What is Geoheritage?

The poems for the Geopark Poetry Map are beginning to drop into the GeoparkPoetryMap@gmail.com inbox. We have twenty more days for poem submissions and I thought a timely reminder on the theme of geoheritage might be in order. Now this is how scientists view the matter. Geoheritage is defined by Geological Survey Ireland as: 

‘encompassing features of geology that are intrinsically important sites or culturally important sites offering information or insights into the evolution of the Earth; or into the history of science, or that can be used for research, teaching, or reference.’

What could this mean as the subject of a poem? Think long time and slow time, what ice ages have written in the land and how that has affected those who have lived on it. In that respect you might want to write a poem about the lime kilns, sweat houses, the dolmens and wedge tombs that were created from the glacial eratics that can be found across the landscape. This is one I see virtually everyday when I walk my dog down our lane, sitting in the middle of a field.

Hag Stone Corrogue

It is also the way water, wind and the earth interact with one another and how they slowly change over time. When I walk around Cavan Burren Park the limestone pavement was once subtropical sea floor.

If you look at our townlands’ names in the Irish you see the literal landscape painted in language. Down the lane from us is a little lough called Corrakeeldrum. In Irish it is Corr an Chaoldroma. This translates as the round hill in the narrow ridge. Those rounded hills are drumlins and drumlins are what is very distinctive about our Geopark landscape. Have a look at this photo and see for yourself.

Corrakeeldrum

Whether you choose rock art or fossils wrought in rock we see the long stretch of eons in the making. Poetry is about both connecting and making with language. The glacial eratics on the landscape and the waterways have been immortalised in myth. A rock is Fionn McCool’s fist. A pool springing from underground caves becomes the source of the River Shannon that will run all the way down the length of the land. Two wedgetombs mark the place where two Giants would leap across a dry river valley. Story helps us connect the long time in our own immediate time. The bards, Ireland’s original poets, did just that.

You can play at being an archaelogist with language and imagination instead of a trowel and soft brush when you write poems on the theme of geoheritage. For the weekly poem I have chosen an older poem that has been tinkered with over years. Poems, too, evolve over long time. This one I worked and reworked until I got sick of the sight of it. But today I pulled it out and the tinkering was a pleasure. And it still may not be ‘done!’ done. Sometimes the re-drafting process is a bit like chipping an image into rock like those cup and ring marks of old.

Except in our own age we have deadlines to attend to. The deadline for submitting poems to the Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark Poetry Map is 31st May 2021.

Layers

As a marriage can be happy,
fruitful as a tree –bud, blossom, 
to ripe berry.

Another layer of being,
many and one, but never
one and the same.

The land is layer on layer-
mud, grit, sandstone, granite, and lime, 
veined with iron.

Once, land was the word for people-
springing up to bud to blossom
to ripe berry.

Once, land  also meant belonging.
Just as a forest is a tree’s
one family.

Copyright ©Bee Smith, 2021. All rights reserved

The Weekly Poem – The Long Division

Tentative re-opening here in Ireland. We had a shared outdoor coffee with friends last week and had a laugh. Isn’t it great to hear a company of people laughing at some shared joke? It feels quite intimate. Especially as we have probably just been laughing on our own to episodes of comedies on Netflix for the past fourteen months. I discovered the charming ridiculousness of Brooklyn 99 over the winter and I did do the literal LOL sometimes. But to laugh in company feels liberating after the long winter and the cold spring. I may yet regret sending all those sofa throws to recycling. We may need them for outdoor physically distanced tea on the terrace!

I saw my hairdresser drive down my lane and if there wasn’t a pandemic on (and her vehicle shielding her) I would have hugged her I am so happy to have a hair appointment on May 13th. I last saw her nine months ago. She has a salon in the village so would have seen her frequently in pre-pandemic times. Nuala, I am so happy to have you back! She has been working in care homes during Lockdown so got her vaccination three months ago. Also, she gets Covid tested every Tuesday. How is that for a confidence booster?!

Our own second vaccination is on 14th May. From 24th May, we have 94% immunity. But that doesn’t mean that I am going to madly go out and see lots of people. I have marked it on the calendar though as ‘Immunity Day.’ (Well, 94% Immunity Day anyway!)

