Letter that Changed My Life
Between alarms I would rush to the company office to read Captain Gray's copy of the Sunday New York Times. It was late in the afternoon when I finally got to the Book Review section. As I read it, my blood began to boil. An article blatantly stated what I took to be a calumny -- that William Butler Yeats, the Nobel Prize-winning light of the Irish Literary Renaissance, had transcended his Irishness and was forever to be known as a universal poet.
There were few things I was more proud of than my Irish heritage, and ever since I first picked up a book of his poems from a barracks shelf when I was in the military, Yeats had been my favorite Irish writer, followed by Sean O'Casey and James Joyce.
My ancestors were Irish farmers, fishermen and blue-collar workers, but as far as I can tell, they all had a feeling for literature. It was passed on to my own mother, a telephone operator, who hardly ever sat down without a book in her hands. And at that moment my own fingernails might have been soiled with the soot of the day's fires, but I felt as prepared as any Trinity don to stand up in the court of public opinion and protest. Not only that Yeats had lived his life and written his poetry through the very essence of his Irish sensibility, but that it was offensive to think Irishness -- no matter if it was psychological, social or literary -- was something to be transcended.
My stomach was churning, and I determined not to let an idle minute pass. "Hey, Captain Gray. Could I use your typewriter?" I a