Bloomsday festival - James Joyce & Ulysses
As a teacher, she
is Prof. Black, and she is my mentor. As a friend, she is Martha, so close
that I call her a sister/friend.
We met when I made
the decision to go back to school. If I had any trepidation about returning
to school, I soon forgot about it. Her teaching, as exuberant as her red
hair, left no time for anxieties. Her ebullience was magnetic: I returned
for another, then another of her classes. She became my mentor, however,
on a study trip to Ireland when I was late to class.
Martha has always
been inclined to teach her classes wherever she and her students happen
to find themselves. On the day in question, class was held in the lounge
of a hotel, and Martha was conducting the seminar from the top of a pool
table. I came in late which interrupted the class. I apologized by saying
that I had gone out to the woods. Quoting W.B. Yeats, I ended my apology
by stating that "a fire was in my head." From her seat on the
pool table, Martha congratulated me for having Yeats committed to memory,
but said that it did not excuse me from being on time. In that moment,
I saw her rigor as a scholar and professor, as well as her flexibility
as a person. She was my mentor from then on.
All of life is Martha's
classroom, so she never settles for mere office hours with her students.
Instead she gives parties, and the most celebratory one of all is at the
end of the semester, June 16th, that day called Bloomsday which celebrates
James Joyce's book, Ulysses.
Bloomsday is no ordinary
day, and Martha is no ordinary woman. She offers kidney pie to commemorate
Leopold's first meal of the day. She offers 'Buck Mulligan' stew to celebrate
that character in Ulysses. But the star of the show is the cottage
pie. Can a humble meat dish topped with mashed potatoes be the piece de
resistance? Yes, if this is Bloomsday, no ordinary day, and the hostess
is Martha, no ordinary woman. Yes.
Using cucumber slices
for the round eyeglasses favored by Joyce, a carrot for a pipe, red pepper
for a mouth and green pepper for a bow tie, she creates on top of her
cottage pie a vegetable likeness of the great James Joyce. The man who
has spawned an industry of scholars is immortalized on a bed of mashed
potatoes. Yes. On the sideboard is Molly Bloom's orange
scented seedcake, Joyce's symbol of life itself. "Have
some," offers Martha.
There is but one possible
answer: Yes Martha yes I will Yes.
Barbara: Barbara is a writer living in NYC where she counsels
people who battle multiple sclerosis. Two outstanding mentors have had
a profound influence on her - Professor/author Martha F. Black who is
also a sister/friend of the first order and the 19th Century poet, Emily
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