I do have to carefully consider going in to schools for sessions though and I am still weighing that up. Where I have been in schools before and they know what I look like without a mask it feels sort of okay. But to go in where my face is unknown feels kind of weird. Also, in conjunction with the Geopark Poetry Map project, it would involve schools cross-border and each jurisdiction will have differing guidance. Meanwhile, thank heavens for Zoom. I have an ergonomic seat cushion now to help with the sciatica from long sessions. Not perfect, but it helps.

The theme of Division has been in mind. One You Tuber I watched this week says that the collective energy at the moment is Division. And surely we have got plenty of anecdotal and empirical evidence to back that claim. Some don’t ‘believe’ in the illness, while others trust the science. Some don’t want to mask while others (like myself) have been double masking since this time last year when I could obtain mask filters on Amazon. Some will vaccinate and others will not. We live in a global society of haves and have-nots. We do live in the most divided of times it would seem.

Hence, the title of this week’s Weekly Poem, which also harkens to my slight discalculia, only discovered once I was an adult.

But before I get to that, just a reminder that I am curating the #MACGeopark #Poetry #Map and we need contributions. The deadline for submissions is 31st May 2021. You don’t have to be local either. I have already had one submission from Michigan, USA and another from Singapore. Research is often a good start for a poem and the Geopark staff have provided a great document to help submitters. Email me at GeoparkPoetryMap@gmail.com for full details.

Mapping Marble Arch Caves Geopark Poem by Poem in a digital Poetry Map
The Long Division

Long division, the fraction represented by
the decimal point, not a chunk of pumpkin pie
on a virtual plate. What a confounded headache
for my young brain, fumbling, making countless mistakes.
I failed at dividing - wandering cloudlike past
boundary walls, crossing borders quite unabashed.
I preferred the geometry of the circle -
the line drawn together, sewn into a portal.
Everything is connected neatly. And equal
in how one stands for everyone. It's peaceful,
not lonely, all chipped off into fractious factions,
crouched behind that decimal...fatal abstractions.

Copyright ©Bee Smith, 2021. All rights reserved.

Featured image Photo by Vic on Unsplash

Mapping a (Part of the) Geopark this Poetry Day Ireland

Today is Poetry Day Ireland and the 2021 theme is New Directions: Maps and Journeys. I love those synchronicities where the Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark Poetry Map project intersects so neatly with the 2021. theme. Obviously, there is something in the zeitgeist wants those themes highlighted. The pandemic has had all of us recalibrating our internal True North. There is about as much anxiety about ‘re-entry’ post-vaccine as there was in Lockdowns 1,2, and 3. While, as one reader of this blog has observed, the illness has divided so many in terms of approach to isolation, masking and vaccinating, we have also been challenged to connect, to stay together by remaining apart.

Poetry, at least in my mind, is all about the connections and innovating to make disparate dots meet. Poets have long been inspired not just by visual artists, but by science. Poets however, as Emily Dickinson would say, “Tell all the truth but tell it slant.” As curator of this project, I am eager to see how poets will look at so many of the sites in Fermanagh and Cavan and tell the truth of them – and their geoheritage – but slant.

The digital Geopark Poetry Map was born out of a need for a Plan B when the Artist Development Award from Cavan Arts Office project was completely impossible under lockdown. Plan A was to work in schools the week of 2020’s Poetry Day Ireland. The schools were closed. The light bulb went off in my brain one day. I had the vision, and the Geopark staff loved the idea. But we needed more money than my award. Enter Geological Survey Ireland’s Geoheritage Fund who were keen on the project, which includes commissioned work from established writers, as well as new and emerging poets and schoolchildren.

All the poems must include an element of geoheritage which is defined by Geological Survey Ireland as “encompassing features of geology that are intrinsically important sites or culturally important sites offering information or insights into the evolution of the Earth; or into the history of science, or that can be used for research, teaching, or reference.” The rocks and the earth sciences have been in synergy with this region’s inhabitants for millenia- humans, flora and fauna. It is all part of the spiorad áite, or spirit of the place.

The Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark has this special designation because both natural and built heritage are of international importance. Ireland is an island that has a vein of literature, that runs to the very marrow of the culture. It’s the right time to celebrate the heritage literally under our feet with this digital map during a time when our movements are circumscribed but our imagination can remain wide open.

For this Poetry Day Ireland I set myself the task of writing a geoheritage poem that is set in the Geopark. While I have left particular sites open to the new and emerging poets who would wish to submit contributions to the Geopark Poetry Map, I chose to write a poem about one of the distinctive features of the geopark – ribbed moraines. Indeed, Ireland has the largest ribbed moraine field on the planet. It’s just you cannot see it, except aerially.

