All Good Things Must Come to an End

And by that I'm referring to my iPod, not the semester--16 days until I return to the states! And only three more exams between me and a blissful summer without (a lot of) rain. Is it sad that writing this blog entry is my reward for studying? I've seriously been regressing; Taylor Swift brought me back to thirteen, but I'm hovering somewhere near third grade now. Last night, I only allowed myself to watch an episode of Ugly Betty after finishing a novel for one of my exams tomorrow. The whole time that I was reading, even though I genuinely liked the book, all I could think about was Betty's new boyfriend and Wilhelmina's machinations (but who isn't interested in baby-napping and mistaken identities? come on, I'm not the only one!).

Anyway, back on topic: my poor little iPod has succumbed to exhaustion and rain. And at only 5 years old! Coming out of the exam building/hangar a few days ago, we got rained on a bit and it started skipping. I found out yesterday that I should have just turned it off and let it dry out instead of listening to the entire Spring Awakening soundtrack...oops. I'm still hoping that it will, in the spirit of spring (pun was not intended, but now that I notice it, it brings me joy!), resurrect itself, but it's not looking likely.

I'm going to miss you, iPod. I don't care if others have called you bulky or archaic--we've got history! We've done so much together over the years: traveling to the wilds of Israel and Montreal, making it through my freshman year of college, saying goodbye to two different laptops (and two iTunes libraries), listening to Ryan Adams when boys have been stupid, not running out of battery when the equestrian team accidentally drove us to Florida, and turning Clifton Road into a catwalk...among many other things.

Goodbye, iPod. Here's to you.

Thursday, May 7, 2009


Yesterday, when I was taking my first exam of the semester, I noticed an Irish student (how did I know? it has to do with a certain area code, if you get my drift. which you probably don't, unless you've been studying here, too) wearing a Franklin and Marshall sweatshirt. As in, Franklin and Marshall, the small liberal arts college in Pennsylvania, the United States. And this wasn't the first incident...I've been seeing people wearing Franklin and Marshall sweatshirts all over Dublin for the past couple of months. Is this some sort of trend? Why Franklin and Marshall? Why not a school that's actually well-known, and not in Pennsylvania? I even saw people wearing their F&M accoutrement in Italy. Why this sudden upsurge of school spirit for a school that, I'm pretty sure I can safely say, these people don't even attend? It boggles my mind.

Or maybe F&M just has the least expensive sweatshirts of all American universities? When I start typing into my Google search box, the first suggestion is "franklin and marshall hoodie," followed by "franklin and marshall online store," then "franklin and marshall cheap." Hmm.

AHA! According to, "Franklin and Marshall" is a brand, based on the name of the college. They make vintage and collegiate-inspired clothing. But I still don't understand why they chose F&M, of all schools. Oh well, at least I solved the mystery. Now I can walk into my next exam knowing that I am not being thrown into the middle of some sort of Franklin and Marshall-based conspiracy. I can sit in the cavernous barn/warehouse/hangar/testing center with my 3,000 fellow students, my head held high.

Yes, that's how they take exams here. It's actually not that bad; I'm not really bothered by the large space, just the birds flying above me in the rafters. I really hope that none of them have been eating big lunches.

Monday, May 4, 2009

It's Never Too Late for a White Horse

Just in case you thought I was getting too cultured:

Possibly due to a subconscious preparation for my return home, I've been listening to a lot of country music lately (something that, two years ago, I never thought I'd say). And, I'm sorry if this lowers your opinion of me, but I just have to say that Taylor Swift is sounding better and better. I didn't think she could top "Picture to Burn" or "Our Song," but I'm very much loving Fearless. Particularly "White Horse" and "The Way I Loved You." But why is that guy from "Laguna Beach" in the video?

Oh, and I like Miley Cyrus's new song. I'm officially thirteen years old.

"Ciao, bella!"

