This is the Country of such great writers as James Joyce, Thomas Moore, Jonathan Swift, Oscar Wilde, G.B. Shaw, W.B. Yeats, Bram Stoker and Samuel Beckett, just to name a few. Ireland boasts four winners of the Nobel Prize for Literature: Yeats, Shaw, Beckett and Heaney. During Writers' Week, the Kerry Group Irish Fiction Award is given. There were five short- listed novels for this prize featured in the bookstore with readings and workshops by the authors.
As you can see from the sign, they also have a Seanchai Centre (pronounced shawnakee), named after the traditional Irish lore keepers and tale spinners. It's an ancient form of story telling and passing on lore that was never written down from generation to generation by these custodians of Irish oral tradition. The seanchai were respected, even revered, practitioners who kept track of important information and wisdom then shared it in such a way that it was remembered and cherished down the ages.
I understand why the Irish came to love words and eventually writing those words to tell stories in whole new ways. I understand why welcome signs, fáilte in Irish, are flown for those who want to partake in this tradition. I understand why so many do; to feel this respect, this reverence, this love for the words that help us communicate with one another in ways that touch hearts and change minds. It's a worthy endeavor to improve such a craft. It deserves festivals galore no matter what the economic realities are. Economics will change, our efforts to reach each other remains.
The Kerry Literary and Cultural Centre is named after these, our (yours and mine) fore bearers.
One of the sign posts pointed me to the statue of Bryan McMahon, a favorite son of this town, a writer and a poet who also ran a local bookshop. I picked up his book: The Master and read it while in Ireland. I highly recommend it for the glimpse it gives of Irish country life through the eyes of the school principal who taught the children of the town for 30 years. He instilled in them a love for reading and writing and helped inspire an amazing number of authors and poets in this Kerry area. His views on teaching and awakening the gifts in each child are remarkable given how long ago he taught. I found it to be a treasure.
It was a rare, sunny, warm day in Ireland and I strolled the river walk suggested above. People were stretched out reading, writing, chatting with one another. Made me proud to be part of this grand tradition. These are my people. Writers are my tribe.