Midweek. Humpday. My last in a long series of story making Cruinniú na nÓg (Creativity for Kids) workshops today with the nine of the most creative kids in a tiny upland school in West Cavan. Working with them has been wholly a pleasure. With sixteen classroom hours, I have had the leisure to get to know them pretty well and have grown fond of them and their school. Each time I visit one will ask if I wrote a poem today, or its title, or what its about. Not all of these kids are naturally fluent writers. Some prefer maths. One is only nine years old. Some have admitted the brief was a bit hard. But I will say this. Whether any becomes an artist or writer is irrelevent. All are incredibly creative. They have proved that over and over. Even when its has been hard and they felt it didn’t work every single one kept trying. They did the research. They got excited. They got down to the page.
Can’t let the kids down. Got to face the blank page. I turned to a new short poem form I’ve never tried before called the tricube. Each line has three syllables. Each stanza has three lines. There are three stanzas. Yet another new poetry form to experiment with in poetry practice today.
Ye know, that's a whole nuther sit-u- ation we don't want to think about, kiddo. Tarnation! Gimme that! Ye know, we don't have to go see the ships come in at Buckhorn. It's like Santa. And Santa's a whole nuther thing. Thanksgiving! We got everyone here. I hate potluck. Velma insists. I don't want to hurt feelings, but...her pierogi is a whole nuther entirely.
copyright 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.
The prompt for Day 20 NaPoWriMo 2019 is to not use fancy pants poetry speech. Well two phrases from my Pennsylvania childhood leapt out of my hypocampus. It’s not so much monologue as a mall walking stream of consciousness.
Often what connects people is loss. Poetry is all about making connections. They even have that slogan on the NaPoWriMo.net website banner. Losses…we have all had some, whether it is a loved one – pet or person – or a job, a home, a family. In the way that the universe operates in synchronicity a bedtime conversation last night feels appropriate for the morning’s poetry practice.
Last night at bedtime your daughter and I discussed you. And really? You raised your kids fine. But they miss you.
Part of it is emptying the family homeplace. First, your clothes to all your favourite charity shops. Then the NHS patient appliances back to the hospital. Again. But.. It's all good recycling. Still... your daughter flees the house absent of your smell. Empty now has a scent. Also, the having to fold your reading glasses found on your bedside cabinet beside the Jodi Picoult book you will never now know how it all ended.
Her friends are kind. But they are young and think the object of grief is to forget its ache. All she wants to do is remember you. So we talk of what went right and some of your unlived life.
Just before she leaves before the lights go out and kisses my cheek saying "Night Night" I tell your daughter how all daughters eventually become their mothers. Even if only in our small foibles. Like the reminder notes I post beside my purse and on the kitchen counter for tomorrow just like my own mother. And your daughter goes to her bed with a smile.
It’s been a busy week. I facilitated two workshops at the local open prison, working with beginner writers, even somewhat reluctant writers. Meanwhile, I completed a significant edit and re-write of a chapbook of poems to put into competition by the deadline today. In between, there were meetings to plan other workshop collaborative projects that will be coming on stream in late spring. In the midst of all this I have had intervals of post-viral listlessness and tiredness, as well as managing the lingering symptoms.
I really did not want to do poetry practice this morning. I know its bad when I would prefer to clean the house than face the blank page and write something and then start clacking at the keyboard to write the second or third drafts.
Some days its harder to walk your talk. The Great Trickster hoists you on your own leotard. Or petard. This past week I have been a bit evangelical about the benefits of daily writing to the guys in my workshop. One found he wanted to write poetry since his sentencing (now there is a word to conjure with in the context of a prison!) It does help him manage his feelings. I handed out three pristine blank books to some of his fellows. If for no other reason than to manage frustration and to learn how to corral feelings on the page, leave them there, and then close the book on them. Better that than projecting them out in the world where there is the potential of them doing harm.
