Review by Seamus O’Driscoll of Chuck Kruger’s latest book:
Visual Tour Accompanied by Some Sunday Miscellany Musings
in The Southern Star, 23 April 2011
The one and only Chuck Kruger, resident of Cape Clear Island since the 1980’s and newly minted Irish Citizen, needs little introduction. His poems, musings and various books inspired by his life-changing move to the Island have gradually found themselves a respectable niche in the literary world. His broadcasts, especially on Seascapes and Sunday Miscellany, have reached an even wider audience and his inspirational efforts to establish a major International Storytelling Festival on Cape Clear have achieved a benign notoriety deserved by those who see great riches where others see only rocks. Through his writings, and other efforts therefore, he has taught us how to see the Island in a new and ever exciting light, to appreciate the joys of nature grounded in human affairs, of everyday community life in a spectacular natural setting.
Few of those besotted with the language and lore of Island Life will not already have copies of some or all of his previous publications such as Cape Clear Island Magic and Between a Rock and many others will know him by reputation.
What many do not yet know, however, is that apart from all of the above Chuck is also an accomplished and prolific photographer who has built up a truly astonishing collection of over 22,000 film photographs of Cape Clear since 1986. Over the years he has also shown great generosity in sharing photographs of almost every significant event liberally throughout the wider island community. Many of his photos have also achieved prominence in various Island publications and have adorned many articles penned by others.
Such largesse is made for sharing and over the past year much effort has been expended to narrow these down to 150 of the spectacular best for the latest very special book about Oileán Chléire. Cape Clear Island, a Visual Tour Accompanied by Some Sunday Miscellany Musings is exactly what it says. Chuck sees the photographs as non-verbal poems, so intensely do they move into the heart and soul of Cape, of its people, its landscape, its seascapes, its very nature. They cover all seasons and all sides of the Island and the accompanying writings are very well chosen and exceptionally well placed throughout.
The book has also clearly been a labour of love also for Designer and Typesetter, Fergal Mac Amhlaoibh, himself a former Co Op Manager and Island Resident and is beautifully executed by Inspire Print and Design of Skibbereen.
The Island looks forward to the launch which takes place in Club Cléire on Sunday 1 May at 4pm by another great friend of the Coastal Fringe, Tom Mc Sweeney. All are welcome … and during the event signed copies of the book which will retail at €20 will be available at a reduced cost of €15.
The book is published by Comharchumann Chléire Teo with the support of Comhar na nOileánTeo’s Rural Development Programme. The profits generated will help to support the Island Information Office and Craft Shop.
For more on Chuck and indeed his devoted best half, Nell, visit www.chuckkruger.net
Séamus Ó Drisceoil, Oileán Chléire
long love affair with Cape Clear
in the Cork Examiner’s Evening Echo 4 May 2011
Correspondent Tom McSweeeney
In his 25 years there, he has taken 25,000 photographs, a visual record of the southernmost outpost of Ireland.
“Cape Clear is an island of stark contrasts,” he says, “not only from minute to minute, as when you witness half-a-dozen rainbows in an afternoon, but from season-to-season, when you compare a halcyon summer’s day with a January gale.”
I went to Cape Clear on Sunday, a wet, cold May Day that did not herald the arrival of summer very convincingly as the ferry headed out of Baltimore across choppy waters. I was bound there to launch Chuck’s latest book, Oileán Chléire – Cape Clear Island, a Visual Tour, published by Comharchumann Chléire Teoranta, the island co-operative.
Chuck grew up in New York State’s Finger Lakes and spent his youth, as he describes himself, “traipsing around old Iroquois hunting and burial grounds, and listening to stories beside night-time bonfires on the shores of Owasco Lake.”
Around the age of 10 he was given his first Kodak camera, beginning a lifelong interest in photography.
In 1966, “in protest against the Vietnam War”, Chuck and his wife, Nell, left the United States, moving from St. Louis to Switzerland, where he continued his career teaching literature.
“After 20 years in Switzerland we visited Ireland and accidentally hit upon just where we had to live, come taxes or high water – Cape Clear.” In the early summer of 1986 they had arrived at Cork Airport, “began walking south-west, and for the first sime since our twenties, stuck out our thumbs.”
A priest, a farmer, an insurance man, an elderly artist and grandparents with two young children, gave them lifts until they reached Baltimore.
From there they went to Sherkin Island, saw a piece of land they liked, but which wasn’t available, and were directed instead to an alternative on Cape.
“On the journey into Cape, something happened that was magical, something for which islands are renowned.
“As we entered north harbour I peered around, there was a picturesque 12th century ruin of a chapel, a stark homely cemetery, a holy well. I felt a rush of feeling.
“I had an ebullient sense that here was a place in which I could die.”
Chuck and his wife put their life savings into their move from Zurich to Cape, and their purchase of a farm on the island.
“I should add that neither of us is particularly anxious to die, but having lived in Switzerland we failed to develop any sense of connection to its earth.
