By Yevheniia Dubrova, VI Form
101 Reasons Why Any Literary Enthusiast Should Travel To Ireland AND Why Any St. Marker Should Apply For Grants
Editor’s Note on the A.A. Jones Grant: The Anthony A. Jones family wishes to inspire international educational initiatives among current St. Mark’s students by financing all or part of their travel and room and board for activities which are deemed by St. Mark’s School to be educationally stimulating.
“Believe it or not, my grandpa was Yeats’s pal. He was a poet himself, a good man he was. He told me all about the fairies.”
It’s night here in Dublin, and I am discussing fairies and drinking tea in the kitchen of a man whom I met four hours ago. His name is Vinny, he speaks in a heavy Irish accent, holds degrees in creative writing and philosophy, works as a tourist guide, loves hosting strangers (however creepy that may sound), and his grandpa, apparently, was one of Yeats’s childhood buddies. I am trying to process the fact that he talks about the Yeats, whom I love as much as any sane person could love a poet, staring at the wall decorated with some posters in Irish Gaelic and caricatures of James Joyce, Jonathan Swift, and Oscar Wilde. I ask Vinny what’s written on the posters, to which he responds by handing me a Gaelic-English dictionary. I spend twenty minutes flipping through the pages, just to discover that most of what’s written there are Irish curse words.
I have just spent two weeks traveling through the county and visiting places where Irish writers and poets lived and worked, which, it seems to me, is basically any place in Ireland. To quote Vinny, “there are more poets in Ireland then stars in the night sky.” Sounds poetic to me.
After traveling through Cork, Galway, Kerry, and Dublin, I spontaneously decided to spend another night in the capital. I met Vinny only several hours before we were singing “On Raglan Road” in the kitchen of his house, but I could not have planned a better way to finish my literary sojourn.
The time I spent visiting places with an extraordinary literary history, exploring Irish culture, and meeting people like Vinny was, without a doubt, the highlight of my summer. There’s something about Ireland that makes you want to sell all your belongings, buy a hut in one of those tiny villages on the west coast, get yourself a flock of sheep, and spend days and nights staring at the incredible landscapes, writing poetry, breathing as deep as you can, and living as best as you can.
I walked the steps of Walter Macken and Pádraic Ó Conaire in Galway and visited one of the Aran Islands where Liam O’Flaherty was born. I touched the plaque dedicated to the Gaelic Muse that guards the exalted poets of Kerry and almost broke an artifact in the James Joyce museum. I lost track of time in the National Library of Ireland and found enough inspiration in the Dublin Writers Museum to write at least three best-selling novels by the end of my senior year. I read Yeats. A lot of Yeats.
Along with these places, famous for their influence on the lives and works of the world-renowned writers and poets, I stopped by some of the ancient castles and enjoyed the nature of coastal Ireland. I ate enough fish and chips not to want to look at it for at least another year, and I listened to enough Irish folk music to totally fall in love with it. I met amazing people and started believing in fairies. I came up with an idea for a novel set in nineteenth-century Ireland and am now working on my first draft. I decided that I want to come back to Ireland in college through a study abroad program, and I started learning Gaelic.
I initially applied for a grant because I wanted to learn more about the many Irish writers whom I admire, but I gained so much more than that. Wherever your passion lies, the grant program at St. Mark’s School is a wonderful opportunity to explore one’s interests and take education beyond the classroom. Thank you to the A. A. Jones Family International Studies Grant for this incredible opportunity.
Yevheniia Dubrova is a VI Form boarding student from Ukraine. She is passionate about creative writing and history. In her free time, she enjoys writing, reading, and overseeing several social initiatives she started back in Ukraine.