Family memories, bonds explored

Mary Courtney.


Salon Diary / By Karen Daly

We had an especially high-spirited Salon at St. Patrick’s Pub on the first Tuesday of April, with two artists debuting new work, and excellent music, memoir, fiction, drama and poetry, and a tour de force by Malachy McCourt. The theme of family bonds and memories was present in many offerings, whether they were forged in Brooklyn, Ireland or China, or in the imagination.

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Host and Salon producer John Kearns opened with a poem he’d just completed. He describes the experience of joining a friend by a river in Chengdu, China, as she burned fake currency and other paper items for her deceased father, as is the custom. Because of the language barrier, the narrator struck mute and illiterate captures the moment as “A poet with no words/Even to say there are no words.”

Jenifer Margaret Kelly and Mary Ann Meyer might have been our first mother-daughter presenters. Jenifer’s mother Mary Ann, on a visit from Florida, had taken a sentimental journey to the places in Brooklyn where she grew up. Mary Ann shared “The Tree,” a poem written by a prison inmate who watches a tree being torn down during his incarceration and reflects on the everyday beauty that we overlook. Inspired by our recent crime salon, Jenifer read a new short story titled “Miami” in which a sultry young woman heads out to kill an afternoon in the Miami heat.

Mary Ann Meyer and Jenifer Margaret Kelly.

Rosina Fernhoff’s reading of a monologue from Sheila Walsh’s play “Mr. Tweedy’s Neighbors” dazzled playwright. It tells the story of two eccentric sisters and their antagonistic, dying mother and what happens when a lonely neighbor visits.

Rosina Fernhoff.

Mike Farragher had lots to celebrate: the launch of his new book, “9 Rooms in Ballyglunin,” a collection of stories set in a rural B&B in Galway; the release of the audiobook “This is Your Brain on Shamrocks” and the recent filming in Kansas City of a comedy pilot for the “Shamrocks” book. He read a sweet excerpt about visiting his grandmother in Ireland, “Playing Ketchup with Granny.” Find out more at

Singer and musician Mary Courtney was celebrating, too, namely the release of her latest CD “Freedom’s Pioneers.” Mary sang three songs from that CD, accompanying herself once on the guitar, once on the bodhrán. She called it “an absolute joy to able to perform” for us. Salongoers will agree that the joy was ours. Find her schedule at her website here.

Poet Bernadette Cullen read several exquisite short poems that are thematically related. They included “Oblivion,” “Last Night at the Planetarium,” “All Exits Closed” and” Le Temps Perdu” and “My Father.”

Mike Farragher.

Singer/songwriter of “Celtic Soul” Bernard Smith entertained with original tunes. He composed the bittersweet “The Day Before Yesterday Morning” as a tribute to his late father. His lively “Travel On” is about letting go of what you can’t control.

Kathleen Vaughan read a chapter titled “Mothering Myself” from her brave memoir-in-progress “Raised by Nuns and Drunks.” As a young child who lost her mother, Kate learned to watch and emulate other women who cherished their children and themselves. Acknowledging the many women who supported and guided her, Kate revealed her practices for self-care.

Gordon Gilbert, Jr. told a short, funny story of looking for his car in Greenwich Village, and then reprised a character from one of his monologues. This character holds forth on aging, memory loss, lust, frustration and the bitterness of old men. Gordon claims that resemblance to any person living or dead was strictly intentional.

Malachy McCourt read a hilarious story from his bestselling memoir “A Monk Swimming.” As a headstrong young man, Malachy got into a dispute at an east side establishment that wanted him to check his coat. Malachy settled the dispute with what he calls “a nude frolic.” He also offered words of inspiration and exhortation about the craft of writing and telling stories.

Malachy gets the last word at our Salon, but we’ll give Mary Courtney the last word in our column. Commenting on Malachy, “our chieftain and founder,” she notes, “His presence always brings the energy in the room to the top…having him read and speak to us all is beyond words.”

See you next time at the Cell Theatre, April 17, at 7 p.m.