Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ode to a Feis Mother

Somewhere around fifteen years ago, when my siblings were wholly enmeshed in the world of Irish dancing, I put my pen to paper and wrote a little piece called "Ode to the Feis Mother." A copy of the poem has hung in the hallway of my parents' house for years and it is only today that it occurred to me that it might be nice to publish it online.

A word of warning to any current feis parents: this poem is dated. Back in the "old" days, Irish dancers didn't wear wigs...they actually curled their hair in rollers! In those days, groups of parents would get together the night before a feis and have "curling parties" where they would drink beer and roll hair for hours. When I was a young musician just starting out playing the accordion at feiseanna, I was always entertained by the quizzical looks passers-by would give to the legions of little girls, their heads tightly bound with multi-colored curlers. While I think the move to wigs is one innovation in Irish dancing that was certainly convenient and more reliable, I do sort of miss the social world interaction that surrounded the curling parties and the socialization they encouraged. 

So, without further ado, here it is!

Ode to the Feis Mother

Watching as the Dancer dances and skips,
She stands in the crowd, hands on her hips.
Pen in one hand, book in the other
there she stands: the Irish feis mother.

The dancer bows and walks off the stage
Feis mother looks for that girl's name on the page.
The dancer's school is found next to the name
and so begins the Feis Mother's game.
She watches every dancer with a perfect contempt,
from her scorn only her daughter is kept. 

If her daughter does not win, the only reason could be
that among the judges there exists some CONSPIRACY!
There is to Feis Mother never a chance,
the problem is that her dancer can't dance.

If not the judges, then It's the MUSIC!
(If she could do better, we'd love to see her do it)
If it's not the music, then it's the Stage!
That is the only logical vent to her rage.
For it was the stage that bounced and shook,
Why, whoever built it should be tried as a crook.

Yet when it's all over, and the dancer lay sleeping,
it is not Feis Mother you will find weeping. 
After spending her evening wrapping
curlers in black mesh,
she pauses and asks herself "Why Stop Now??"
Tomorrow there's another feis!

As I said, it's a bit dated and certainly reflects the mind of a feis sibling, a not uncommon breed of human being who knows what it is to be awakened at ungodly hours, cram into a car, drive to the feis, unload the car, and camp out while one's siblings dance on the stages. Long before I became a feis musician, I was a feis roadie. 

I sometimes worry that the Irish dancing world has changed so much that it has lost some of the fun elements that I remember. Perhaps it is simply nostalgia but I cannot help but think that sometimes the world of Irish dancing gets reduced simply to the competition and neglects that it is an art form that celebrates together the richness of a people's culture. I am so grateful for the many good friends and memories I have from my years of involvement in Irish dancing and I should like to think that future generations will be able to experience something of this for themselves. 
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