Don Ward’s Drawing the Bloomsday Circle Together

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This entry will be the final Bloomsday Memoir of the series. If others are submitted, I’ll post them, of course. Your reception of these Bloomsday memories has been generous as the efforts of the submitters deserve. Should Bloomsday ’22 be particularly memorable for you, and if you are inspired to record another memory, please do. There will always be room here for you. Sincerest thanks ~Don

Before Bloomsday 2014, I selected a point and dropped a radius. Next, I circumnavigated an arc of old friends and new acquaintances that eventuated in The James Joyce Reading Circle. We began on that Bloomsday and continued for two years, reading UlyssesDubliners, and excerpts from Portrait and Finnegans Wake

In February of 2015, a few of us convened to dine on a particular bestial inner organ for Joyce’s birthday. In this case, the feast was beef heart pressure cooked and circumscribed in the style of The Circle by potatoes, gorgonzola, burgundy, and similar typically Bloomsian fare. I was dubious, the heart was staunch but also tender and tasty. You may have read this story before. Redundancy is to be expected from an old gull who has read Ulysses perhaps thirty times.

On Bloomsday of that year, three chords from the Circle went off on a tangent to celebrate the high holy day with Bloomsday on Broadway. For years, as Paul Ringo reported in his Bloomsday Memoir, I also listened to those celebrations on public radio and CDs of readings and music recorded from the festivities. I promised my companions the erudition and calming certainty of Isaiah Sheffer’s gentle management. He served in more roles than master of ceremony. He would effortlessly switch from producer to logistician or ringmaster in that mostly unrehearsed rodeo. Sadly, Sheffer left us before the celebration, and although the day was dedicated to his memory, it was inevitably bittersweet.

Like every day everywhere below 110th Street in Manhattan, Bloomsday on Broadway is somewhat fixated on celebrities. A line-up of the famous and the nearly anonymous stepped forward that day, reading with emphasis and sometimes misplaced inflection from a book some had read cover to cover. The musical performances were, however, invariably inspired and delightful.

The highlight of the gathering that year, as always, began with the appearance of a stagehand. He totted an armchair and plopped it stage left. Then an ottoman and a standing lamp appeared. Fionnula Flannagan strode on stage, silently sat, removed her shoes (or do I imagine that?), took advantage of the ottoman, and began to read. From “Yes because he never did a thing like that before as ask to get his breakfast in bed…) she mimicked meandering Molly through all the affirmatives to ” yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes.” And I think there followed a moment of silence, yes I do, and then wild applause, yes there was.

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