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
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.
I think this is my fourth or fifth year of writing a poem a day every day in April, which is both National and Global Poetry Writing Month. It may sound daunting, but there is no better way to up your poetry writing game than by writing regularly. With the daily prompts and supporting material from websites like https://www.napowrimo.net/ you can really exercise your poetry writing muscles. I like to think of it as a kind of poetry jocks’ annual event. Which is sort of cognitively dissonant since most poets are the antithesis of jock. But, hey ho!
You can email GeoparkPoetryMap@gmail.com for submission guidelines and support material on the geoheritage of many of the Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark sites.
But back to NaPoWriMo or GloPoWriMo as those of us living outside the USA may style it…There is an early bird prompt to get us warmed up. I did a little yip of delight (and there have not been many of them here lately) when it was revealed that the prompt is based in one of my happy places on this globe. As a family used to visit it regularly from when I was a tween and most trips back to the States have incorporated a visit to the Met and the Brooklyn Museum of Art to see Judy Chicago’s Dinner Party in the Feminist Art Wing.
Finally, because April 1 arrives a few hours earlier for many of our participants than it does for us at Na/GloPoWriMo headquarters, we’re also featuring an early-bird prompt today. Today, we’d like to challenge you to spend a few minutes looking for a piece of art that interests you in the online galleries of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.
I wandered many galleries but always seem to gravitate to the Impressionist to visit Monet’s Bridge over Waterlilies and to say hello to Vincent Van Gogh’s work. The last visit was with my 15 year old niece who went on to study art at college. She was working on a GCSE project at that time and commented that one of her classmates was doing her project on a Roy Lichtenstein and here she was looking at one in person, not in some book or online. Seeing art in-person really is an entirely different experience.
My own first draft was compelled from early memories of ranging round the Met galleries.
The water lily pond could wash you away!
So massive, taking up all a gallery wall,
dwarfing a twelve year old, who in memory
shuddered at the huge canvas' dimensions, all
majesty and "Look At Me!" - how minute
the ambitions of lesser imaginations.
Let the colour and brushwork engulf you -
one artist's grandeur, an act of diminution.
I preferred the paintings more human scale.
Monet did do flowers very well - sunflowers
in a Japanese vase. Gauguin is alleged
to have said Van Gogh's were much better.
I agree. Even sunflower husks dredged
have more heart beating in every strand of his brush.
I bought a print from the museum shop.
Years on, I went to A'dam on the Magic Bus
to have sunflowers and night stars make my heart stop.
We have a week left for March to roar out and then it will be April. If it is April, then it is NaPoWriMo – time to write a poem a day for a month. NaPoWriMo is a great poetry apprenticeship. It challenges you to get out of your writing comfort zone by offering you new poetry forms and introducing you to all kinds of poets, both historic and contemporary. It is like getting a poetry gym membership for free for a month.
Given that I will be calling out for contributions to the Geopark Poetry Map (see Sunday’s post here (https://sojourningsmith.blog/2021/03/21/happy-unesco-world-poetry-day/), NaPoWriMo is a good way to get in training to hone that poem on one of Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark’s sites. To get more information about submission guidelines and general Geopark information email GeoparkPoetryMap@gmail.com.
The project is being funded by Geological Survey Ireland’s Geoheritage Fund and we will be looking for poems with a decided geoheritage theme of the particular site.This is how they define geoheritage.
Geoheritage encompasses 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.’
Geological Survey of Ireland
If it is Tuesday, it is Weekly Poem Day. This is not a new one, but it is one that was inspired by the Cavan Burren’s Cairn Dolmen. Basically, the earliest tombs were piles of stones – cairns. Ireland has many cairns on mountain or hilltops. Cuilcagh, the mountain that straddles the international border running through Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark, has one. A later era decided to innovate and began building the megaliths, like dolmens, those slabs of rock that were the earliest mauseleums. In Cavan Burren Park, they built a dolmen on an existing cairn. Waste not seems to have been ingrained in the ancestors. Another dolmen became an improvised cow shed in the 19th century; it is now known as the Calf Hut Dolmen.
The Cairn Dolmen in in the forest and is a magical place. I personally call it the Fairy Cairn, which will not impress the scientific minded, but poets must be allowed their fey turn of imagination. The poem was first published in The sHop in 2007.