“It is too civilised. We prefer raggedy Ireland to manicured Helvetica.”
I have been fortunate to know Chuck for many years, to have him broadcast for me when I presented Seascapes, to listen to his contributions to Sunday Miscellany, some of which are printed in his new book with his often stunning photography of the island.
He has won poetry competitions in Ireland and the UK, won photography competitions, published short story collections and won prizes for them, including the Bryan McMahon Competition at Listowel Writers’ Week and The Dubliner Story Contest. He has written a novel, had a poetry compilation published and contributed to tourist brochures and pamphlets about Cape. His book Cape Clear Island Magic was published by Collins Press in 1994, reissued twice and updated and expanded by the Island Co-op in publication three years ago.
Launching his book on Sunday afternoon in Club Chléire, I said that while he came and saw Cape, it is arguable that Cape “conquered him”, that the island was waiting for just such a person, for he has been involved in many events which the island has developed, such as the annual Storytelling Weekend in September. His work in praise of Cape has also “conquered” the attitude of others, including myself, towards island communities.
It is one of my greatest wishes that the general population of Ireland would appreciate that we are all islanders and take pride in that uniqueness. To be an islander is, to me, something special, different, with a pride in one’s history, drawn particularly from its maritime location.
We all live on an island. Mainland Ireland happens to be bigger than that on which our offshore compatriots reside. Like them, we cannot go anywhere off the island without crossing water.
There have been improvements in living standards on offshore islands, as Cómhdháil Óileán na hÉireann, the Islands Federation, says. It represents island communities on a voluntary basis. More needs to be done. There have been enough Government reports and examinations of the needs of the island communities.
It is time for action to ensure that communities are maintained, that there are economic, employment opportunities on the islands.
They deserve as much support as mainland communities.
Chuck tells in his book how Cape has attracted different groups of people – 700 bird watchers in four days after the tail-end of Hurricane Isaac swept over the island in 2000. That brought the unexpected visit of a blue-winged warbler, the first ever seen in Europe.
“Our little island cottage,” describes Chuck, “sits high above Cape Clear’s pristine south harbour and every morning, weather permitting, after breakfast, I meander with my cuppa through the kitchen garden to look-out point, some 15 metres northwest of our house.”
From there he can look down on one of the most beautiful places into which I have ever sailed and lain peacefully at anchor, weather permitting of course!
South harbour, Cape Clear, is an idyllic place, one of my most favourite maritime locations.
“Some live wherever they happen to be, or to have been brought up.
“Some choose their location and a few have no choice but to go to where they are called.
“Nell and I discovered we had no choice, for better or for worse. That’s the story of how we found Cape Clear or, perhaps, of how it found us.”
As I said at the outset, I think the island may have found him and both are better for their mutual discovery.
Comharchum Chléire has taken a courageous step in publishing Chuck’s book which will be available from the Co-op …. For more information the Co-op website is www.oileanchleire.ie
pics paint 1,000 words
Nick Bramhill, in the Cork Examiner, 2 May 2011
known as the creator of Ireland’s most famous storytelling festival. However,
Cape Clear, Co Cork-based writer Chuck Kruger proved a picture paints a thousand
words yesterday when he launched a book of photographs he has taken of his
adopted island home.
American, who is the creator of the annual Cape Clear International Storytelling
Festival, has taken 24,000 photographs since he moved from New Jersey [read
Switzerland] to Co Cork almost 20 years ago.
has trawled through all his old negatives and whittled the number down to 150 of
his farourite shots for his new book, which captures the Gaeltacht outpost at
the launch of his book, Cape Clear Island, A Visual Tour Accompanied by Some
Sunday Miscellany Musing, Kruger said he hasn’t stopped taking snaps of
his adopted island paradise since he bought a farm and moved over with his wife,
Nell, in 1992.
father-of-three, who has had works of fiction, poetry, short story and a guide
to Cape Clear published, yesterday described the book as a “long labour of
love” for his cherished home.
love Cape as much as I’ve ever loved a hunk of land in my life. Maybe more.
And I hope I can bring it to dramatic life and a sense of action through my
once in a while I see a sunset, a cloud, a reflection in the sea or in one of
the harbours, or the island lake, or a person, or a singular dramatic moment.
never know when I’m going to take a shot. Sometimes it’s just a butterfly in
a hurricane, sometimes a group of people. But whenever I see something that
enthralls me, snap, snap goes my camera.
a way, taking a photograph is the absolute opposite of writing a poem or story.
Click, click, and it’s done. Whereas some of my poems and stories keep being
written and rewritten for years.”
who is also busy preparing for the 17th storytelling festival on the
island in September, said the hardest part of putting the book together was
sifting through his vast collection.
morning I went to my computer file where I verbally list what’s on every roll
of film and I multiplied 36 by the number of rolls of film I’ve taken since we
first came to Cape and to my utter astonishment the number came to around
24,000,” he says.
there ought to be two or three good shots in there somewhere, now I’ve
narrowed my favourites down to around 150. But it took me a few weeks to do
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