a fine night out

For quite a few weeks I knew about the event.
Would you like to go to the Gala? my boss would ask as we made arrangements for him to invite people.
As it was an expensive event to attend I thought it best that he invite people important to him, or to the company, first. I didn't think much about it - we were very busy trying to get him to London and he, he who is on The Board, would be missing the Gala as he was supposed to BE in London.
Then my friend A started asking me if I would go to the Gala. I could tell she wanted to spend the evening with me but didn't want to push me. (It's always hard to tell if people, any people, at work, truly want to attend an after-work function or if they are being polite...or feel responsible for attending. I could tell that A wanted me to want to go.)
Blahblahblah, busy at work...SOBUSYATWORK and all the while, in the back of my head, thinking of going - or not, to this poetry event. Big stars, lots of poetry, and a cocktail reception following.
The thing about me and poetry is: I usually enjoy poetry well enough but I'm not one of those people who become deeply immersed in it and have never pondered writing it. I'm a casual observer. But, I decided to go.

A and I went for a drink first, which was a good idea as I was suddenly a little nervous about what I'd gotten myself into. Fortunately, the wine soothed my mood as I ended up sitting in front of Darth Vadar (read: a fellow well over 6'5" and 350 pounds) who, though the hall was quite large, had his knees in my back the whole time. (He was also a very loud/heavy emoter - you know the type, hugely loud laughter when most of the audience smiles?)
It was quite an evening.
Ten readers, ranging from elder statesmen, to artists, to - well, Meryl Streep, read three or four poems of their choice.
When I was not mesmerized by what I was hearing I had the additional treat of watching the ten of them sit on the stage in front of me for a couple of hours. Of observing them whilst they listened. But more on that in a minute.
Gabriel Byrne told a wonderful story of how the Irish had traveled from Egypt to Ireland and read in Gaelic before he read in English. What can I say? I love me some Yeats - have always - and what could be wrong with listening to some Gaelic read by Gabriel Bryne.
Rosanne Cash read a very nice After Making Love We Hear Footsteps.
Alan Cumming, with his very fine accent and a utterly fantastic suit, read Cultural Operations which was very good but also Men Talk, which he was perfectly suited to.
Jhumpa Lahiri! Ms. Lahiri read three poems about Cape Cod!
Sadly, though I spent most of the evening appreciating Sting from about 12 rows back and have several observations regarding him - Sting read Philip Larkin's The Whitsun Weddings. Long and interesting, but not what I was hoping for. Glad he shaved off that beard though.
Finally, Ms. Streep read The Witch of Coos by Robert Frost and A Cold Spring. The selections were not astonishing - Ms. Streep was.

So. Suddenly it was done. I had sat and appreciated two hours of poetry (poor Kim, eh?).
But then we were expected at the reception. Ushered through the crowd with ten co-workers, to the party. Wine and food and - THE READERS.
I had already watched the readers for a good long time - Sting, for example, who, though he may benefit from all that yoga, is not good at sitting still! ADHD perhaps? Meryl who does that thing with her hands and tilts her head in that way she does in films too! Alan Cumming who sat with his arms on his knees, leaning forward and listening intently, Gabriel Byrne who plays with his eyeglasses as he does on In Treatment.
And Alec Baldwin, visiting, having sat in the front row and who, surprisingly, was much smaller than I thought he'd be.
I'll quickly say that Alan Cumming blew me right off. I had approached him and complimented him on his poetry choices and said that I had very much enjoyed his reading - and he, sort of, waved me off. I don't think he spoke, even.
This put me off a bit and I spent time observing for a while.
Alec Baldwin was very much The Big Star.
I missed Meryl - other side of the room or something.
I heard that Sting was holding someone's hand and people didn't think it was Trudy (must have been!).
I casually mentioned to Jhumpa Lahiri that her poems about the Cape struck me as it is such a special place to our family. She looked positively petrified and fled. (Let me assure you - A was with me for that one and explained that perhaps Jhumpa is not used to one on one attention and told me I was not coming off like a crazy person.)
And then, toward the end of my time at the party, I was standing with my wine and gazing.
And Gabriel Byrne was doing the same - just across from me.
My friend had just walked away - I don't know why Mr. Byrne was alone.
A wait-person passed between us and we were suddenly facing each other AND HE TOOK A STEP FORWARD AND SAID (WITH THE ACCENT AND THE EYES AND THE GENTLE VOICE):
This is a lovely place for a reading, isn't it?
And I did not faint, and I took a breath, and I composed my words...and said:
Indeed it is. And I very much liked your choices.They were wonderful, and it was a pleasure to listen to you read them.
But I was thinkin, he continued, it would be nice to do this in a really small place... (And think of the t's he says, with that accent, will you?)
Well, you just let me know where and I'll come listen. I can bring some friends too, if you like. I did not pass out. I spoke in real sentences.
He took my hand.
Does Christine have your information? My mind raced like a Grand Prix car. Christine? Yep. I knew who he meant.
She does.
Good, then. I'll be seeing you.

