Weekly Poem- When Spring

The bank holiday yesterday brought me up short when I suddenly realised that yes, today is Tuesday! Time to post the Weekly Poem. There has been little poetry writing time in recent months, given the attention that the Geopark Poetry Map has needed. Also, the garden suddenly needs an extra pair of hands. I am better at the destruction aspects – weeding, burning my mortal enemies ‘Sticky Willy’ (cleavers) and Bindweed. We don’t use chemical fertilizer or pest pest control. Our garden may not have official certification, but we use organic principles on our acre. So it wildish and has a carpet of buttercups where the daffodils were in March.

With the Summer solstice and the longest day in the Northern Hemisphere rapidly approaching, we are seeing the last of Spring…and also some signs which would normally have appeared over a month ago.

When Spring

When Spring comes late and cold and the hawthorn
blossoms in June instead of its month's name,
the potatoes are barely up before 
blight beckons on Weather Watch and the country
shudders.
                     Now the old signs no longer hold
say the old who watched them through a lifetime
studying the sky both day and at night.

The wild slowly died to be reborn
in every season's storm, shaking us all
until our teeth chatter. Our speech is robbed.
Too soon the hawthorn's petals pink and fall.
Did we ever see them at all? The signs.
What use is Cassandra locked and in thrall
to toxic vapours? We all know that Spring
came late. Was cold. It raged just like Winter.

Copyright ©Bee Smith, 2021. All rights reserved.

Featured image Photo by Paul Morley on Unsplash

The Weekly Poem – Birch

This post is written in haste. The poem was written in advance because today we will travel north of the border and meet much loved relatives after the long Lockdown separation. Our nephew has not been seen since Christmas 2019. Our niece did visit briefly last September, but it was a sad sojourn of making end-of-life decisions and saying goodbye to the dog of her childhood; Ellie came to live with us when her Mum was hospitalised and it became clear that the dogs should stay with us. (Ellie has been immortalised in some poems on this blog; https://sojourningsmith.blog/2019/01/30/cailleach-conditions/.) So this is the prospect of a joyful reunion, released as we are from Lockdown, into a post-vaccination world of pandemic hugs. I am so over-excited I cannot say if I am beside myself or over and above myself!

So…without further ado…on to the weekly poem! Which was generated from the Personal Universal Deck that NaPoWriMo 2021 suggested on Day 3. It has actually turned out to be a very fun poetry tool. And the birch tree feels like a worthy totem for our brave, slightly tentative, pandemic new world.

Birch

Whether white, silver or gold...
I have sipped your sap,
chawed on a peeled strip of bark
that is your fat, your taste
unmistakeable, both fresh
and keen as new beginnings
that you know will somehow
turn out sweet as the hull
of the canoe transporting you
on that next adventure.   

I have seen seven birch trees
dancing in a huddle together
on a bog in Fermanagh
under their sister Pleides
that small gourd offering all
refreshment after a long, long
drought, Drink a long draught.
Stand tall once again.
Listen to the rustle of the catkins
early in the season, itching
to dance with spring's fair wind
even when it still feels cold.

Tree of second chances...
starting up and over, one that knows
joy even in the coldest, the darkest
of places on earth. It knows it is
truly a good earth for all, even
for the mistaken and the misguided,
that the lost need their chance to be found
once again, at the last, which is at
the very optimistic heart of 
this tree's very hard wood.

Copyright © Bee Smith, 2021. All rights reserved.

Featured image Photo by Simon Berger on Unsplash

The Weekly Poem – Tuning Fork

During a pandemic is is nice to have a routine engagement in the diary. If it is Tuesday, then it is time to write and post the weekly poem, even though it be a first draft. I have been working hard on the MACGeopark Poetry Map project, so it was like rediscovering play this morning when I realised I could write anything at all that I wanted. The sheet was blank. So was my mind, too!

But I took up my Personal Universal Deck, a little activity set during NaPoWriMo2021 last month, and pulled some cards to see what sparked. If you want to create your own set of poetry prompt cards I refer you to that original NaPoWriMo post on Day 3. They post a link that tells you how to make your own. ttps://paulenelson.com/workshops/personal-universe-deck/. It’s quite a long process as my students and I found out. This was the first time I actually put them through their paces.

The benefits of word play…and I stress the play element, is not to be underestimated. It has been a cold, rainy Spring here in Ireland and some outdoor projects have been put on the long finger. Temperatures have been so low at night time we have delayed planting. So play has to devolve to indoor activities a good deal of time this past month. Anyway, a bit of whimsy and word play is a bit of fun on a damp Tuesday.

Tuning Fork

Strike it on my cast iron hearth.
It trembles, quivers as it vibrates, hums
just like my husband's, quiet breath
in tune with his internal beat and flow
(a great favourite word of his).
Even as the cats' whiskers twitch, as do
the little deaf dog's ears alert,
then subside back into slumber. Whose tune?
What melody line flirts around
the kitchen and the living room? Airwaves
stroke like long fingers in concert,
musician's hands working the afternoon
Palm Court crowd supping  fancy tea,
wiping melted butter oozing off crumpets.
All in time to the sweep and sway
of stringed instuments, sometimes lulled, sometimes
breathless with tension,  suppressing
excitement, the breath shallow, chest heaving.
What key do we play in today?
Can we learn to sight read the shivering
airwaves, divine the call for right
response? Or let them dance like dust motes play,
suspended in the late afternoon light.