So before the poetry came today I had to practice some of what I preached. Saw my self-doubt there. Wondered if sometimes the teaching is a distraction away from the editting and writing. Considered the lot of women writers. Both Virginia Woolfe and Sylvia Plath had a room of their own. But Virginia Woolf had servants, while Plath had children and washing up in the rooms next door. How much does our social conditioning condition what we create as artists?
Then the poetry practice began to flow… And I realise that I need to keep the faith with the process. I may not know where it will take me, but I need to stay faithful to allow it to take me where it wants me to go.
Would Could Should
My mother pegging washing on the clothesline, looks up to see the jet stream tracking its course across the sky. It is going east. Wonders aloud where it will go. Wishing that sometime she, too, could go.
In autumn she hears the honking Canada geese heading south for winter as she rakes the fallen leaves. She and her sisters all watch birds, living under the fly pasts along their migratory paths.
My mother felt clumsy putting pen to paper, felt nothing she would say was interesting at all. What could happen if every woman wrote her restless soul? Should we all raise our wings and as one take flight?
I finished making my brídeog (Biddy Doll or St. Brigid’s doll) yesterday. The festival of Brigid (or Brigit or Brighid or Bride) runs from 31st January to 2nd February and coincides with Imbolc, the ancient Celtic festival that heralds spring time. And the return of the goddess Brigid in her maiden form. And the Feast Day of St. Brigit, Abbess of Kildare, one of Ireland’s three national saints. What you need to know about me is that I celebrate the coming a springtime (even though the upcoming Wolf Moon is also known as the Snow or Ice Moon) with as much fervour as most people reserve for Christmas, Thanksgiving or Halloween. I prepare, decorate and bake. And if there is snow that is no bother. The point is that the days are getting much lighter. When you live in Ireland that is is something to celebrate. Winter is on the wane. Wey-hey! The light is returning!
So I have been considering the many associations of both the goddess Brigid and St. Brigit. They are both fire and water women. This year I am feeling all ‘watery’. So today’s Poetry Daily celebrates sacred springs and holy wells. Of which Ireland has many. The poem is an octet -eight lines of eight syllables each. Eight being the number of infinity, it seems to be suited to water.
I was seeking inspiration when I started the day feeling a bit blank as my page. But the patron saint of inspiration never runs dry of ideas. She is also the patron saint (matron saint?) of poets.
When a Well Runs Dry
What to do when the well runs dry? You dig a new one, so you do. Where's the cure gone when the well's dry? It flees into nearby tree. See the clouties tied, where all wishes vie? Wells may crumble, silt up, dry. Water stays holy, cannot die. Water will ever sanctify.
For those living outside of Ireland I will treat you to photos of crumbling wells, clouties and the shrines that surround many of them. All those pictured are within a ten mile radius of where I live. It’s limestone country. Springs are everywhere. And everywhere are sacred.
I am still processing that there will be no more new wise words from Mary Oliver. My sister gave me her latest volume of selected poems Devotions as a Christmas gift and it is ever present by my bedside for a quick, refreshing dip. And I am constantly amazed at the breadth of her poetic vision. I considered the early 1960s poem “No Voyage” just now. Twenty years later came “The Journey.” Now, go find those poems! And feast!
Today’s Poetry Daily is a gratitude for her being in our world, for being a veritable lighthouse during these stormy times. I am up at “stupid o’clock.” But who is to say that I am not in training for waking shortly after 3am on Monday morning to experience the eclipse of the Wolf’s blood moon?
Why Mary Oliver Woke Early
” in happiness, in kindness…” open- armed, welcoming first light. Meanwhile, I am awake while it is still night.
The animals and I are restless. The old dog, the young cats – it’s hard to gauge their happiness. I refill their bowls for a pre-dawn bite, make tea, wait for day’s break, no necessity for chitchat.
Just us and the gibbous moon. Even though the wolf isn’t bothering to bay. The cloud is covering its clarity. But who is to say that we still don’t commune,
sharing our restlessness, this waiting well past midnight in a darkness that is also a kindness, in a darkness that has its own brightness?