photo manipulation by nacrowe
when i listen to the music of THE POGUES and read the lyrics of SHANE MACGOWAN i hear longing. there is something achingly irish about this body of work.
in my teenage years i was lucky enough to have visited IRELAND, but i have to say growing up a kid who was thrown from school to school, literally continent to continent was more of an education into what it means to be irish than any book i read or place i visited. there is something to be said about the complicated long-distance relationship between the irish and their beloved ireland. i think it can be boiled down to the experience of an immigrant.
full disclosure: my paternal grandfather's side of the family is of irish-descent having left the small village of CAPPAWHITE in COUNTY TIPPERARY just over a century ago for NYC.
a national identity surrounding displacement is something i've seen again and again overseas. when i was in KOSOVO there were grandmothers i interviewed that longed to meet their sisters and cousins in ALBANIA that some hadn't seen since childhood. songs from their childhood were passed down to ensure a sense of identity even though their circumstances, (political, financial and otherwise) prevented such. it was heartbreaking to hear.
family of albanian descent i interviewed in kosovo. photo by nacrowe
when i listen to the work of SHANE MACGOWAN i hear that subtext. to me it is synonymous with the unique, often pitchy but unequivocally authentic tone of his voice. he may be singing about romantic love, but in my mind he is channeling his collected experiences of growing up irish in england as a first generation immigrant. there is a pride in that resilience which is all over his lionizing of the immigrant experience in songs like "thousands are sailing" and "fairytale of new york."
what i find truly heartbreaking is the inevitable miscue that happens when the public confuses pride in one's community and their resilience through trouble times as something unique to them. in my mind descendants of irish immigrants should be the first ones to welcome and support newcomers since they should the one's most aware of their sacrifice in leaving home. they should have empathy.
but i have the music of THE POGUES. sometimes i wish people could just harness and embody the ideals of their message and celebrate our collective community, because last time i checked when i was in ireland, to the irish EVERYONE IS FROM IRELAND.