The pictures here are actually back to front, since we went Venice-Florence-Rome. But it's Italy! Some of the hostels may have been less than wonderful,'s Italy! I took a lot less pictures than I did the last time that I was there, just trying to enjoy the experience and the sunshine (and thanks to the lack of sun in Dublin that my skin has become accustomed to, I now have a terrible sunburn). I was surprised by how well I remembered the cities after four years! It's comforting to find that memories don't fade as much as we think they do.
Hadrianic roundels (if I remember correctly)
the Arch of Constantine
semi-unconventional view of the Colosseum
bridge with angels
Saint Peter's Basilica
the Ponte Vecchio (which was mysteriously stamped with Darth Vader masks?)
the view of the Duomo from our hostel terrace
the Uffizi framing the bell tower
after some light rain in Venice, San Marco plaza was flooded this badly--this does not bode well. platform walkways were set up all over the city, just in case.
quills! brings me back to the 18th century.
stairway to nowhere (well, it's somewhere, but it's locked. therefore it's nowhere)
colorful, wet buildings
at first we thought the platforms were for an impromptu fashion show...through all of Venice? I don't know what we were thinking.

Oh, and also! I ate cuttlefish in ink. I don't think that I'll be doing that again, but it was definitely an interesting experience. When in Venice...

Saturday, April 18, 2009

"It's now or never, COLLEGE!!!!" or, "STOP EFFING AROUND!!!"

I finally got to go to a rugby game! UCD played Munster yesterday, and it was absolutely fantastic. I've never enjoyed watching football or baseball, but this was really entertaining, despite the fact that we didn't know the rules. It has some similarities to football, but as they say here, football is a gentleman's game compared to rugby. The medic was running around on that field as much as or more than the actual players--and they didn't stop playing when they were injured, just taped it up and kept on getting smashed. It also moved a lot faster than football; they'd be in a huge scrum, fighting over the ball, and then all of a sudden the ball would reappear twenty feet away! The coolest play, though, was this brilliant lift that they would do whenever the ball was thrown back in. They literally lifted each other up (kind of like a cheerleading move, actually) to catch the ball in the air.

UCD lost, but it was still an insanely fun day. Rugby fans are absolutely mad.

the big LIFT

number 11, mr. fancypants, striking his signature pose


Monday, April 13, 2009

Bru na boinne and the Hill of Tara

Last Monday, I finally got to see Newgrange, an ancient tomb, and the Hill of Tara, which is an early medieval royal site--I'm not sure how else to explain it. It's actually exactly the type of thing that we've been looking at in my archaeology class: a bank-and-ditch enclosure, with more ditches signifying higher status, different 'levels' of enclosed space, and a strategic location overlooking three quarters of the country on a clear day (here's an aerial view, so you can see what the earthwork looks like as a whole). When you're actually on the hill, you can't really see the big picture; it just looks like the ground has turned to waves, and you're walking up and down a green surf. The landscape and the history on this trip were pretty spectacular, and Newgrange itself was so mysterious and creepy--but in a good way! I love the creepy stuff.

The tomb actually reminded me of the Ancient American shamanic artwork that I studied last semester. I wonder if archaeologists have considered that Newgrange may have been the product of a visionary culture? Dichotomies of light/dark, male/female, life/death, and white/black are obvious in the construction, as are themes of fertility/seasons/birth/rebirth, but for me the biggest clue was the recurrence of spirals and zigzags. The guide told us that people have guessed that they are a form of writing, or artwork. Spirals and zigzags are actually really important in shamanic art, because they (along with other motifs like lattices and tunnels) reflect the visionary consciousness; when a person goes into trance, those symbols are part of the first stage of the vision, while spirals themselves are also very eye-like. Inside the tomb, in one of the three niches, there was also a shallow basin that the guide suggested as a place to hold the dead, or possibly to collect blood from a sacrifice--but what about a hallucinogenic substance? Shamanic cultures often associate basins or metates with fertility and visions, and after all, Newgrange is a tomb where people came (perhaps) to journey to the world of the dead...just like having a vision and travelling to the underworld.

It sounds like I'm really going out on a limb here, but there were just so many similarities between Newgrange and Ancient American structures like Chavin de Huantar. They both incorporate the same dichotomies that I already explained, use the concept of difficult entrance and intimidation, and there is a strange similarity between the phallic Lanzon and the spear of light that pierces the interior of Newgrange at every winter solstice. I could say so much more, but I'd like to refrain from treating this blog like an art history paper. I think Newgrange can speak for itself!