Copyright © Bee Smith, 2021. All rights reserved.


If it is a dull day and you fancy trying your hand at writing a poem, you could do worse than peruse the poetry prompts I have been posting to inspire geoheritage poems to be submitted to our digital Geopark Poetry Map. I have been making daily posts the past ten days and will do a fortnight’s worth in all. Hope you can have some fun word play today, too. And if it is rainy this weekend you have some inspiration at hand.

Featured image Photo by Magic Bowls on Unsplash

The Weekly Poem – The Do Over

Bearing in mind that Mercury goes retrograde on May 29th, the poem for this week contemplates all the ‘re’ words. For the non-astrologically minded reader of this blog, Mercury going retrograde is associated with all kind of technological snarls, travel delays and episodes of “What on earth were you thinking?!” Some astrologers say that it can last longer than the irksome three weeks with a shadow period. In which case, the complete fiasco with my Zoom Soul Journeys and Maps group this past Sunday was right on cue. So I am backing up all my Geopark Poetry Map files for sure!

Those words beginning with the prefix re are said to be well-starred during Mercury Retrograde periods, while we are gnawing our elbows over technical snafus and equipment collapses.

Speaking of the Geopark Poetry Map project, each day this week and next I am posting a daily poetry prompt based on one of the sites featured in a marvelous document compiled by Martina O’Neill, Development Officer for Partnerships and Engagement. at Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark. So check out the blog each day if you want a bit of poetry prompting and motivation. Anyone anywhere in the world is welcome to submit a poem, though only people in Ireland can visit the sites in person . And that is only fairly recently when travel restrictions were eased.

One of the things we are doing again now is taking walks in local forest parks like Cavan Burren and Glenfarne Demesne just over the county line in Leitrim. I like my lane for walks, but a change of scenery is very welcome. Some snaps from Sunday’s walk. The internet may have let me down, but nature never fails to uplift.

The Do Over

Rewind and now resurrect.
Go back and now retrace steps.
Review all of one's options.
Reconsider a career-
perhaps as Mary Poppins.

What life could have been like
if one had only veered left...
Review every little thing,
done or left undone, incomplete -
like that long abandoned college
course credit just short of a degree.

Slip off the snakeskin of failure.
Throw away that winding sheet.
I  t is only made of paper.
Remove to Boston, fly away
to Australia if only
in your imagination.

Reconsider your options.
What is done? What is do over?

Copyright © Bee Smith, 2021. All rights reserved.

Geopark Poetry Map Prompt 2

Hello earth lovers everywhere! While curating the #MACGeopark Poetry Map digital project I realised that we have some international interest. For the next fortnight I will be publishing little Geopark Poetry Map Poetry Prompts to help you compose your geoheritage themed poem on one of the sites to put on our digital map.

Here in Ireland we have only just had travel restrictions to move around outside of one’s own country lifted last Monday. So the Geopark staff and I decided we would extend the closing date for submissions since even in Ireland there were only a small percentage of the population that could visit sites. Certainly, those two nearest to my home – Shannon Pot and Cavan Burren Park – were outside my 5km range all winter and I live in a Geopark community.

Poetry is all about connection, often making a surprising Venn diagram between two disparate subjects or objects. While yesterday’s geoheritage poetry prompt offered you images of rock art and megaliths in Cavan Burren Park, today we visit the wet ash woodland of Claddagh Glen.

Claddagh River, Florencecourt, Co. Fermanagh

And, since the sea is about an hour away from us, if I need some positive ions to wash away any angst this is my choice of where to go to ‘shower my head’ (shar yer hay-ed in Armagh parlance) – blow away the cobwebs and any cares.

I think you will agree – Power Shower Head at the Claddagh Glen Cascade Falls!

Poets have always used images – paintings, photos, visual art of all kinds – as poetry prompts. So I will include some photos of walks I have taken in Claddagh Glen over the years marvelling at what water and wind and time create.

I will leave you with a poem I wrote in July 2014 when I guided an American woman and her two children on a Day Out to Geopark sites. One my most vivid memories of that day is standing by the Claddagh River with Bergen as we witnessed a heron swoop down and pass us as it flew up the river course.

What Meredith, Tina, Bergen, Gretchen and I Saw One July Day

The ever shifting light, cloud, weather, shadow
The peat in bags, the drumlins, loughs reflecting light
The rock, the trees, the falling water stained by peat
The well, it's holy water, the cave carved from the rock
The moss dressed trees, bubbles from the well
The feathers, song thrush, surprise of heron swoop through Glen
Heart pebble and river rock with white feather
Water trickling, mizzling, flowing, cascading, the heart
The Pot, the source, the memory, the flowing back, trickling

Bee Smith © 2014

If you are unsure of what geoheritage is read the blog I published last week. https://sojourningsmith.blog/2021/05/11/what-is-geoheritage/.

You can email GeoparkPoetryMap@gmail.com for full submission guidelines and receive lots of research that the Geopark staff have prepared to help you write your poem.Closing Date is 15th June 2021.

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

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