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Dear friends,

For years, when I was overseas, I used to be embarrassed about the kind of questions people would ask me about Ireland. While this has changed somewhat now, certainly the ‘90s and into the 2000s meant that when people heard you were Irish they’d ask questions about the violence in the North. 

If I hadn’t been interested in history, politics, power, language, and empire, I’d have certainly had to become interested in order to answer. The questions were often limited: bits and pieces picked up from overhearing news items or misheard headlines. Once someone asked me, “Are you from Ireland proper, or the other part?” And religion always came into it; and violence. I didn’t mind the limited understanding. My own stumbling attempts to ask questions of other people about their conflicts would probably display similar limitations.

The conflicts of my own country seemed overwhelming, as well as somewhat pithy. 

But when the On Being team came, in the summer of 2016,to Belfast to record an interview with Michael Longley, I gained a new imagination and landscape. Where the troubles of the north of Ireland had seemed a thing about the past for me, Krista’s interview with Michael brought out the troubling reality that our conflicts spelled something about the present for a wider world. “My wife used to say that she hoped Northern Ireland would become like the rest of the world, and she now points out that the rest of the world is becoming as Northern Ireland used to be,” Michael Longley says, with characteristic wit and insight. Wit, because it’s not something we’d have wished on the world; insight because the deep questions of borders, belonging, history, privilege, change, and violence are questions that are not unique to the Irish-British peace process, but rather are invitations for all regions to live with. 

Michael Longley is in his early 80s and is one of the foremost poets of Ireland. He speaks about the reluctance many Irish poets had about writing Troubles-related poetry. World War I — a war in which Longley’s own father had fought — had yielded atrocities and poetries. After World War II, people asked, “Where are the poets?”as if somehow poetry could decorate a war. The conflict in Northern Ireland, particularly in the years of 1968-1998, was not a time to write quick poetry, in the practice of Longley. He, and many other poets, didn’t want poems to be seen to be speaking too easily of peace while troubles were raging; they didn’t want poetry to be a form of decoration on the devastations of violence in the community.  

But with time, not with haste, poems did come, and Michael Longley is one of the poets whose work has spoken to violence and its aftermath. In his poem “Ceasefire,” he takes an old Greek myth and repurposes it for a British-Irish context. And in “The Ice-Cream Man,” a lament poem that is fuelled by tenderness and outrage, he speaks of the kinds of things that are worth living for wildflowers, for instance. Michael Longley’s poems are evocative of tenderness and beauty. And this, for him, is his own contribution to the question of the other side of war: what are we making peace for? For beauty, he answers. Krista’s conversation with this magnificent poet from my corner of the world is a conversation that is charming, lively in its insights into art and form, and ultimately circles around the question of how can we be us together; and what for? His captivation with beauty guides this conversation that delves so often into language of war.

In this week’s episode of This Movie Changed Me, Lily Percy speaks to writer Liara Tamani about Gina Prince-Bythewood’s movie Love & Basketball; a story of sport, of romance, of family expectation, of defying the odds, of self-assertion against gendered expectations. This movie is a story of the artistry of a single life living into its own glory over and against obstacles. Liara had followed family expectations to Harvard Law School and, when she saw this film, knew that she had to make a change. She dropped out, and worked all kinds of jobs, not even knowing what she wanted to do. Lily and Liara speak about how, as women who grew up in the church, expectations were strong about what the future should look like, and how both of them needed fortitude to question their choices from the expectations that had always seemed unquestionable.

This is the final episode of This Movie Changed Me and in honor of the extraordinary team behind this series, we are sharing a special behind-the-scenes conversation with the people who made TMCM. Lily speaks with Lilian Vo, Gautam Srikishan, Eddie Gonzalez and Chris Heagle about movies that changed their lives, as well as lessons they’ve learned from the episodes in the three seasons of this magnificent series.

Whether it’s poetry or movies, what strikes me in all of this week’s episodes is that while the wish to defy expectations or to resist predictable violences is important, it is nurtured by something else: a vision of beauty, of justice, of a new and creative imagination of shared cities and territories and powers. Our episodes this week are nurturing for such visions, and we are glad to be learning and leaning into change in your company and practice.

 

Beir bua, 

Pádraig Ó Tuama
host of Poetry Unbound


 


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This Week at The On Being Project


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On Being with Krista Tippett

Michael Longley
"The Vitality of Ordinary Things"

The great Northern Irish poet. Traversing what is terrible and extraordinary and beautiful and ordinary. Everyday healing for a society, or a life.

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This Movie Changed Me

Liara Tamani
Love & Basketball

“When you’re a kid, you see the life you want, and it never crosses your mind that it’s not gonna turn out that way.” 

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This Movie Changed Me

Bonus: Farewell From the TMCM Team

The folks who make This Movie Changed Me talk about the role movies have played in their lives and what they’ve learned working on the podcast. 

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A Q&A With Artist Grace J. Kim


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For each episode of the final season of This Movie Changed Me, Grace J. Kim created a piece of art that honored both the movie and guests. Grace is a digital illustrator whose art shows the present and the everyday through a therapeutic lens – serene and utopic. We talked with her about her process, influences, and approach for creating illustrations that spark conversation. 

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