National Poetry Day in Britain

Today is the UK’s National Poetry Day. Since Northern Ireland is part of the UK and my husband was born in Northern Ireland I like that I get to celebrate a National Poetry Day twice a year. Three times if you include my birthplace, the States. But today, I want to wish all my British poetry friends a wonderful poetry filled and fuelled day.

Cuilcagh Lakelands UNESCO Global Geopark is partly in the Republic of Ireland and also in Northern Ireland. There is a UNESCO World Poetry Day every 21st March, too. So we get three opportunities at celebrating our earth’s heritage and the natural environment each year. I felt that today is an appropriate day to give you an update on the Geopark Poetry Map.

As all things in the time of Covid, in a time of remote working and summer holidays, projects can snail pace at times. We are working steadily towards the launch the Geopark Poetry Map. The long short list has been read and re-read, silently and aloud and the final eight poems have been selected from our Open Call. Those who will be included have been informed. In the final formation I am satisfied that we have a balanced representation in terms of geography and gender. We also have poems, cinquain and haiku, from school children from Cavan and Fermanagh so we have also involved young people in the project even under very restrictive circumstances. We were also lucky enough to have Dara McAnulty, who spent his childhood within the Geopark, to agree to writing a new poem for the Geopark Poetry Map even as he was working on his A levels!

Sidebar: I am so grateful that two schools stepped into the project given that they have had a horrid year and incredible academic challenges during Covid. The Fermanagh school has a kind of bell tent pitched so that there is a foot off the ground to allow air flow. This gave us some shelter from the rain the day of our workshops, though the midges were feeling pretty frisky! The Cavan class was very small and they cheerfully carried their desks and chairs outside and remained masked because they shared desk space. Which I found very moving – considerate of others’ health, stoical in the face of current realities and still engaged with the creative process! The principals of Florencecourt Primary and Curravagh National School are heroes in my estimation. Despite all the bureaucracy, both public health and educational, they wanted their kids to be able to do something creative. And mostly to engage with someone who was not the same face seen every day for that past eighteen months. Truly, they are educators with a wholistic sense of welfare for their pupils.

Meanwhile, during this week of UK Poetry Day, Ramor-Townhall Cavan are busy casting the actors and recording the voice overs of the texts written by the five commissioned authors, the four schoolchildren and eight adults selected to have their poems mapping the geoheritage of various sites around Cuilcagh Lakelands UNESCO Global Geopark. We are plugging along and are getting closer to the finished product.

We hope to have a launch date for the Geopark Poetry Map firmed up soon…but as Mercury is retrograde until 19th October and Mercury Retrograde tends to slow down and snarl alll things internet, transport and communication, I am waiting with bated breath…

In the meantime, I include the geoheritage poem I wrote to Poetry Ireland Day last April.

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.

Map of ribbed moraine area that straddles North and southern parts of Ireland

Cuilcagh Lakelands Global Geopark Poetry Map Update

Did I mention that we have had a name change for our Geopark? What was formerly known as Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark has rebranded as Cuilcagh Lakelands UNESCO Global Geopark. The Cavan Geopark Ambassadors and some of the Fermanagh Heritage Champions were in on the rebranding consultation process and we all were more than satisfied with the final decision. It more completely embraces a truly crossborder identity, marrying the iconic Cuilcagh Mountain that straddles the border along with the many lakes and other waterways that meander back and forth across the international boundary. The mountains and drumlins and the waters winding through and around them are the characteristics that define this Geopark region. While Marble Arch Caves is responsible for there being a Geopark in this region in the first place it limited the identity and confused visitors who did not quite grasp that there are over fifty other sites they can visit in Fermanagh and Cavan as well, each packed with geoheritage significance.

The past couple of weeks have been immersed in other people’s words. There has been the anguished process of drawing up the long shortlist from the nearly fifty poems submitted for our digital Geopark Poetry Map. May were outstanding, some awesome in their execution. But all the poems submitted had a bedrock of genuine love for this region and its geological heritage. Many said they had really enjoyed the challenge of creating a geoheritage themed poem; it was a welcome activity that broke up the routine of Lockdown. When travel restrictions were lifted it spurred on the stream of submissions. Yet, this is an interesting statistic. In 2020, the visitor tickers around the Geopark clocked up nearly half a million visitors; that was the most ever recorded. Clearly, people were returning again and again to this awe-inspiring and uplifting landscape. We needed nature more than ever before, even as nature in the form of a virus was changing our lives utterly. All the submissions had great heart. Which is why the selection process has been so anguishing.

