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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
The conflicts of my own country seemed overwhelming, as well as
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
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.
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
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.
Pádraig Ó Tuama
host of Poetry
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This Week at The On Being Project
Our Latest Episode
On Being with Krista
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.
This Movie Changed
“When you’re a kid, you see the life
you want, and it never crosses your mind that it’s not gonna turn out
This Movie Changed
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.
A Q&A With Artist Grace J.
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
talked with her about her process, influences, and approach for
creating illustrations that spark conversation.