A map of Cavan’s drumlin country
The Hindmarsh Theory of Instability
In Ribbed Moraines

The world is made of caprice and chaos.
Or so it may seem.
Even as the land quakes and is sliding
avalanches, sacred geometry
spirals around ice,
its melt, clay and rock.
Though you might not see.
Though the evidence is there at your feet.

Boulder and clay fractured by ice slide.
Dragged like Jayne Torville
in the grand finale to Bolero,
Dean pulling them prone,
their skates scarring tracks across the surface.
Parallel ripples 
evidence of creation’s  mammoth feat.

Minibus bouncing down a Cavan lane,
a verdant hummock,
suggestion of the ribs in the moraine.
More like lazy beds
built for Giants’ appetites in times
before potatoes
would be a feed in a fulacht fia.

A lough pocked land where little rivers run
between, twisting,
gnarled like the antlers of the Giant Elk
dropped off at the end
of its last rutting season. Extinction.
Fossil memory.
The sacred geometry in chaos.

The buzzard flying high above can see
the lines that ripple,
running down ancient Grandmother Earth’s cheeks.
The buzzard can see
more than we who have all the evidence
there beneath our feet.
Caprice. Chaos. Sacred geometry.

Copyright © Bee Smith, 2021. All rights reserved.

Have a wonderful Poetry Day Ireland. And I hope to see many submissions to the MAC Geopark Poetry Map in the coming weeks. The deadline for submissions is 31st May 2021.

Geopark Poetry Map

Seeking Geopark Poetry Map Submissions

Poetry Month is coming to a close, but there will be opportunities to share you poetry year round.. Currently, I am curating a project for Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark where we will be mapping sites across the geopark poem by poem. This digital poetry map is being funded by the Geological Survey Ireland’s Geoheritage Fund. Poets will have their text on the poetry, as well as recited by professional actors so that there is both a visual and aural experience of the poem.  Poets will also receive a payment for the reproduction rights to the chosen poems. Five established poets have been commissioned to create new work for the digital poetry map and a dozen new and emerging poets will have their work published alongside these writers. The commissioned poets will be officially announced on Poetry Day Ireland this 29th April.

So can you write a site specific poem that includes a geoheritage theme?

To get full details, as well as support material from the Geopark, email GeoparkPoetryMap@gmail.com.

The digital poetry map will go live on the MAC Geopark’s website this October 2021. Will one of your poems be highlighting one of these sites pictured above?

Poetry Month Legacy

It has been a busy week. I have had Zoom meetings or classes that averaged two hours every day for eight days straight. That was quite the marathon! Is it just me or do video meetings take a lot of energy? Or perhaps, I am just out of practice with that much interaction with someone other than my husband?! Meanwhile, work on the Geopark Poetry Map is hotting up, too. Check out this blog on Thursday, 29th April for a special geoheritage poem to celebrate Poetry Day Ireland. This year’s theme for Poetry Day Ireland is “New Directions: Maps and Journeys.” Very appropriate as we await submissions for the Geopark Poetry Map

Spring is exerting its force here in West Cavan. My husband is an ardent gardener and has been planting bulbs around our acre and in pots and containers and down along the lane over the years. With the mandate to take outdoor exercise we have more walkers down our (generally) quiet lane. When we were in the local Spar on a Monday for the weekly supermarket grocery swoop, his flowers were complimented. This may spur him on to more bulb planting this autumn.

The Weekly poem grew out of an exercise with my Saturday Poets. Poems and gardens…what better legacy to leave to posterity.

Legacy
For Tony

They walk past the garden admiring
the croci, then daffodils, then
tulips lining our lane where walkers
take their mandated exercise.
Bulbs keep giving, multiplying
year on year. They shall outlast us
more than likely.And long after we
are in the ground they shall cheer up
the walkers and drive bys with trumpets
blaring gold. Cups of pink and red,
purple, white and orange will open
each Spring for someone to admire
their riot of colour. Planted out
just for some future strangers' pleasure.

See you on Thursday for the whole hoopla of Poetry Day Ireland!

Featured image Photo by Yoksel 🌿 Zok on Unsplash

Contrast, But Don’t Compare

Many of the most recent NaPoWriMo prompts have left me cold, but I have been busy. At the very least I jot a haiku or senryu in my journal everyday. Today, I heard the cuckoo’s call. On Saturday, I saw the cuckoo flower blooming. So something in the world is going right!