I, who am never star struck. I, who like poetry well enough but doesn't breathe and sleep it.
I had a very nice time at the gala.


Lover Lady said…
WOW. Yeats in Gaelic. Gabriel one-on-one WITH hand-holding. WOW.

Does make me sad about Alan Cummings though. He looks like he'd be such FUN.
Jen on the Edge said…
Gabriel Byrne ... swoon.
Krista said…
This, well, this is just the best thing I have read in a long, long time. I felt like I was there with you. But I am dying to know what YOU chose to wear to the gala. Perhaps that's another post. PS Did Gabriel Byrne smell good?
Badger said…
I KNOW you were composed and charming. But please know I am swooning and OMGing and fangirling all over the place on your behalf.

But what about Matt Dillon? YOU PROMISED ME MATT DILLON.
Crazy Mom! said…
I would swoon. And I love me some Yeats too.

Some pictures are here: http://according2g.com/2010/04/poetry-and-the-creative-mind-an-all-star-event/
Paola said…
Well, obviously none of the ones who blew you off know what kind of star YOU are.
It's relieving to hear there are still some normal people in that world though.
And I am really glad you were able to enjoy the gala.
robiewankenobie said…
now that was a good dose of vicarious awesome right there. yum.
That One said…
I think I would've been able to hold my shit together until I made it to the ladies room where I would've promptly melted into a puddle of sticky goo, had Gabriel Byrne taken my hand, flashed his Irish eyes, and said anything containing the letter T to me.
Jen said…
Blimey. What a night!
Anonymous said…
Swoon is right. OK, I'm Jealous. Love your blog. Sue/WA
KPB said…
OK,so at first I was all - oooh a gala - and then you mentioned poetry and I was all 'either shoot me dead or prop me up because no amount of alcohol could get me through an evening of gala' but then, BUT THEN, you started with the FUCKING NAME DROPPING.

HOLY CRAPOLA! Even I'd sit through two hours of poetry shmoetry to see the calibre of that crowd sit so close. PHOOHEY - Badger might be fangirling but I'm farnarkling at how composed you were!

And Gabriel Byrne. Swooning a hundred times over. Maybe you could tell him of a dear friend in Australia who adores poetry but has been having a hard time of late and wouldn't it be lovely if we flew her over for an evening of recital.
Anonymous said…
I'm so glad you went, and so glad you put it into words for the rest of us. What a lovely evening (minus the disappointing stars).

More on GB here:

Did I ever mention that if I were to...uh, abandon Mr. Pom and run away, the only way I would do ever it would be with Mr. Byrne to Ireland?


Guess it never came up.


never mind....
Unknown said…
This made my day! Thanks for sharing your lovely event with us, bb. You have such a terrific life. I sometimes wish I could be you for a day.
alice c said…
So...run that by me again...you got chatted up by Gabriel Byrne at a Poetry Reading...

I did read that right, didn't I?

OK...now let's just talk about how jealous I am...
dan renzi said…
True stars can talk about the loveliness of a room, and it sticks with you forever.

Alan Cumming was probably just jealous he will never be as cool as Gabriel Byrne.
NorahS said…
Wowsers! What a night! You tell a lovely story. Alan Cummings doesn't know what he was missing.
haus said…
oh oh oh...

