Writers-in-Residence Comments

Jim Coleman (Watertown, Massachusetts, USA)

jim colemanAt Anam Cara, you might pick up, as I did, a local Book of Days or the story map of the Ring of Beara, which is this peninsula here. Or there’s the "The Celtic Shaman’s Pack," each card a fantastic story. And there’s a wealth of "A Writer’s Ireland" sort of stuff which you might, for all I know, enjoy. As we all know, the other kinds of stories, the real ones, are not so easily or so casually captured — the stories that are moving occasionally down the road in cars; the stories carried by the walker striding in that patented Irish farmer way; the man and girl on the tractor pulling, as if it were, a wagon of remembrance; and those folks doing their family reinforcement over in the cemetery beyond the road. Yes, these are much harder to seize upon, harder even than your own.

To me right now Anam Cara has more to do with itself than with invoking these stories whether they’re mine, yours, those folks on the road I glance up toward, or the old Celtic tales. This place is not a ballad either ("Our comrade’s gone. What can we do?" or "She stood there, very strange, said he") nor a whisperer of deeper or imported things. There are no mysteries of any sort. What we have here are anomalies fitted altogether nice and snug. What I mean is there is the sea and, right at hand, fields. There’s the village looking out on abandoned islands. There’s the day’s low moon, and pine and palm, and a course of water out back running perpendicular to the tide’s motion. Natural things like opposites together. There’s the light, thirst-quenching air, and stone along with sod low walls. There’s whatever it is around here that holds together the blue and white with the low and rough and Irish green. There’s quartz and then there’s sheep’s turf; there’s all the straightforward looks here in a place where nothing else is linear; and there’s the fires inside that hardly consume what they feed on. My yardman’s eye can see when this and that was built, how it was done, but nothing seems disturbed.

What we have here is not a mystery but rather a bit of what people talk about when they talk about "place." I wouldn’t say a retreat or a homecoming or anything of the sort. A place. It is sitting there in an ancient broken bowl of hills like a chick in your open palm. Maybe Anam Cara is here to make up for all the fairy stories and hero’s longing and all the sympathy for hopeless love, and murdered swans and crippled boys. All those stories we love and keep on telling because they are easier to get our minds around than are our apologies, forgivenesses and all our anger.

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