The weekend was busy with two Zoom classes. The poetry class is always rewarding. And they keep me on my toes. And we laugh a lot, too. On Sunday, the Soul Journey group had its monthly meet up. I absolutely love this group. It is all women and they are brave, often funny, always insightful and offer their truth and vulnerability. When I listen to what they write I agree with the conclusion that Katherine Heiny came to when she proposed a new syllogism.

Storytelling is an act of love.

Katherine Heiny, Guardian Weekend, 17 April 2021

This weekend was also a friend’s birthday. Her birthday gift was a request for her very own poem. So…I may not have been doing NaPoWriMo prompts, but I have been hard at the poetry coal face! Also, in the works is a geoheritage themed poem for Poetry Day Ireland on 29th April, 2021. So…the pressure is on there, too!

On to the Weekly Poem…which may subliminally be prompted by what is going on around the globe. But who knows where poems actually spring from? Sometimes it is just a mystery.

Contrast

Contrast...
but hold the compare!
We need
the yin to the yang,
the both,
not just for balance.

Contrast...
illumination
via
light and shadow.
The sun.
The moon's no better
or worse
than the other one.

Wholeness
requires contrast,
instructs
that diversity
creates
a truly round world.

Just be,
embracing the both.
Contrast...
but hold the compare!

I hope everyone is staying well. My husband and I had our first Pfizer vaccination this past Friday. Come 24th May we shoul be experiencing a bit more freedom – at least the anxiety will be ratcheted down because we will have 94% protection from infection.

BUT, I will still be seeing people outdoors and will mask when in public places even if restrictions are relaxed. The variants are brutal. We have seen this in the after effects on young members of our extended family. So vigilance will still be part of our daily lives.

Featured image Photo by Greg Jeanneau on Unsplash

Weekly Poem and a Change of Scenery

I am treating this as an exercise separate to NaPoWriMo this year since I am juggling writing projects and teaching. For instance, today I completed the first draft of a poem for a friend’s birthday. Under Lockdown, it can be hard to source birthday presents. I asked her if she would like an audiobook. She went away to think about it and came back with the request for a poem just for her. Her wish is my command!

Likewise, on the teaching front we have been deep diving into form since March. The NaPoWriMo Day 3 prompt introduced the concept of the Personal Universal Deck, which is a really handy tool to get your poetry going. But it takes a long time, especially under Covid timelines. (Well, doesn’t everything take longer?!) We used some session time to work on it as all of us are juggling projects, jobs, and in some cases home schooling kids. Though we seemingly have all the time in the world under Lockdown, time still seems to be in short supply. I drive my husband mad with what he calls my ‘infinite to do list’ that is running through my mind. However, he benefits from that organizational mental gymnastics!

And yet, as of yesterday, our restrictions have loosened somewhat. We can move around our county and the kids are all back doing in-person schooling. My husband will get his first Covid-19 vaccination this Friday. We celebrated these milestones by going for a woodland walk about 8 miles from home. Glenfarne Demesne was carpeted with wood anemones. We stopped to pat the pillows of sphagnum moss on the rocks. The greenery in the woodland was positively psychedelic. A little shower did not deter us from wandering along a 2 kilometre trail and stopping to stare at Lough MacNean. We filled our hungry eyes with a change of scenery.

But to the weekly poem. As opposed to an occasional NaPoWriMo daily offering that I am tossing at the blog as time allows. After playing with our Universal Personal decks in Zoom class last Saturday we took a quotation from a Tom Paulin poem as a jumping off point.

In the meadows of the spirit

I kiss the word

Tom Paulin, The Other Voice
Kiss Each Word

I kiss each word that spells out
the magic in imagination.
I shut my eyes and I am there
in the meadow beside the Shannon Pot,
full of  as yet uncut cowslips,
pyramidal orchids, buttercups.
I am the child running waist deep
in grass and reeds
her yellow hair swishing left and right
in the late afternoon summer sunlight.
ViviLnk

NaPoWriMo 2021, Day 13

Imagine Peace

It has been a busy few days. Most important, we can now move around the county, so we filled a thermos flask and got some bickies to go stare at a lake, pat mossy rocks and bathe in psychodelic woodland green. I have been writing – and teaching. We used the Personal Universal deck idea proposed in NaPoWriMo Day 3. Trickier than one might think and it takes longer if you pay attention to all the codaciles of the rules outlined on Paul E. Nelson’s website. Today’s NaPoWriMo prompt has called me to look to Northern Ireland, which has dogged our headlines now for nearly a fortnight. Not even the Duke of Edinburgh’s death has quelled the disruption in its ‘situation’ as they say locally.

