By Cindy Sanawong
On Wednesday, Feb. 1 Sacred Heart University hosted a book launch and reception in the Arts & Design Gallery for english professor and Poet in Residence Jonas Zdanys’ latest poetry book, “St. Brigid’s Well.”
Professor Zdanys has been writing poetry for most of his life.
“I began writing poetry when I was 13 and had my first poem published in a national journal when I was 16. My first book of poetry, titled ‘Voice on an Anthill,’ was published in 1981. It was a collection of poems I had written mostly when I was in my late teens and early twenties, including some poems I had written when I was in college,” said Zdanys. “I have been publishing volumes of poetry ever since.”
Zdanys introduced his book to students and faculty members and said how the book came about and why he wrote it.
The inspiration started when Dean of College of Arts and Sciences Robin Cautin and Professor Gerald Reid offered Zdanys to teach a creative writing course for Sacred Heart’s study abroad program in Dingle, Ireland.
“In that seminar, we considered the three different ways a sense of place might help shape a poem. I decided that if I was asking my students to write such poetry, then I should too,” said Zdanys. “So teaching that class in Dingle resulted in this book.”
The book is a combination of mystical legends and folktales of the tradition of Brigid’s Cross. The Brigid Cross is a symbol of protection from all things evil.
“I was intrigued that he views Ireland not through the European mythology, but how he has a worldview of Ireland, which I could tell in the greater depths of his poetry,” said sophomore Tyler Lascola.
Zdanys also said that geography plays a significant role in his poetic writing process and in the creation of mythical characters like the Irish Goddess of Dawn.
“The book focuses on the West Coast of Ireland, particularly the Dingle Peninsula, the Ring of Kerry, and the literal as well as metaphorical pilgrimages eastward to St. Brigid’s Well in Kildare. Pilgrimages are about leaving one place and getting to another, usually for a purpose and often for spiritual reasons. The movement across physical boundaries of both kinds of places parallels interior movements, an evolution of the self during the search for meaning, secular enlightenment, or moral significance. So the book is a consideration of such journey,” said Zdanys. “In it, I have tried to maintain a focus on a place, as it moves through time, and have relied on the figure of Brigid to serve as a touchstone in that exploration.”
Students highly praised Zdanys’ poems and book, and were able to get an idea of how Dingle is without even being there.
“I loved the poem and kind of get the idea of what the Dingle Coast is like,” said junior Dayne Kepler.
Other students plan on getting their own copy of “St. Brigid’s Well.”
“I like the idea of the Ireland Coast. I’m really excited to get the book and read it,” said freshman Ashley Penczynzyn.
Zdanys wants his readers to appreciate the beauty that surrounds us.
“The world is a wonderful place and we should experience its beauties, not just through poems that write about the world, but with all of our own senses. We should be aware of everything around us and not simply walk past the particulars of our day-to-day lives caught up in the images on our smart phones,” said Zdanys. “We share human experience because we live in a shared world, and we should do everything we can, each day, to understand the world in which we live and all of those others, all around us, who are equally part of it.”