Kinsale Harbor, after a drawing by Cork artist William Willes
in a map of Cork in Samuel C. Hall and Anna Maria Hall,
Ireland: its scenery, character &. (London: How and Parsons, 1841)
From Ireland With Letters
Intertwining Irish history and generations of Irish American family memories in a work of
polyphonic literature based on the rhythms of ancient Irish Poetry, the imagined lost Irish Sonata,
the madrigal, streams and fountains, and Irish song, From Ireland with Letters is an epic
electronic manuscript told in the public space of the Internet. It could also be considered playable text or generative hyperfiction.
The role of displacement and disrupted tradition in the work of contemporary Irish authors 
is paralleled in this polyphonic Irish American electronic manuscript, which interweaves the stories of Walter
Power -- who came to America as an Irish slave on The Goodfellow in 1654, stolen from his family by
Cromwell's soldiers and sold in the Massachusetts Bay Colony when he was 14 years old
-- and his descendant, 19th century Irish American sculptor Hiram Powers, who grew up on a Vermont
farm and moved to Florence, Italy, where his work played a symbolic role in the fight against
African American slavery in America.
How to Read From Ireland with Letters
Each part of From Ireland with Letters is separate and written in a different structure and tempo, but the whole is integrated by themes
introduced in the opening Prologue. Although the workings of each section are different, as a general rule, the work can be read
either by waiting for the text to change on its own (as if watching a film or listening
to a piece of music) or by clicking on any lexia, in which case the reader takes control of
how the story is explored in the manner of hypertext fiction. The authoring system varies from the
unmeasured notation in parts I-III, to the measured notation (malloy: fiddlers_passage)
in parts IV and V. (set forth in the
score for fiddler's passage and the
score for the "Sinfornia" to Junction of Several Trails)
Each part of this work of polyphonic/polychoral literature is created with three or four moving
columns of poetic text that -- like a piece of music -- work together in counterpoint. And it should be
noted that just as a listener needs to listen to a complex work of Baroque music more than once to
understand how it works, each part of
From Ireland with Letters
benefits from several readings. (or "replays")
The sound of the fiddle
brought the forests of ancient Ireland
into the imagination of the audience,
for the pub was situated in a part of New Hampshire,
where pine and deciduous forests still crowded onto the hillsides;
the lakes were clear; and they knew by the music what she meant.
The story is true, but the characters who tell it in From Ireland with Letters are fictional.
Walter Power's story is told by his descendant Máire Powers, an Irish American fiddler who is
writing a lay about 17th century Ireland and Irish slavery in America; Hiram Powers' story is
told by 19th century art historian Liam O'Brien, who is researching the sculptor's life and work.
Boston, Massachusetts: My Grandmother, Ethel Powers and my Grandfather, Walter Powers,
who first told me the story of Hiram Powers
The sculptor Hiram Powers, whose work The Greek Slave was influential in the fight
against slavery was the descendent of Irish slave Walter Power's fourth child Thomas. The writer of this work,
Judy Malloy, is the descendent of his first child, William.
The pursuit of this story began years ago,
when her grandfather, Walter Powers, told her the story of Hiram Powers.
..."And, of course, there, in a vision of the night,
I saw a man whose name was Victoricus
coming as if from Ireland with innumerable letters,
and he gave me one of them,
and I read the beginning of the letter:
'The Voice of the Irish'..."
Saint Patrick, Confessio
The title of this work is taken from Saint Patrick's Confessio, where the words are
"from Ireland with innumerable letters". Having escaped from slavery in Ireland, Saint Patrick,
had a vision of a man from Ireland asking him -- with many letters -- to return to Erin.
"Letter To Coroticus", Patrick was also one of the first people whose words against slavery
The Prologue, (2010) Begin with the Arrival (2011) and passage, (2012)
premiered in June 2012 at the
-- at the 2012 Conference of the Electronic Literature Organization in Morgantown, West Virginia.
