I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

Home Uncategorized Signs of the Times

Signs of the Times

Keith Payne
Ghost Signs of Dublin, by Antonia Hart, photography by Lynn Nalty, The History Press, 144 pp, £16.99, ISBN: 978-1845888411 You Pavements! You flagg’d walks of the cities! you strong curbs at the edges! You ferries! you planks and posts of wharves! you timber-lined sides! you distant ships! You rows of houses! you window pierc’d facades! You roofs! You porches and entrances! you copings and iron guards! You windows whose transparent shells might expose So much! You doors and ascending steps! you arches! You gray stones of interminable pavements! you trodden crossings! From all that has touch’d you I believe you have Imparted to yourselves, and now would impart the same secretly to me, From the living and the dead you have peopled your Impassive surfaces, and the spirits thereof would be evident and amicable with me. Walt Whitman, “Song of the Open Road”, 1860 Walt Whitman never walked Dublin, but I am sure would have welcomed Antonia Hart’s Ghost Signs of Dublin as a book that imparts just what his poem celebrates; the secrets of the impassive surfaces that make Dublin city now an even more amicable trot for the city walker. Ghost Signs of Dublin joins recent historical and literary projects such as Come Here to Me: Dublin Life and Culture, If Ever you Go: A Map of Dublin in Poetry and Song, The Stoneybatter & Smithfield People’s History Project, Storymap.ie and The Little Museum of Dublin, all of them revealing hidden or forgotten layers of the city’s weave; pulling on the loose threads that make up the city’s tapestry of hucksters and publicans, revolutionaries and republicans, priests, pickpockets and pork butchers. With text by Antonia Hart and photographs by Lynn Nalty, Ghost Signs is a history of Dublin commerce. It is a social history of the stories behind many of the old signs in the city centre “which have survived long after the businesses they once represented have closed down or moved away”, reaching from Upper O’Connell Street to Leeson Street and Boland’s Mills to Thomas Read Cutlers. But more than just a roll-call of past Dublin businesses; Ghost Signs is what much poetry attempts to be, and often succeeds in being – I’m thinking in particular of the recently deceased Tomas Tranströmer, whose luminous poems reveal the possibility of a whole universe in a dust mote – It’s a version of the city that stops you and makes you turn again on your trot through Dublin…



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