side view of Newgrange--mound with a stone facade
the 'difficult' entrance--you had to climb over that rock in order to enter
the stone facade, reconstructed from the original materials at the site. white/black, light/dark, anyone? plus the black stones are EGG-shaped (as is the mound of Newgrange itself)
the kerbstones surrounding the structure
a kerbstone with spirals and zigzags
kerbstone pattern
small mound at the Hill of Tara
it still has a pretty cool view
bank, ditch, bank, ditch, bank...
there was no one there to explain this...but it looks pretty cool. I'm guessing that the pattern on the ground isn't original to the site.
overlooking all of Ireland--on a clear day. But of course, it rained for us.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter, 1916 and 2009

the Jim Larkin statue and the hoisting of the Irish tricolor

the "beach"--really a large mudflat
gardens at Dublin Castle

On Sunday, I went into town for the commemoration of the Easter Rising (which actually happened on Easter Monday, not Easter Sunday...I don't know why they changed the date). After visiting Kilmainham Gaol and reading the entire body of Yeats's work this semester, it was really interesting to be a part of this occasion. People mouthed the words to the Proclamation of Independence along with the speaker, sang the national anthem, and held their children up on their shoulders to see everything better. The reactions of the people around me really made me think--living in the Dublin of 2009 is an entirely different experience from that of the older people in the crowd, for whom the idea of independence is probably still a meaningful concept. The concurrence of the Rising with the Easter holiday (which I'm sure was not an accident) mashes together those ideas of resurrection and rebirth with those of nationhood and national identity. Even the politics here are poetic!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

In the land / of Ferdinand / My favorite bull / who kept his cool!

we survived! (and that's why we look so tired)
the Parque del Buen Retiro (bigger than Central Park)

turtles in Atocha Station, which basically had its own indoor rainforest
the view, on our day trip to Toledo
everything was ornamented, even the balcony undersides
city wall gate in Toledo
hot chocolate and churros near Puerto del Sol!
one of about a million cows all over the city
protesters on the free New Madrid tour that we tried to take
the amazing green art (which was also in Avignon, on the side of Les Halles)
part of the outdoor Rodin exhibit

We arrived in Madrid after the world's longest overnight bus ride from Avignon--stops every three hours, mouth breathers, "Titanic" in Spanish, and of course, a healthy dose of motion sickness. Not to mention that the bus left from a sketchy corner in Avignon at 10 at night. But no worries, we survived and made it to our hostel near Sol.

Everything in Madrid was so inexpensive compared to Dublin, especially wine, which was only a few euros per bottle. At one bar (El Tigre, for anyone planning a visit), a glass of the local cidra cost 1.75 euro, and came with a plate of delicious tapas. For 3 euro each, we were fed for the night. Whoever heard of a 3 euro dinner in Dublin! (and yes, McDonald's would have been more expensive, not to mention less delicious and slightly more destructive to my arteries)

We spent a lot of time walking around, just seeing the city, in addition to visiting the Prado and the Reina Sophia (which I absolutely loved--the Prado for its "Sleeping Beauty" room, and the Reina Sophia for the Picasso and Thek exibits). We actually tried to take one of the New Madrid tours, which are free, but it never left the Puerto del Sol and only lasted about five minutes. The licensed tour guides were protesting against the tour, and then the police came and broke up the whole thing. Apparently, there's a huge dispute over these tours, because they take business away from tour guides that charge money--who say that the tours are illegal because the guides aren't licensed. The law says that only paid tour guides must be licensed, though, and these tours don't cost any money. So we walked right into a moral dilemma.

Speaking of which, we were asked whether or not we wanted to go see the bullfights, which kind of shocked me. I know that bullfighting is part of Madrid's culture, and that it still happens, but the suggestion to attend a bullfight still kind of threw me. I love Hemingway, but I could never watch an animal be tortured for sport. I'd much rather go to a flamenco show, which we did, and which was much less bloody (although I wouldn't want to get in the way of those stomping heels).

And then we missed our flight home and waited at the Madrid airport for ten hours. But it was a fitting ending, I think, for all our blunders!

Friday, March 27, 2009

"But is Snape really evil after all?"

Yes. That's Alan Rickman (a.k.a. Severus Snape, Eamon DeValera, or hairdresser extraordinaire Phil Allen...depending on your taste). He came to UCD today to accept an award from the Literary and Historical Society (who also brought Heaney and Nighy).

It was really great to hear him speak--I kind of had to stop myself from raising my hand and asking if he remembered what a bezoar was, but hey that's just me. Really though, he was incredibly interesting and funny, and it was pretty much awesome. 'Nuff said.