Would, Could, Should

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

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

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

Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.

Featured Photo by Barth Bailey on Unsplash


When the Well Runs Dry

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.

St. Brigids Holy Well
Killargue, Leitrim St. Brigit’s Well
Holy well
My local holy well at Tubber before restoration
Holy Well
Holy Well, Belcoo, Fermanagh
Cloutie Tree Holy Well Leitrim
Cloutie Tree at Holy Well, Leitrim
Badgers Well
The Badger’s Well, Glenfarne, Leitrim
Brigids Way Bee Smith poems
Poems celebrating Brigid in all Her glory
Available as a Kindle on Amazon.com

Waking Early

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?

Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.

Only Justice


My rage is still chained to the USA news cycle. The he said/she said of the Kavanaugh nomination committee hearings were never designed for justice. Only more fact finding and investigation might have taken this beyond the realm of opinion and political tribalism. Then, to add more insult to compound my anger, I learn that the Dean of Social Work at my alma mater, Catholic University of America, that other D.C. Catholic education institution cross-town from the illustrious Georgetown U (you know, like the Prep) tweeted support for Judge Kavanaugh. Gee, and here I thought social workers were the last bastion of sympathy for the sexually abused. Of course, this School of Social Work had staff who thought you could cure homosexuality back in the 1970s.

I hope women are galvanised into activism. I hope that women who have been co-opted by the patriarchy in the hope of preferment (yes, that’s you Senators from Maine and Alaska) see the light. I am beyond patience with men whining about Kavanagh’s life being ruined because of an accusation. It is patently not so if he can be elevated to the Supreme Court. Without a fair, even-handed judicial process, one that does not humiliate victims, someone else’s life is always ruined. I feel my sex has been scorned. I want some Justice that has open eyes.

The opener for today’s poetry practice is a quote from Byron Ballard:

Only Justice Can Release a Hex.

Only Justice

Only justice can release my sex
from unwanted gestures,
unsought blows.
Today I cannot see beauty.
I only feel lowered and bruised.

Only justice can release my sex,
Justice with her wide-open eyes
to see the bruises from those blows.
Today I cannot see beauty.
I only feel swept in sorrow.

Only justice can release my sex,
Unbind us from this hex
of inequality and our own self-hatred.
Today I cannot see beauty.
I only feel the weight of curse.

Only justice can release my sex
from our spirit’s vexations
and the violence of misused power.
Today I cannot see beauty.
I only want to return to its sender
this centuries old hex.

Copyright 2018 Bee Smith


Image attributed to mygoddess.com


Tmy creative colleague Morag Donald gives an excellent account of our joint Cavan Youth Arts Lab earlier this year.

Morag Donald Creating Healing

As a self employed woman living near the border between the north and south of Ireland, my work comes in all shapes, sizes and locations. I was lucky enough to work recently on a project with a good friend Bee Smith in County Cavan. It was part of a wider project funded by Peace IV which focuses on border towns most affected historically by the troubles.  Our project along with ten others, in diverse media, were facilitated through the fantastically creative Cavan Youth Arts Lab. Cavan is a mainly rural county of around 3500 people who’s Art’s office is passionate about access to the arts for all.

Under the umbrella of Diversity and Ambition we worked with a group of girls from the Templeport Foróige youth group aged 11-14. We wanted to look at diversity within the group as well as within each individual member, their own diverse range of…

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