As of yesterday, all the commissioned poets have delivered their poems on various sites. Each is in a very different style, but all have addressed various aspects of the landscape in their geological and mystic wonder. There is an Irish/English poem from Séamus Mac Annaidh on Cuilcagh. Belcoo born poet Maria McManus offers a stunning view from the depths of Marble Arch Caves. Dara McAnulty takes us up to the raptor heights of Big Dog Mountain. Noel Monaghan travels the finger like tributaries of Loughs Oughter and Erne. Anthony J Quinn’s visit to Devenish Island is an exploration of hiddenness, uncertainty and surprise.

The next stage will take these offerings towards their eventual digital home. Watch this space for news of its launch.

I am working on a poem for submission elsewhere so there is only the briefests of haiku from the archive fthis week. But they all celebrate aspects of Cuilcagh Lakelands Geopark and geoheritage. And I decided to share some of my Geopark inspired haiku from ginkgo we have taken at various sites in years past.

Shakehole, Claddagh Glen
Fossils under your feet
Because August 15th was the Feast of the Assumption and there was a Mass celebrated at the local holy well. No four-footeds in attendance though

The world is, as the Aussies say, doing it tough, this week. Read a poem, hug a tree, pat a mossy rock or a pet. Watch birds in flight. Listen to their calls. Be well and stay safe.

Weekly Poem – Lúnasa Harvest

If you were paying attention then you may have noticed that I missed posting a new poem last Tuesday. What with the blistering heat finally abating there was enough energy to actually do some garden harvesting and outdoor work without melting. Lúnasa is the Celtic festival that begins on 31st July. We have had a bank holiday weekend just as we do at Samhain. Lúnasa is the Irish name for the month of August. What with one thing and another my week looked a bit like this…

Garden harvest of peas, broad beans, courgette and lettuce with one of the Lúnasa or Lammas loaves I baked this weekend

I recited some Lúnasa poems on my friend John Wilmott’s Nature Folklore Sunday Sessions this past Sunday. You can find him every Sunday on YouTube or Facebook Live. You can ferret through the archive by connecting on his Facebook Page Carrowcrorry Cottage and Labyrinth Gardens. If you peruse his channel you will learn a great deal about the Irish folklore surrounding Bilberry Sunday and Lúnasa and Crom Cruich.

I cannot do the live with him next Sunday so I made a wee video of one of the poems I am posting for you today. He will be looking at the old god Crom Cruich or Crom Dubh next Sunday. This god of the underworld was much celebrated in this region where I live, Cuilcagh Lakelands Geopark. (YES! Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark has a new name to more accurately reflect it’s crossborder identity!) The Blacklion-Belcoo region about eight miles from where I live was a great centre for worship of Crom Cruich. The text for one of the poems is below. A video reading this poem and another is uploaded on YouTube. I recorded it in my garden this past Sunday.

Bilberry Sunday

Hurry to cut the hay! Foot the turf!
The blazing sun plays beat the clock
waltz time to tractor engine tune.

The Council officials scythe the long grass
around graves in the old cemetery
dressing them up to be blessed once again.

Sunday is meant to be for rest.
In this most strenuous season
long days of sweat bear first harvest.

Even so, we take the time to climb up
holy heights or circle the holy well
repeating ancient patterns, saying prayers.

Bilberry’s tight fruit, slightly sour,
are offered up on walks taken
in high summer’s brief leisure hours.

Bog myrtle too sprouts from peat rich high ground,
exposed to sun and scorched dry by recent heat, 
splintering like bog oak exhumed, risen.

up from damp ancient underworld,
Auld Crom Cruich’s proper domain,
along with Belcoo’s freezing spring.

The pilgrims visit, praying the pattern,
An elegy, requiem for dying
Summer and all being gathered.

But just now we are too busy.
We must save the seed and preserve
fruits of harvest we don’t consume.

We are too busy to mourn what’s cut down.
It’s enough to know the year is waning.
That seed saved is hope of new beginnings.



Since I missed last week, I will add a wee haiku as a bonus.

Lazy orbiting
Thistle's downy seed head drifts
Summer's surrender
Thistle down