The long light evenings give way to leisurely after dinner walks with houseguests. We found ourselves up on the Cavan Burren yesterday evening just as the angle of light was its brightest before it gradually began to fade into the long twilight. Some summer solstice senryu seems to be in order for poetry practice this morning. We were up in the park a half hour before the gates close at 10PM. After a day of on and off rain the light show showed up a luminous green from the moss and lichen.
Which segues neatly into a photo of Cavan Burren Park’s iconic Calf Hut
Dolmen. Basically, the captstone slipped at some stage to create a
saltbox effect. At some point in the late 18th or early 19th century a
farmer decided to mortar up one end and make it a cattle shelter for the
new born calves.
By twilight we were home for dessert and tea. The guests had an early morning start. It wasn’t dark at bedtime.
I am revelling in the summer solstice light and the full moon’s light. I hope you are bathing in its fey joy, too. We are still three days of the exact solstice and the moon will be waning by then. In the meantime, let the yin and the yang sky dance and bring you delight.
We have this unusual circumstance of experiencing a full moon very close to the longest day of the year on June 21st. Up here where I live the light is long into the night. Living without light polution from electrical street lighting, the full moon makes a holy show of herself every month, so long as we don’t have cloud cover. I have been waking at intervals to see both moonshine adn very early light. Even around 2:30 am it is not full dark. You can still see the outlines of trees and buildings. With the moonlight and no cloud we shall just have a a lot of twilight. Which is betwixt and between time. So it seemed wise to write a wee poem celebrating the Good People, aka the Other Crowd,or just as The Fey Ones. You know! Fairies!
The June Full Moon is sometimes known as the Mead Moon, Strawberry Moon or Honey Moon (yes, June has always been a popular wedding month, but it might also refer to all those old time Bealtaine Hand Fastings on May Day. It’s the early days of a marriage.)
What will the long light illuminate, sun and moon at full wattage demonstrate? Will the dark corners be all honey sweet? Or strawberry juicy? Mead moon's special treat, the yin and the yang are fully switched on, partying hearty right through and past dawn. Spare a thought for the Wee People. Leave some favours - a thimble f mead, some cake crumbs/ A good time for feasting. Be neighbourly. The bright moon and long daylight is surely a recipe for a cottage ceilí. When this world and the other can shake hands, sing, dance and cuddle in the borderlands.
Everything before written records is mystery and speculation. That makes it a writer’s imagination’s playground. Even archaeologists speculate and best guess on the assembled evidence. But it is palimpsest, the layers of our own conditioning and experience inform the guess. Back at the Cavan County Museum another artefact grabbed me. The Corleck Head was found near Kilbride, Brigid’s Church. From that I infer that the cult of the goddess Brighid was important here before the Christian St. Brigid took over all Her associations and pre-occupations (fertility, poetry, healing, smithcraft). It is supposed that the Celts thought the human soul resided in the head, although I am unclear of the provenance of that belief. Brighid was a triple goddess – the triune maiden, mother, crone – and the Corleck Head with it’s three-way visage does echo that, although the faces look quite masculine to me.
At any rate this Sunday you can have fun making up your own story!
It started on 15th September 2018. I have been writing and posting a poem a day for nine months. I reckon it takes longer to make a book than a baby.
Later this morning I will be showcasing the written work done by nine 9-12 year olds who attend a two room-two teacher school at Curravagh in the West Cavan uplands. Funded by Cruinniú na nÓg (Creativity for Youth) programme I was able to spend sixteen classroom hours with them developing story – from the purely imaginative to writing a first person narrative of a real person or historical character they had to research. There is a small exhibition of their work and a recording of them reading some of the finished product happening at Dowra Courthouse Creative Space today at noon.
For inspiration for today’s poetry practice I look back on the week and an expedition with those children and the 5th and 6th classes from Blacklion’s national school. We had a field trip connected with another project I am collaborating on with a local ceramic artist, Jim Fee. We went to the Cavan County Museum in Ballyjamesduff. There is an outdoor exhibition that recreates a trench system from the Battle of the Somme in 1916.
