Cuirt Readings

One of the most powerful sessions at Cuirt this year was one
that featured readings by Sunny Jacobs and Erwin James, each
of whom served long prison sentences after murder convictions.
Sunny James’s reading was both heartbreaking and uplifting.
She served seventeen years in Florida prisons until she was released
following a confession by the real murderer. It’s an amazing story of
courage and character. Her partner, Jesse Tafero, who had been
convicted with her, was executed two years before she was released.
In her reading from her book about the experience, Stolen Time,
she showed no bitterness, only a great hope for the future. She
received a standing ovation. Remarkably, the book has yet to find
an American publisher.
Erwin James was convicted of a murder he did commit. After a youth
that was called “brutal and rootless” by a prison psychologist and that
included service in the French Foreign Legion, he was jailed for life in
1984 at the age of 27. He gradually came to see his incarceration as
an opportunity, and over the years finished his school education and
then took a degree in the Open University. His books about his
experience are A Life Inside; A Prisoner’s Notebook and The Home
Stretch: From Prison to Parole.
He was released in 2004.
There was a little rain on Wednesday, the 25th, but otherwise it’s been
almost summery. The sun shone down on sixty or seventy of us the
other day as we attended the unveiling of two plaques on the pier in the
Claddagh Basin. The bronze plaques are situated near spots that appear
in the work of poet Louis MacNeice and Galway novelist Walter Macken.
A series of the plaques is planned. The first, with Seamus Heaney’s poem,
“Girls Bathing, Salthill 1965” was unveiled last year on the promenade in Salthill,
a mile or so west of the Claddagh.
The Claddagh was old Galway’s fishing community. It was also where the
familiar Claddagh ring with its gold heart-in-hands design originated. Along
with civic dignitaries and arts officials, the present King of the Claddagh was
present, wearing his gold chains and badge of office that rivaled the Mayor’s.

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