Visions of Johana

Her body is in the chair; Her mind is in the Emerald Isle

"Like many Irish artists, [such as] James Joyce and Jonathan Swift," she writes, "I prefer to respond to the adversity that I face with humor and wit. I sublimate my reactions into laughter and art and constructive activism. I admire Ronan of the Irish Tenors, who is an amputee. I can relate to him as a successful artist with a disability. I have most of their songs in my iTunes. 'Scorn Not His Simplicity' is about raising a child with a disability and speaks to me.

"The Irish are hospitable. When I went to see a play at Dublin's biggest theater, the actors themselves carried me down the stairs. At the Saw Doctors' second concert in my hometown of Petaluma, during 'Clare Island,' they released flowers from the ceiling. Padraig Stevens, then percussionist, reached down and placed a flower behind my ear in my hair. I went home and pressed the flower for safekeeping. The gesture was noted in a review of the gig on the website. I always try for the front row because people are standing and dancing and I can't see over them."

Schwartz will likely "scoot" up front this weekend at the Irish Fair of Minnesota (it runs Friday through Sunday at Harriet Island; www.irishfair.com). She will also be networking. She has registered for the fair's first-ever summer school, an all-day event on Thursday that includes music workshops, and lectures on Joyce and playwright Sean O'Casey. She hopes to score her stamp-collecting family some deals, and recruit members for a proposed James Joyce reading circle.

Someone has to finish reading 'Ulyssess' so the rest of us can stick to chick lit: Johana Schwartz
Raoul Benavides
Someone has to finish reading 'Ulyssess' so the rest of us can stick to chick lit: Johana Schwartz

Even among Joyce fans--a learned and stubbornly persistent lot--there may be folks who are unfamiliar with the epigraph that Schwartz has made her own: "Welcome, O life! I go to encounter for the millionth time the reality of experience and to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race."

Jim Walsh can be reached at 612.372.3775 or jwalsh@citypages.com.

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