Each year March 21st rolls around. Some years, like 2021, it is also the spring equinox (or equilux as I like to think of it as we bask in lengthening daylight). But it is always UNESCO World Poetry Day. And, if you are not already familiar with it, UNESCO stands for United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation. After UNICEF, it is probably the most high profile of the United Nation’s work, other than sending in military peace keeping missions in hotspots around the globe. UNESCO World Poetry Day is also a landmark in my own life as I launch an exciting poetry project that I am curating. But first, let’s have a little digression as I unpack the acronym and it’s context.
UNESCO covers, broadly, what is our world heritage. That is why Skellig Michael, Newgrange and the Giant’s Causeway and Coast have earned the UNESCO World Heritage site moniker. The science bit covers the land we live on – the rocks, the waterways, the weather that sculpts the land over time – in an ice age or in a weekend when a fierce storm blows through. The land pretty much dictates our culture as we adapt to our habitat and create art and customs informed by our geographical location. Education is how we transmit both heritage, scientific knowledge and culture.
The United Nations was always in my consciousness from an early age. When we lived in Queens, there was a United Nations Village beside my sister’s and eldest brother’s primary School, St. Nicholas of Tollentine. So they had classmates of children whose parents were working at the UN. The actual building where those parents worked was across the East River and opened in 1952. I went on a tour of the building in 1963 when it still was spanking new and very modern. What lives in my memory is a mural that was very abstract. I asked the tour guide what did it mean. I earned indulgent chuckles from the audience. Little children often ask the questions that the adults think, but also reckon will make them look unsophisticated.
Which brings me to another UNESCO designation that is close to my heart and where I make my home. I live within the demesne of the Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark. It is a global geopark because it straddles an international boundary; Fermanagh is in the UK’s Northern Ireland and Cavan is in the Republic of Ireland. It was the first cross-border global geopark on the planet. That it was created in the wake of the Good Friday Belfast Treaty in 1998 is a cultural monument to co-operation after over thirty years of civil strife. The geology of this area has huge international significance and the artefacts from the previous millenia tell the story of how our human inhabitants developed their culture.
What better way to transmit that heritage then with poetry? The first dwellers probably sang songs of successful hunts, lamented loved ones who passed, celebrated births and the seasons’ passing. Those first stories will have changed over time as each age changed the tune and timing, but the great themes are eternal and connect those of us living today with our mitochondrial mothers. Science helps us excavate new facts and amazing discoveries where we can alter our view about how this living organism -Earth – lives, breaths and shape shifts. Poetry transmits how we interlink with other living organisms. The work of poetry is to make connections.
Which brings me to the perfect marriage of my biophilia and poetry. Today, we launch a digital project with Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark where we will be mapping the geopark poem by poem. Five established poets have been commissioned to create new work on the geoheritage of sites across the geopark. I will be curating the project and reaching out to new and emerging poets asking them for their own contributions. Twelve of those poets will also feature on the Geopark’s digital poetry map. As schools reopen I will be doing outreach with the 9-12 year olds who have visited geopark sites where they live for contributions.
The project has been funded by the Geological Survey of Ireland’s Geoheritage Fund. Cavan Arts Office is funding my work as curator of the project through an Artist Development Award. We are also grateful for Cavan’s Ramor Theatre contributing professional actors to recite the work and to record sound files.
Ultimately, the Geopark Poetry Map will be on the Marble Arch Cave UNESCO Global Geopark website. later in 2021. You will be able to click onto the digital map and read the poem off the screen and click on the sound file and hear it in your ear. Poetry is both a visual and aural experience. The Geopark Poetry Map is a vehicle for doing outreach from a safe distance in these pandemic times.
I live in what feels like a miraculous landscape. My hope is that the poems will educate, entertain and inspire the public to cherish this precious place where I have been graced to live these past twenty years.
If you would like to know more about the Geopark Poetry Map, how to submit a poem for consideration, or to just get more background information about some of the seventy sites around Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark, please email
I look forward to reading the poems that will celebrate the great geoheritage of this landscape.
Since this is a poetry blog I better finish with a poem. The poem is dedicated to Dr. Kirsten Lemon, who was the geologist who taught me and the other Cavan Geopark Ambassadors about the wonders of the earth beneath our feet back in 2011.