“Experiencing Ireland” by Julia M. Williams, past president, ProComm

Cliffs of GalwayIreland—even just the name evokes images of green fields, friendly people, and, perhaps, pints of frothy Guinness. When you travel to Ireland for ProComm 2015, you will have the opportunity to see and experience much more than this. I’d like to suggest a couple of travel options that will make your trip to Ireland a memorable one. Because I’m interested in Irish literature, my suggestions have a distinctly literary cast.

Ireland is a land of writers. From the earliest days of the high Irish kings, traveling poets and harpists were an important part of court life, and their influence is still felt in the literary landscape of this country. You can experience Irish literature in any number of ways. In Galway, coincident with ProComm 2015, you can experience the Galway International Arts Festival, an event that attracts performers from Ireland and around the world (www.giaf.ie). Also in Galway is the noted Druid Theater, a theater dedicated to the performance of Irish drama (www.druid.ie). One feature to note is the proliferation of poets and other writers plying their art in pubs and on street corners. The Irish government supports these artists, so don’t be surprised if someone asks you if you would like to hear a poem recited over a pint!

Speaking of Synge, who wrote “The Playboy of the Western World,” you can hop from Galway to the Aran Islands, one of the last places in Ireland where Gaelic was spoken and a location that drew many Irish writers who sought to capture an essential Irish literature. Ferries run from Galway (www.aranislandferries.com) to the largest island, Inishmore, and a day trip can include exploring the ancient stone forts and marveling at the 100 meter cliffs that rise above the Atlantic.

Farther north, William Butler Yeats, the father of the Irish Literary Renaissance, found inspiration for his poetry in Sligo and its surroundings. His collaborator, Lady Augusta Gregory, lived in Coole Park just outside of Sligo (www.coolepark.ie). The house is gone now, but in the estate park is the large tree where Yeats and other writers carved their initials. You might even spot the swans that inspired Yeats’ poem “The Wild Swans at Coole.”

Both Galway and Sligo are vibrant cities with important arts cultures. I encourage you to include either or both of them on your trip to ProComm 2015!