The epigraph that sparks today’s poem is from Plato. Someone quoted it on Twitter. (Yes, truly!)
Poetry is nearer to vital truth than history. – Plato
History as Poetry
The latrine was used by thousands. It was a hole in the ground. Barely yards away. As close as the enemy. When it rained it overflowed. It ran into the trenches where soldiers crouched in stench, heads bowed to avoid the sniper's reach.
The nurses in Casualty Clearing were as close to the enemy as any man. With less say. They had no vote, but died for King and country, mopped up blood, closed eyes of dead men - mostly young. One was aged twelve. One was aged sixty-seven.
Victory tastes of vinegar and gall. Few are spared, less saved. It stinks of old men's money, the rattle in the bag of guineas gold swapped for a load of sabres.
Watch the children pause at the peace sculpture, doves rising like the wheel of fortune from the blasted bog oak tree. Rising as the water falls from figures weeping on their knees.
The Poetry Daily today owes gratitude to Traci York (http://www.traciyork.com) for striking the flint in the tinderbox of my imagination this morning. Her Throwback Thursday blog showed scanned old family photos. That was the nudge I needed to start the poetry practice. Thanks, Traci! And while her digital photo share has captions the montage below was deliberately left uncaptioned. My own family’s photos lived in several boxes on my mother’s closet shelf. The daughter of a studio photographer and granddaughter of an Atlantic City Boardwalk photographer in the first decade of the 20th century, she treasured every print that came her way. The family archive is now with my sister.
It's not the same looking at an album or the curated and framed photographs, those serried ranks of winsome cherubim, ancestral narrative choreographed. It's a self-conscious display, the public faces, a crafted story lines the hall. Like photo stills. Almost cinematic, starring roles in someone's life after all.
Here is the shoebox full of random snaps. The Kodachrome prints mixed up with old ones taken with the Box Brownie overlap - uniformed poses of war veterans, early 20th century studio portraits of grandparents when they were beaus. Boxed up, they spend an afterlife all muddled, affections, separations - take your pick. Stories dismantled without subtitles. We perservere to record - click! click! click! Once we were happy and all in accord. Here is the memory to keep us moored.
Today’s spark for poetry practice is another kind of exhibition. Over the spring I have been working in the classroom on a Cruinniú na nÓg (young one’s creativity) project . It culminates in a showcase at Dowra Courthouse this Saturday when the kids get to show off their writing and we get to hear recordings of some of their work, as well as interviews about the process. Which leads directly to the exhibit, also at Dowra Courthouse, by artist Maria Bagnoli, on Making. It was a project exploring an artist in place, but much of it was a meditation on the creative process. Part of the exhibition’s aimwas to incorporate representations of the activities going on in the building – jewellery repair, pottery, dress-making, yoga, creative writing classes. At the opening Maria invited me to read my poem “Dancing with the Dressmaker’s Dummy”, which expressed the writing happening there in a poem echoing the main elements of the exhibition.
The trip yesterday to the Cavan County Museum in Ballyjamesduff filled the creative store cupboard in countless ways. Two exhibits provide the inspiration for today’s poetry practice. There is an outdoor re-creation of a World War I Somme battlefield trench system. Chilling and illuminating simultaneously. I have read about Casualty Clearing Stations in novels. They were tiny spaces, the size of a box room, in reality, with up to nineteen wounded men in at a time.
Indoors there were many exhibits, but the Famine room included shoes found at a famine cemetary site beside a workhouse. The guide explained to the children just how precious shoes and boots were to the poor. We seldom realise the grinding poverty of previous generations, how cold they must have been in these northern climes even in summer, to have gone shoeless. I have neighbours who are barely eighty who went shoeless most of their childhood. He told this story: The family had a pair of First Communion shoes that were brought out about a hundred metres from the church. He put them on to walk in for his Communion Day. He walked out and on the way home they were taken off at the same spot away from the church, and saved for the next child’s special day.
Step into the shoes of the dead departed who have no further need. They cannot hunger or bleed. But their smell lingers - trench foot, fever, the final fear. But needs must they say. They'll take me a mile, if, please God, I'm granted another day.