Today’s prompt comes from the Instagram account of Sundress Publications, which posts a writing prompt every day, all year long. This one is short and sweet: write a poem in the form of a news article you wish would come out tomorrow.

NaPoWriMo 2021, Day 13
Imagine

It was quiet in Belfast last night.
The Peace Line stayed serene - no bonfires,
pitched battles, burning buses - no need
for tear gases or water canon.

A few wise women, probably all
Irish mammies, took the tearaway
public school boys, a few mandarins
from many nations, much less all those
recalcitrant husbands, sons, brothers,
tongueing them to " just catch yerselves on!"

It may not have been perfect peace, but
we appreciated the quiet.
Not this, but

Photo by Florian Olivo on Unsplash

THIS

NaPoWriMo2021, Day 8

Awake and wakeful at stupid o’clock there seemed nothing for it but to see if NaPoWriMo had posted the daily prompt. Given that they are based many time zones away from me. They had and today’s prompt borrows from Edgar Lee Masters’ Spoon River Anthology. I have a copy on my poetry shelves so did not need to look online. There is such pleasure in having paper reading matter during this pandemic. Too much screen time. And yet, here I am tapping away while my porridge slow cooks. And not a surprising acquisition for someone who had an academic interest in 19th century American lit and intellectual history.

Today, I’d like to challenge you to read a few of the poems from Spoon River Anthology, and then write your own poem in the form of a monologue delivered by someone who is dead. Not a famous person, necessarily – perhaps a remembered acquaintance from your childhood, like the gentleman who ran the shoeshine stand, or one of your grandmother’s bingo buddies. As with Masters’ poems, the monologue doesn’t have to be a recounting of the person’s whole life, but could be a fictional remembering of some important moment, or statement of purpose or philosophy. Be as dramatic as you like – Masters’ certainly didn’t shy away from high emotion in writing his poems.

napowrimo.net, Day 8, 2021

My poem’s character died in 1972 when I was in high school. We bonded in Drama Club and somehow I feel she would be really pleased to have figured in a poem. Spoon River is a volume of monologues by the dead, which is also a kind of eulogy.

Debbie Harter

I dotted my 'i's with a heart
when signing off yearbook notes with
'Love, Life and Laughter.'
Though life  was not a long gift
I had plenty of love. And the latter.
I was loved most my sixteen years
of small hometown nurture.
I wore my own Cancerian born heart openly,
just like the dot over the 'i 'in Debbie.
Life ended one dark March midnight
when we plowed into a tree.
Yet somehow it felt whole-
my life was complete
with very little sorrow,
a full heart and much laughter

NaPoWriMo 2021, Day 7

…in which we tackle the short, very tautly structured syllabic forms of either the shadorma or the Fib. We have worked on shadorma in my creative writing Zoom workshops and I cannot say that I am terribly enamoured. The Fib, however, has a basis in natural science, not in alternative facts. Though imagination does enter into it. So I chose the second (optional) prompt for today’s flexing of the poetry writing muscles.

Our second syllabic form is much more forthright about its recent origins. Like the shadorma, the Fib is a six-line form. But now, the syllable count is based off the Fibonacci sequence of 1/1/2/3/5/8. You can  link multiple Fibs together into a multi-stanza poem, or even start going backwards after your first six lines, with syllable counts of 8/5/3/2/1/1. Perhaps you remember the Fibonacci sequence from math or science class – or even from nature walks. Lots of things in the natural world hew to the sequence – like pinecones and flower petals. And now your poems can, too.

Napowrimo.net, Day 7, 2021
The Fibonacci (Spring) Sequence in Dowra

One
branch 
unfurls
catkin's fuzz
that defies hail stone
snow flurry, sleet, overnight frost

Unlike nipped tulips that bend
faces down to the ground
stamina
tested
this
Spring

Spring
coils
ready
to slither
like the sly serpent
out, around, following the sun

Happy poetry writing! Despite a think layer of snow on the ground yesterday at dawn, and hail pellets and sleety rain drops, it all melted away by 10am. But the daffodils and tulips have taken a bit of a battering.

Buddha Daffodils
Woodland garden in Spring