TERRE HAUTE —
It’s possible that, today, a few people are angry about having to listen to so much anger.
(Would those two competing forces of anger, inside one person, cancel each other out, kind of like a double-negative or offsetting penalties? Just trying to comprehend that internal competition is angering.)
Whether your ears have absorbed enough political venting to last a lifetime or you’re merely resting your vocal cords for the next protest rally, one reality is universally understood — 2010 has been the year of tension. Tuesday’s election reflected widespread unrest as moderate candidates got swept out of Congress in favor of anti-government, no-compromise newcomers.
They’re mad about President Obama, mad about his health-care reform act, mad about the federal deficit and mad about the slow, jobless recovery from the economic recession.
It’s a mad, mad, mad world.
That heated atmosphere could produce an unexpected byproduct — creativity.
In a similar way, turmoil made possible the Irish influences behind this week’s Hoosier Folklore Conference, hosted by Indiana State University. Its lineup for today and Friday features Ireland’s foremost poet and playwright, Vincent Woods, Irish musician and scholar Mick Moloney, and Indiana University professor emeritus of folklore Henry Glassie. Folklore — which encompasses legends, music, stories, poems and “the art of everyday life,” as conference organizer Nan McEntire put it — brews perpetually in Ireland. The tiny island nation with a population the size of Philadelphia generated, arguably, the 20th century’s greatest poet (William Butler Yeats), novelist (James Joyce) and playwright (Samuel Beckett). The Irish cultural spigot continues to flow from venerable rockers U2 (with a record 22 Grammy Awards) to Celtic performers popular around America.
Why are the Irish so prolifically creative?
“I honestly think it’s the tension,” Glassie said Wednesday by telephone from his home in Bloomington.
Ireland has dealt with political tensions for far longer than America. Its turmoil over British colonial rule began centuries ago, including a war over independence in the 1920s. Joyce published his landmark novel “Ulysses” in 1922. Yeats won the Nobel Prize in 1923. Beckett published his first essay in 1929.
“It’s because their world was complicated,” Glassie explained.
“In Ireland, there’s always a sense of limitation of power,” he added. “Irish people very much think, ‘Will we continue to be Irish, or will we have to, on the one hand, become English, or on the other hand, American?’”
In 21st-century Ireland, the works of Vincent Woods — who will speak at 2 p.m. today in ISU’s Root Hall — embody the lingering anxieties of the Irish, Glassie said.
“Those things have made Vincent Woods’ poetry and plays fantastically important,” he said. “Those tensions all people feel are maybe the oldest in Ireland.”
While the circumstances have, historically, been rough, the folklore emanating from Ireland often exudes hope and joy.
McEntire has witnessed the culture’s bright spirit firsthand. The associate professor of folklore at ISU has visited and studied Ireland, including a six-month stay there last spring on a Fulbright scholarship. She researched traditional Irish music at the University of Limerick. She discovered a “slower, more relaxed pace” of life, and people “who really would take time to just talk.”
In those moments, folklore happened … through stories, songs and gestures.
She encourages students in her folklore classes to seek out those instances “face to face.” Not surprisingly, when she utters that term, the students presume she’s referring to Facebook. Social media, the Internet and electronic devices can become, in their own way, a forum for folklore. But those virtual outlets also can distract people from cultural beauty in the real world.
Americans “have to look a little bit harder here to find [folklore],” McEntire said. “We’re too focused on our cellphones.”
It’s out there, though, especially in Terre Haute — home of famed graveyard cat Stiffy Green, and a pioneer of political unrest, Eugene V. Debs. Folklore, McEntire explained, occurs in Proverbs, speeches, urban legends, stories about eccentric uncles, superstitions, weather predictors, whether farmers plant crops in daylight or moonlight, and family recipes.
Folklore is the way humans inject creativity into their routine daily grind, Glassie said, no matter how tense. Folklore, for example, flourished in the United States during the Great Depression. Post-recession America, with its anger and tight times, could become the stuff of legends, stories, poems and songs, too.
“There’s no reason not to hope,” Glassie said.
Mark Bennett can be reached at (812) 231-4377 or email@example.com.
TERRE HAUTE —
It’s possible that, today, a few people are angry about having to listen to so much anger.
- Mark Bennett B-Sides
Reaching the Wabash: New public-access point begins quest to create more spots to experience river
Fairness holds no power over the Wabash River.
MARK BENNETT: People spaces
Demolition machinery chipped away at the buildings on the 500 block of Wabash Avenue. I stood and watched awhile, last week. By July 2015, a new $18.7-million structure will replace those relics.
MARK BENNETT: City sparkles during premiere of ‘The Drunk’
William Tanoos and Paul Fleschner cast their hometown in a starring role in their debut effort as filmmakers.
MARK BENNETT: ‘Notes on a River’ exhibition brings Wabash scenes to gallery
The best views of the Wabash come with wet, muddy feet.
MARK BENNETT: Quest for the perfect Valentine’s Day gesture may not involve gifts
You’ll need a broom, a pickup truck, trash bins, shop hooks and aspirin.
Filming a “Sanford and Son” remake? Preparing for the apocalypse?
MARK BENNETT: Illinois officials content their state has its business advantages, too
Most people count the Wabash River as an economic asset for Terre Haute. Of course, economic development officials in the Land of Lincoln beg to differ.