Anonymous said…
I'm so happy to hear a nice normal woman was able to converse with a nice normal Irish man whom happens to have an extraordinary occupation as a very talented actor. He is one man I Admire so much for the fact he is an ordinary man with real life issues like the rest of us and is so beautiful to look at never mind talk to. He is apparently very intelligent as well. I hope you do get to meet up with him again and have a nice chat with my favorite Irish man.
The Coffee Lady said…
Someone told me that she had once had 'sex talk' over dinner with Gabriel Byrne, and it was a good deal better than a lot of the sex she had actually had.
Anonymous said…
Oh hell. My knees are still quivering, Blackbird. I LUFF Mr. Byrne. You lucky, lucky woman! But I'm not jealous because this event was NOT wasted on you one bit!!! Plus you told us all about it in your special way. Thank you.

p.s. I KNEW Alec Baldwin was shorter than he seemed.
eurolush said…
Went to the most fabulous Yeats exhibit at the National Library of Ireland in Dublin this week.

Looked through his journals. Read his manuscripts. Heard him read, "The Lake Isle of Innisfree," and listened to his other poems being read by actors and fellow poets. All-time favorite Yeats? "When You Are Old." My heart melts.


Gabriel Byrne in the flesh? Holding your hand and looking into your eyes?

That's what we call a dream come true.
Marni said…
Thank you for sharing Gabriel AND poetry with us. AND you didn't melt on the spot! Alec who?
Joan said…
Might I suggest that when Gabriel Byrne invites you (and your closest chums) to a more intimate evening of poetry that you TAKE ME WITH YOU???!!! Now granted, I don't live in the city, and you don't actually know me IRL (although we do share the commonality of Melinda N.), but I assure you, I would travel happily, dress respectably, keep the drooling to a minimum, and in all ways be an appropriate groupie. ;o) Just my humble suggestion .... Pleasepleasepleasepleaseplease!
Jen said…
Oh, my word! What an evening! I think I would have been in hot pursuit of Alec Baldwin. And if he'd spoken to me, I'd have said something really profound and witty like, "...Gleek."
haus said…
Oh! My poetry.org email today had a link to the Gala's program - with pictures. So cool!

They list the selected poems, and there are pictures!

BabelBabe said…
Gabriel Byrne = YUM.

and yes, a bummer re: Alan Cumming, I wish i didn't know that.

did you tell G that YOU are famous in Blogland? :)
I am late to the table on this, but you were quoted in a forum on the byrneholics site about the event.

What a treat for you and for us because you shared. These things always happen when we least expect them to. Thanks.

Loved the comment about the sex talk...either encounter would be fine with me! Also, the Yeates exhibition at the National Library in Dublin is really quite spectacular indeed. I spent 90mins in there about one year ago this week.

If he reads in a smaller setting, maybe you can invite your blogger friends and the Byrneholics fans!
Laura Cousins said…
Your description of your interaction with Gabriel Byrne had me literally holding my breath. Thank you very, very much for sharing. Here's hoping he follows up on his suggestion, eh ..?
Anonymous said…
Gabriel Byrne is a master of the cliffhanger ending. He has taken this open-ended plot device and transferred it to the social arena.

The amount of time he spends assessing and enrapturing a woman varies; some women take longer to hook than others, and some require more than an inordinate measure of charm. However the outcome is always the same: he leaves her with a nearly tangible resolution, just on the brink of fulfillment.

The cliffhanger is designed to ensure the audience returns to see how the characters resolve the dilemma; and in GB's case, it ensures a kind of wonderment, delusion and return: a mental return to the encounter/event to ponder the eventual outcome and sometimes a physical return for another opportunity at wish fulfillment.
Laura Cousins said…
I suspect he is able to do the same with men, as well. That is why he is such a good choice for the post of Cultural Ambassador, and a natural spokesman for the Irish organisation "Business To Arts".
Anon...might it even be that the man himself understands implicitly the effect he has, and at 60, revels in it? You understand him too well. Curiosity begets me....

Agree with "wonderment, delusion and return", although "just on the brink of fulfillment" is pushing it!

Thanks for posting, nice to hear from you on the subject.