Thursday 15 October 2015

Irish American Writers & Artists honors Patricia Harty & Irish America Magazine

           The thought that there’s a carpenter in Queens who could be the next Sean O’Casey, or a waitress in Staten Island with the unrecognized talent of an Edna O’Brien, is the reason I agreed to serve as president of the Irish American Writers and Artists.

            God knows I had enough on my plate, but raw talent has always fascinated me – particularly when it hasn’t had the good fortune to be nourished by an expensive education.

            O’Casey and O’Brien acquired their chops in the ivy league university of hard knocks, and the passion that oozes from their work is a direct result of difficult life experiences.

            The people who read and perform at the twice-monthly IAWA salons arrive directly from their workplaces; you can almost witness them morph into writers and artists as they shuffle through the door of The Cell on 23rd Street or Bar Thalia on Upper Broadway, Manhattan. To watch them strut off stage to applause, their eyes sparkling, their creative energies renewed, is a joy to behold.

            IAWA is a proudly progressive organization. We formed in 2008 as a direct response to the suggestion that Irish-Americans would not support an African-American presidential candidate.  So much for that archaic notion!

By the same token we’re non-sectarian, non-partisan and we accept members from all nationalities, creeds, and walks of life. In seven years, under the leadership of Presidents Peter Quinn and TJ English, we have helped save St. Brigid’s Famine Church, raised over $100,000 for victims of the Haitian earthquake, and inaugurated The Frank McCourt Literary Prize to be given annually to a high school student who shows a flair for creative writing.

We also seek to instill in our members the idea that their work is of value; that it’s not to be bartered away for a monetary pittance or a bucketful of digital “likes.”

This is one of those do-or-die times for the arts. Musicians have already lost the battle for meaningful copyright control; technology and general avarice have stranded us in a nowhere land – for who buys CDs anymore, who even legally downloads when you can pay Spotify $9.99 per month for access to a universe of music?

The likelihood is that most artists will eventually suffer the same fate; still there is strength in numbers and, at the least, these issues are being raised by IAWA and occasionally solutions are offered.
Whether you are an artist or someone interested in the arts you can become a member. It costs less than a buck a week to join IAWA, and for that you are guaranteed an outlet for your creative work, be it literature, drama, music, poetry or some personal amalgam of these disciplines.

Every salon is free to the public; you can audit to your heart’s content. It’s our privilege to give back something of value to New York and any of the other cities we hold salons in.

We fund our programs by throwing a hooley every year in honor of the great Irish-American playwright, Eugene O’Neill, at which we present an award for a lifetime of artistic achievement. The honoree on Oct. 19th at The Manhattan Club/Rosie O’Grady’s will be Patricia Harty, a founder and co-publisher of Irish-America Magazine.

Trish is the first Irish born woman to receive the O’Neill award. She arrived in this country from her native Tipperary with little but a dream; over a thirty-year period she has turned that dream into a superb magazine that successfully fuses the often incompatible worlds of Ireland and Irish-America. 

The O’Neill Award night is considered one of the social events of the year, where well known writers, artists, actors, musicians and dignitaries rub shoulders with would-be Sean O’Caseys, Edna O’Briens, Van Morrisons, and Liam Neesons.

Perhaps, you’ll come. One thing you can be certain of – you’ll be welcome. And if not, then maybe we’ll see you at one of our salons in New York City or around the country. Remember - it’s never too late to become an Irish American writer or artist.

The 2015 IAWA Eugene O’Neill Lifetime Achievement Award Benefit & Cocktail Party - Monday, October 19, 2015, 6:00 to 9:00 pm The Manhattan Club (upstairs at Rosie O’Grady’s) 800 7th Ave. (52nd St), Manhattan - open bar & hors d'oeuvres Tickets: or at the door.

Sunday 4 October 2015

Dark Horse/New Mood?

            There is something strange going on in the country that should have the financial markets rattling and the establishment quaking in its boots.

            In some circles it’s being written off as September madness, and yet how do you explain that well over 50% of Republicans favor a bombastic businessman, a retired African-American neurosurgeon, and a failed CEO over a cabal of experienced Republican governors and senators.

            Nor is this giddiness confined to the party of Lincoln. On the Democratic side, a Vermont socialist with a Brooklyn accent shows many signs of whipping a former senator who up until recently was a dead cert to win the nomination of her party.

            Are Americans finally sick of a stagnant two party system? Or is it something deeper – a new order arising from the cult of celebrity, the breakneck pace of communication, and an electorate that demands outrageous statements along with simple solutions from its leaders?

            Of course we could still end up in 2016 with Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton charging neck and neck down the home straight as I predicted in a February column. But I don’t think so and, though I blush at the omission, I didn’t even mention Donald Trump in that column.

            But that’s my point – the normal has been turfed out the window and the unexpected rules.  Although I don’t have a great opinion of Mr. Trump, yet he has introduced some long needed common sense to the Republican economic platform by demonizing “the hedge fund guys” and their lucrative tax loophole of carried interest. Talk about instant populism!

            My own feeling, though, is that The Donald will bail out at, or before, the Republican Convention in Cleveland next July. I doubt he has the commitment to memorize the names of various Arab potentates let alone deal with the burdens of leading a democracy.

Besides look at poor Mr. Obama’s rapidly graying hair. You think Mr. Trump would welcome such an affliction! And anyway, the Trump brand has been well and truly burnished in his scene-stealing presidential run. So why bother taking on a thankless job.

            A New York Times columnist recently described Dr. Ben Carson as someone who has woken from a nap and can’t find his glasses. Insipid though he may seem, is it possible to take seriously a candidate who states that an American citizen of Muslim faith should not run for president? John F. Kennedy must be twitching in his grave.

            I must say that Ms. Fiorina riveted me with her horrifying description of a Planned Parenthood video that I find hard to even quote. That this video arose from her twisted imagination says more about her than an organization that has helped countless poverty-stricken women since its foundation in 1916 by two Irish-American sisters, Margaret Higgins Sanger and Ethel Higgins Byrne.

            For these and other reasons I very much doubt that any of the above three will become the Republican nominee. Throwing caution to the wind, my own reconsidered prediction is Senator Marco Rubio. He’s young, media savvy, and for the most part has managed to keep his foot out of his mouth – never an easy task when one must impress the conservative brethren of Iowa and South Carolina.

Of course, there may yet be a dark horse waiting in the wings of each party. Which brings me to the Democrats. One has the feeling that the field is not yet complete – and I’m not talking about Vice-President Biden.

Senator Sanders has nailed his radical, if sensible, goals for a fairer society to the mast and, my friend, Gov. O’Malley may yet garner more media attention and make a gallant run down the back stretch. However, the nomination is still Mrs. Clinton’s to lose.

But first she must shed her pollsters and moribund advisors, and remember that she would be president today had she followed her heart rather than her head in the Iraq War senate vote.

There’s a new mood sweeping this country and it has little time for entitlement or the politics of the past. Those running for election had better be out in front of it; for this new beginning has little mercy for those it leaves broken in its wake.