In the Summer of 2018, Paula Meehan, renowned Irish poet and I, joined forces to create a book celebrating the varied history of, and the lives lived in 14 Henrietta Street, Dublin’s museum of social history. The book, entitled ‘MUSEUM’, has been launched on the 25th of July by author Roddy Doyle at the former Georgian townhouse in Dublin’s north inner city.
The DNA footprint of the people who lived in the house is impressed into the floors, stored beneath the floorboards, carved onto those walls. It’s the walls that fascinated me the most. They were like secret maps inviting you to imagine the hundreds of destinies 14 Henrietta Street witnessed. And that light. Some days I just sat there, never taking my camera out of the bag, looking over the flats of Dublin’s inner city, communing with it as it flooded the house from the rear windows. Sometimes the ghosts of children made me play with worn-out marbles; sometimes we brought out the dolls and toy guns and sat on the linoleum floor and I tried to conjure myself as having been born here, in the country that adopted me and is my home. Dublin, the city I always look forward to returning to, plunged yet again into a housing crisis that is pushing its artists out, the prohibitive rents making it near impossible to survive, and this house speaking of a similar past.
Published by Dublin City Council Culture Company
Design by Oonagh Young
170 x 225 mm.
"Because I first got language as a child in the tenements of Dublin’s North inner city; because I respect and admire the people I grew up amongst; because their spirit formed my moral and social compass; because 14 Henrietta Street and its hauntings gripped my imagination from the moment I first crossed the threshold; because the house itself outlasted the depredations of the eighteenth, the nineteenth, the twentieth centuries; because the stories of the people who made their homes in the house are stories of survival and courage and deserve to be enshrined; because the original architects, builders, and craftspeople of the Georgian era made a place suffused with classical iconography, built to elegant classical proportions in materials that endure; because I love making sonnets; because so many good and committed people worked incredibly hard to realise this project; because a museum is a dead space unless it speaks to the now; because we are suffering a crisis of homelessness in the city and this house is all about making homes, often in the direst of circumstances: For these reasons, I was privileged to be invited to respond to the house and to make this poetry sequence Museum." PAULA MEEHAN / 2019