MARK BENNETT: Indiana should revisit its time-zone classification
Mister Spock would look at the situation in Indiana and, in that dispassionate “Star Trek” voice, utter a firm conclusion.
“That is illogical,” he’d say.
MARK BENNETT: Young at heart
Imagine an alternate ending to the old Life cereal commercial.
MARK BENNETT: The Drunk: Making peace
Terre Haute grew fond of Eugene Debs.
The process took time.
Debs film to debut at Indiana Theatre
Set in Terre Haute, based loosely on the legacy of a Terre Haute icon, the movie “The Drunk” has one appropriate place for its premiere.
MARK BENNETT: Album turns memories into musical Christmas message for Terre Haute’s Dave Frey, band
In a way, Dave Frey walked in the footsteps of Charles Schulz.
Both men worked hard to let Linus Van Pelt explain the “true meaning of Christmas.”
MARK BENNETT: ‘Longest Night Service’ a time to reflect, remember
Holiday images rarely depict hurt or struggle.
Raising the bar
Around coffeeshops, kitchen tables and office watercoolers, Hoosiers have cussed and discussed the federal health care law.
John bypassed by Hall of Fame again
Baseball Hall of Fame electors have bypassed Tommy John again. The Terre Haute-born pitcher, who won 288 games in 26 big-league seasons, didn’t receive enough votes from the Veterans Committee as it cast ballots on Sunday in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., at the Major League Baseball Winter Meetings.
Tim Meadows: SNL cast member knew he was prime time
If you watched the first broadcast of “Saturday Night Live” on Oct. 11, 1975, raise your hand.
That gives you something in common with Tim Meadows.
MARK BENNETT: Walk of Fame inductee would stand tall in any era
Unlike most of us, Amory Kinney didn’t let the wall around his comfort zone grow taller as time passed.
MARK BENNETT: Words, and what they mean, is what we remember
I remember scanning the granite wall at the grave of President John F. Kennedy in Arlington National Cemetery, looking for those words.
MARK BENNETT: Tommy John getting another shot at Baseball Hall of Fame
Go ahead, circle Dec. 9 on your calendar.
Filling our void: Terre Haute artist Bill Wolfe poured his heart and soul into the project of a lifetime
Bill Wolfe thumbed through a series of photographs documenting his sculpture of basketball legend Larry Bird.
MARK BENNETT: Keeping Terre Haute a vibrant city ‘worth doing’
The past, present and future had just converged at the Crossroads of America.
The moment was made possible by the gutsy spirit of 1920s Terre Haute. Without it, the city would look starkly different.
MARK BENNETT: Tommy John’s Field of Dreams
A kid pedals a bicycle, a ball glove looped over the handlebar, headed to a sandlot game.
It didn’t get much better than that for a 10-year-old in summertime.
MARK BENNETT: Indiana’s Donnelly part of ‘The Middle’ that got deal done
Hanging out in the middle isn’t cool.
Its occupants don’t attract a captivated circle of listeners at parties, their comments don’t inspire hell-yeahs on Facebook, and they don’t pretend to always be right.
MARK BENNETT: ISU professor’s book on Churchill to be TV period drama
Somewhere, Winston Churchill is lighting a celebratory cigar in Michael Shelden’s honor.
MARK BENNETT: Restoration improves courthouse top’s standing in skyline
Terre Haute has a skyline.
From some angles, it consists of billboards, restaurant marquees and convenience-store signs. From other spots, the outlines of historic buildings, church steeples, college dorms and old industries jut into the horizon.
MARK BENNETT: Inspiring project connects Blues Festival, B&G Club members with music
Think a decade into the future. You’re relaxing amid a sea of fellow lawn-chair sitters at Seventh and Wabash, watching the 23rd annual Blues at the Crossroads Festival. Suddenly, the guy on stage starts playing your old Fender guitar. He sounds like the next B.B. King. Then, the guitarist dedicates a song to the person who donated that worn Telecaster to the youth music program in which he learned to play it.
MARK BENNETT: Even Marty McFly wouldn’t want to go back to those paydays
Reliving the 1980s may sound tempting.
Ah, simpler times. Then again … hair styles as big as mushroom clouds, “Miami Vice” jackets, the trickle-down theory, New Coke, Yugos.
OK, “Back to the Future”-style nostalgia obviously has its limits.
MARK BENNETT: Hoops film focuses on life of ‘Slick’ Leonard
Many Americans connect basketball with Indiana.
MARK BENNETT: Rose-Hulman bridge design would let people walk, run, ride across Wabash River
Four months, 500 miles and 18 towns.
In the course of compiling the “500 Miles of Wabash” series, which concludes this Sunday, Tribune-Star photographer Jim Avelis and I heard valuable insights from dozens of people who live, work and recreate along Indiana’s state river. One comment seems particularly relevant to Terre Haute, especially as the ongoing 2013 Year of the River celebration stirs ideas. The quotation affirms the potential of a stellar proposal this community ought to consider.
MARK BENNETT: When did athleticism surpass skill in sports?
Baseball has gotten too athletic.
MARK BENNETT: Steve Martin keeps Terre Haute on burner
If insults are a form of flattery, Steve Martin still likes us.
Better yet, he hasn’t forgotten us.
- More Mark Bennett B-Sides Headlines
- Reaching the Wabash: New public-access point begins quest to create more spots to experience river