Waterford central Library, in association with Waterpol (Association of Polish in Waterford), presented a teatime poetry event, Country Of The Mind. Featuring in song, story and visuals, the work of Adam Mickiewicz, the Romantic poet (1798 – 1955), who rated with Byron and Pushkin.

The setting was good, libraries should be used more for readings, events, recitals and the Index Gallery is setting the trend here under Sinead O’Higgins. A simple sound system, a projection screen for interesting visuals, and a mix of comfortable seats and sofas is much better than the ‘suicide’ seats at Greyfriars.

It is wonderful to experience, in such a setting, an introduction in song and story, to a European poet, I knew nothing about and singer Rita Mari Schaper and narrator/storyteller Ida Baj, created/wove an easy-listening spell that covered the highlights of a tragic and heroic life.

Like Byron, Mickiewicz got interested in revolutionary activity and it brought him into conflict with Russian authorities. He even fell in love with a Russian spy in the Crimea in 1825. He suffered from depression which suited the melancholia of Romantic sonnets and he attempted suicide, lost a good job teaching and fathered six children with a mentally ill wife. Chopin supported him in is final years and set some of Mickiewicz’s poems to music.

Rita Mari Schaper on guitar had a clear lyrical contemporary style that softened the high tragedy of Mickiewicz’s poems and I loved the folky presentation in English. A small piece in Polish from Ida Baj made me wish for more in that tongue, but it’s possible I gotten used to International readings where the poem is read first in the original and then in translation.

I loved the songs of gentle despair, ghostly lovers, folk tales, memory, draining a cup of passion, glorious uncertainty and the silence of the Black Sea.

After the reading etc. there was tea and coffee with a range of Polish cake and confectionary. Nice one, Sinead.