I nearly fainted when I heard my “fabulous work” on Lucia Joyce mentioned in President Michael D Higgins’ wonderful Bloomsday Speech yesterday evening, and am still recovering!
President Higgins’ speech was extraordinary, not only passionately highlighting the contribution, and current plight of artists/cultural workers, but also actively reclaiming Lucia Joyce into their midst. He recited the poem Lucia’s father wrote for her in Trieste in 1913 “A Flower Given to my Daughter”, declaring his intention to fulfill Stephen Joyce’s wishes that this poem be inscribed on Nora and James Joyce’s grave in Fluntern Cemetery, Zurich. Bringing Lucia in from the cold, and back into Ireland’s cultural narrative on Bloomsday, he went on to mention my contribution to RTE Sunday Miscellany last Sunday, June 14th, “Phone Call with Mr. Joyce”.
What an honour to get a presidential mention on Bloomsday! Very cleverly, President Higgins began his Bloomsday address with an allusion to the body, and “movements of the body too that might be described as of an inner and outer character”. This covers both father and daughter, as while James Joyce’s epic book is a paean to the body, Lucia’s art was the art of the body in motion. “In a year that will hardly be remembered for any hectic pace or significance that could be attached to movement itself, yet we obdure in matters of the soul and spirit as we recall a famous journey and movements of the body too that might be described as of an inner and outer character”, he said. President Higgins drew this passionate speech advocating for artists to a close by inviting the re-imagining of myths a la James Joyce; or perhaps, re-imagining and re-writing received histories as more enlightened herstories: “we too have the opportunity to revisit, re-make, build upon, and re-imagine myths”. This of course is exactly what our work-in-progress reclamation of Lucia Joyce as artist is all about.
In my radio essay, “Phone Call with Mr. Joyce”, broadcast last Sunday for Bloomsday, I recount my interaction with Stephen James Joyce after I wrote inviting him to contribute to the 2019 BAI-funded feature radio documentary I was making about his Aunt’s overlooked Modern Dance career. Here is a link to where you can listen back to the Sunday Miscellany contribution:
The RTE Sunday Miscellany broadcast helped hugely to direct viewers to “Lucia Joyce: Full Capacity” my short dance film, which was part of Bloomsday Festival; and listeners to my BAI-funded feature radio documentary about Lucia which was broadcast on RTE Lyric FM on Sunday June 14th at 6pm, both of which star fabulous Irish actress Evanna Lynch as Lucia Joyce.
Top Irish talent has been involved in these two projects reclaiming Lucia Joyce into 20th century Irish cultural history/ herstory so far, from the legendary Olwen Fouéré, to choreographer Megan Kennedy; costume designer Claire Garvey; composer Conor Linehan; editor Aoife Carey; stills photographer Mella Travers; camera person Brian O’Leary; Senator David Norris; Joycean Robert Nicholson; actors Bairbre Ni Chaoimh, Michael James Ford, & Elliot Moriarty; sound engineer Neil Kavanagh; and not to forget biographer Carol Loeb Shloss (who is American). I was able to pay this incredible assembly of talent thanks to a combination of the BAI Sound and Vision Fund (from the television license fee) and via crowdfunding (www.fundit.ie). We were also helped by Notre Dame Global Gateway and James Joyce Centre who gave us rehearsal and recording space; and Poetry Ireland who let us film in their magnificent Parnell Square building.
This reclamation project is a work-in-progress, so here is to finding more avenues and funds to continue the project!
A Flower Given to my Daughter
Frail the white rose and frail are
Her hands that gave
Whose soul is sere and paler
Than time’s wan wave.
Rosefrail and fair — yet frailest
A wonder wild
In gentle eyes thou veilest,
My blueveined child.
by James Joyce
Letter from Lucia Joyce to Harriet Shaw Weaver, 1935:
Dear Miss Weaver, … One of the doctors I was in contact with said I really have a great wish to live and an immense love of life. He was right, and perhaps you know somebody who will explain this to you quite carefully. With kindest regards, Lucia Joyce”
to be continued…
You can read the full text of President Higgins’ Bloomsday speech here: https://president.ie/en/media-library/speeches/speech-by-president-michael-d-higgins-bloomsday-2020