The Glens Centre is delighted to say that in mid May we will welcome the acclaimed Irish American writer and activist Michael P MacDonald as our writer in residence and as the director of the first project within our new “Across the Lines” community programme. Michael’s first book, “All Souls”, was a New York Times bestseller, and was followed by “Easter Rising” – he is currently working on a third volume of his memoir. “Across the Lines” is an exciting programme which will see us work with local community groups in Leitrim and Fermanagh on a range of creative new projects involving diverse communities, and with activities for all, from the very young to the elderly. We will create jobs, we will build relationships,we will make music and theatre, and we will provide training. The programme is funded for two years by the International Fund for Ireland under its Peace Impact Programme. All of the projects will be run on a cross border and cross community basis.
Michael will work with a group of men from Leitrim and Fermanagh, hosted by the North Leitrim Men’s Group in Manorhamilton, with cross border visits. He will deliver a 5 week project called “We Are Strong” after the song by Manorhamilton’s favourite singer songwriter, Damien Dempsey.
Michael has developed a programme called “The Rest of the Story” which has seen him working in a range of communities in the US helping people find their own voice. Here is what he says about this work: “Having grown up in a community with extreme poverty and a gangster-imposed ‘code of silence,’ I was fortunate to find the way forward in the aftermath of multiple family deaths and and the stunned speechlessness of complex PTSD. That way forward began with voice. Whether through community organizing, speaking, or writing, that voice then made my agency in the world not simply possible but inevitable.”
Here is what novelist Colum McCann said about him: MacDonald’s gift is that he guides us with vision, insight, humor, and the clear, chiseled word. His is a rare sleight of hand. But beyond his ability to bring the streets to the printed page, MacDonald breathes added life into those words, assisting others – especially those who come from poverty and trauma – to discover their voices. In this way he is bringing his “ear for dialogue” (The Washington Post) to the service of healthy and compassionate communities.
Brought up in Boston and now living in Brooklyn, Michael’s roots are in Donegal and Kerry. As well as working with the Men’s Group he will be writer in residence at the Glens from mid May to mid June and will take part in events and do a reading from his own work. He will also work on his own writing. “I am excited about anchoring myself in Leitrim in May and June,” he says. “My next book is non fiction set in the traumatized urban world of poverty, violence and substance abuse which I come from in America. But I also “come from” rural Ireland, as my family is from Inishowen Donegal and Cordal, Sliabh Luachra in Kerry. For much of my adult life, the rural landscape, culture and people of Ireland have inspired my bigger-picture perspective and pay-it-forward ethos, which continues to be a source of resilience and healing for me.”
Michael will be keen to meet and talk with local writers – please contact him through the Glens Centre.