And From Ireland with Letters, (Parts I-III) was also on display on the plasma screen
at FILE 2012: Electronic Language International Festival, Sao Paulo, Brazil,
July 16 - August 19, 2012.
Part IV, fiddler's passage, was composed in the summer of 2012.
Part V, Junction of Several Trails was completed in the Spring of 2013.
From Ireland with Letters (Parts I-V) has been selected for exhibition in the virtual gallery
for Chercher le Texte, The Electronic Literature Organization 2013 Conference,
hosted by the Laboratoire Paragraphe and the EnsAD (Ecole nationale supérieure
des Arts Décoratifs) Paris, France, September 24-27, 2013. It will also be included in
the Bibliothèque Nationale de France exhibition digital literature from yesterday to tomorrow,
and in exhibitions at the EnsAD and at the Public Library of the Centre Pompidou.
Research and notation work are underway for Part VI. Currently titled
And speak of long ago times -- a translation of a line in Verdi's Risorgimento
anthem "Va Pensiero" from Nabucco (1841) -- Part VI will begin with Liam O'Brien's narrative
of how, against a background of the Risorgimento, Hiram Powers began
creating The Greek Slave in 1841 and sent her from Italy to America in the years before the
The Literature of the Gaelic Revival
The documentation of what happened in Ireland from 1649-1654 has been acquired with research and
reading, particularly in books written during the Gaelic Revival in Ireland. These books are a
treasure of Irish history, and the discovery and reading of such texts are an integral part of this work.
This trail of library discovery and the parallel trail of the influence of early music, fiddle music and
Irish poetry on the interface of a poetic electronic manuscript are
documented in the From Ireland with Letters writer's notebooks at:
Notes on the Creation of the Prologue to From Ireland with Letters
March 17, 2010 - December 8, 2010
Notebook for Begin with the Arrival and passage
January 14, 2011 - June 29, 2012
Notebook for fiddler's passage and Junction of Several Trails
July 4, 2012 - April 12, 2013
Measured Notation in Electronic Literature
On July 14, 2012, an informal entry in my writer's notebook documents the week when I began to
compose the text of fiddler's passage in measured as opposed to the unmeasured notation in which
parts I-III were written. The beginning of this process in documented in the May 27, 2012 entry
of this same notebook:
"At home, thrown back in time to the era when the energy of creating polyphonic music resulted in
seminal systems of notation. I perused the books with which I had returned from Friday's
one-parking-space holiday expedition:
Willi Apel, The Notation of Polyphonic Music 900-1600,
4th edition, Cambridge, MA: The Medieval Academy of America, 1949 and Carl Parrish,
Notation of Medieval Music, NY: Norton, 1957
The Notation of Polyphonic Music 900-1600 fell open to page 316 in the chapter on
Franconian Notation. On that page, an enchanting facsimile from the circa 13th century Montpellier Manuscript is displayed:
'huic ut' in which the magi bring mystical gifts..."
The significance of this compelling example of Franconian notation is beyond
the scope of this documentation for From Ireland with Letters
, but it should be noted that
just as Franconian notation was a turning point
in music notation, it was a turning point in my work.
"Of these events, Muse, daughter of Zeus,
tell me the story again, beginning where you will."
Homer, The Odyssey, Book I
Resonant of the ancient Irish lay and the tradition of
the ceilidh, From Ireland with Letters is a continuing work of
polyphonic electronic literature, told in the public space of the Internet.
Influenced by the public literature aspects of the creation of her pioneering hypertext,
Uncle Roger -- which was first created on Art Com Electronic Network on The WELL in 1986
-- Judy Malloy's telling of epic works of
electronic literature continued in 1988 with the writing and programming
its name was Penelope, which was first exhibited at the Richmond Art Center in
1989 and published by
Eastgate in 1993.
More background information about
From Ireland with Letters is available in the "about" pages
that are available in each part of the work.
1. Séan Crosson, "The Given Note": Traditional Music and Modern Irish Poetry,
Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2008
From Ireland with Letters is copyright 2010-2013 Judy Malloy
These notes were last updated on June 7, 2013