World Poetry Day

March 21st is UNESCO World Poetry Day. Unsually, I try and guide a walk in the weekend closest to this day at one of the Marble Arch Geopark sites, since geoparks are also a UNESCO designation. This year is beginning to have lots of projects crammed into a finite diary. The closest I wll get to this is leading a workshop on poetry at the Dowra Courthouse Creative space this Sunday. We will meet from 11am to 2p, 24th March, in the restored courthouse that has become a creative space with workshops that includes a pottery kiln and jewelery making workshop. Dowra is a Geopark Community that straddles the Cavan and Leitrim county boundaries.

There are still a couple spaces available. All you need do is bring a lunchtime snack, a comfortable pen, and a notebook. Be open to experimentation, to writing truly appalling first drafts, and moving on to feeling the joy of the creative sap rising with springtime.

Meanwhile, here is a World Poetry Day bonus poem…on the state of poetry.

Poetry

It sits like the elephant
in the corner of the living room,
treated as irrelevant,
a difficult to quantify
its quantity or quality
as economic unit.

Tell me the weight and rate
of soul? If you feel that one exists
inside darkest nights, within great joy?
Then everyone wants to reach
for a poem.Or to grasp a pen
to pioneer that frontier
of their understanding
of what costs nothing
and contains a world.


Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved

Featured image
Photo by Trust "Tru" Katsande on Unsplash



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The Blank Page

I am back to my waking in the dark poetry practice, which has that Goldilocks ‘just right’ feeling about it. Actually, I woke out of a dream where I was giving a Toastmasters style speech to an very (un-Toastmastersish) rowdy crowd. I knew I had five minutes. I was unprepared, but one thing I knew quite authoritatively was the blank page and how to tackle it. Even when I was interrupted I wove that interjection right back into the speech. When I woke up I had that feeling of…’ooh, I think I pulled that off!’

I know what was racketing around my night dream life was a meme I created yesterday evening for my creative writing workshops. I have not been able to schedule regular weelend sessions locally in 2018 for various reasons. It feels like it’s time to have a short run of classes in later in the springtime.

Word Alchemy Creative Writing Workshops
Feel the fear

and write anyway.

If you hear sneers and jeers

internally

call in Word Alchemy.

Apologies to Miss Emily Dickinson

But now to get down to this day’s poetry practice.

The Blank Page

The pen caresses it
Pricks its virgin membrane
Spills its ink
on, over, into it.

See what they make -

round, fat-kneed,
crawling, over balanced,
wailing, weepy,
chuckling, chortly
chubby cheeks,
massive headed
(how did it fit
through the nib's slit?!)
Sumo wrestler
babies
in full nappies

pen, ink
paper,
the hand moving
create.


Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.

So…go face that blank page! And if you live in Cavan, Leitrim or Fermanagh get in touch with me by email for an introduction to the blank page and creative writing.

Featured Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

St. Brigid’s Cross

For those who live outside of Ireland, or upland parts of other parts of the British Isles, the rushes used to weave a new St. Brigid’s Cross each year must seem an oddity. They are greening up even in January, in the snow, which is why they are perfectly symbolic for a season heralding renewal of the land, the new growing season. I know some women who are devotees of the saint and the goddess use old corn to weave them. A friend in Canada caught in the polar vortex made hers from pipe cleaners! And somehow I figure that adaptability and evolution would please the saint. After all, She took on the mantle of the goddess of the same name and has survived as a potent feminine symbol of divinity right into the 21st century. Brighid, whether as goddess or saint, is global.

Yesterday, I read poems and wove St. Brigid’s Crosses with my artist/healer friend Morag Donald at the local open prison, Loughan House. (You can learn more on her blog https://moragdonald.wordpress.com/)

St. Brigid's Cross
Making a St. Brigid’s Cross
St. Brigid's Cross
Forground, a complete woven St. Brigid’s Cross

A Crios Bríd in the basket at the background

St. Brigid is patron (matron?) saint of poets, healers, craftspersons and more…prisoners being one group who received her kind attention in the annals that have come down to us. The St. Brigid’s Cross is a symbol that has survived, been adapted and repeatedly adopted. It is made as four, equal-armed cross with fresh, green rushes that flourish in typically ‘bad’ land. (See, even ‘bad’, i.e. less fertile, land comes good with St. Brigid.)

St. Brigid's Cross

For Siobhán

Its God's eye
never blinks
sees from every angle
east, west, north, south

Its God's eye
has wings flying
in every direction
east, west, north, south

Its God's eye
spirals round as it angles
arms all reaching
east, west, north, south

Its God's eye
aerial views land, sea
brushfire and tree
east, west, north, south

Its God's eye
is a woman's vision
is a man's seeing
east, west, north, south

Its God's eye
sees equally
woman, man
air, sea, fire, tree
east, west, north, south.
This is its prophecy.


Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.


This isn’t a new poem written today, but it takes its starting point from St. Brigid as a matron of justice. Several courts and prisons around the British Isles have been called The Bridewell. This goes straight back to Brigid as justice bringer, emancipator of slaves and prisoners. Brigid is associated with sacred springs and holy wells.

 Bridewell
 
If you cannot forge something new
            from forgiveness
you stand there hovering
            on the rim of
what if and what is and
            what is yet to be.
 
Reconciliation is a sacrament,
a woman talking to Jesus at a well.
 
The wise woman Bride holds court
            at the well
where the deep, dark, down below is
            the source, bubbling up
breaking the surface
            rippling out, catching light and shining.
           
Stare down deep. Drink that holy water.
Be healed, not judged, she says.


Copyright © 2017 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.

The Hero’s Journey

Joseph Campbell’s stages of the hero’s journey has been stewing on the back burner of my brain. I have been asked to devise some poetry writing workshops for prisoners on that theme on the foot of the concert my husband devised and delivered just before Winter Solstice at our local open prison. It is, I have to admit, a useful framework to do exploratory writing on one’s autobiography and spiritual journey in life.

When one considers both the Journey and the Call to Adventure the zero tarot card fashioned as The Seeker in Joanna Powell Colbert’s Gaian Tarot deck certainly feels apt. In Ellen Lorenzi- Prince’s Dark Goddess Tarot the zero card is the Sheela-na-Gig, displaying her yoni as the great portal of beginnings and endings.

Seeker, Call to Adventure, shero's journey,
From Wikipedia, the Kilpeck, Hertfordshire Sheela-na-gig that Lorenzi-Prince based her own zero tarot card.

In traditional tarot decks, this is The Fool card or The Jester. The Wild Card.

So I suspect that over the next few days I am going to poke and prod at elements of the Hero’s Journey as I pace out the hows and wherefors of a couple workshops. As always, I explore the etymological roots of key words. The roots for the English word hero are a bit uncertain – demi-god, brave, illustrious. The definition seems to cover it, although it does seem rather phallo-centric. Well, we all know sheroes, those brave, demi-goddess women, too!

Adventure, however, is waiting for the arrival.

A Hero

is not the one
who liked the adreneline rush
at the odds,
who liked the shape of the caper.

No, the hero
sensed it before it happened,
knew the risks
was just waiting for the call.

Picked it up,
listened to the message,
despite all
answered and adventured.


Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.

The image is from the Rider-Waite tarot deck foundon Wikipedia. To check out The Gaian Tarot’s image for the Seeker go to https://www.gaiantarot.com/

Haiku Out November

haiku walk

Yesterday, despite gloomy weather forecasts, I led the final Creative Ireland Haiku Mindfulness workshop. Rain held off and we even saw a splash of sun and fluffy cloud. This workshop included the entire student body of Curravagh National School, Glangevlin, Co. Cavan. So, with two teachers, my beloved husband bringing up the rear herding stragglers, the seventeen pupils took a nature walk up Claddagh Glen in Florencecourt, Fermanagh.

Yes, that’s right! Seventeen bright sparks make up a school in the upland reaches of Co. Cavan. It is a two room, two teacher school and just pure pleasure to visit and work in. While the youngest pupils were not haiku writers, they were taking pleasure in the nature walk, learning names of tree species, and ferns, mosses and lichen. As I have heard others say, “Nature teaches stillness.” And stillness is key to mindfulness. We paused for some moments to listen to the river flow over its rocky bed and enjoyed that quality of silence when twenty pairs of ears listen to it. Or the roar of the Cascade Waterfall.

Footage of the Cascade Waterfall in Claddagh Glen, part of Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark.

Haiku is often one of the first poetry forms introduced to school children, along with acrostics and list poems. Yet, it is a real challenge for children who are just learning to form sentences to start chucking out the definate and indefinate articles. However, what they have no problem with is letting their ‘imagination eye’ rove and see wonders.  One lad regaled me with how a bush could be a castle and a palisade of straight young ash trees became sentries. No goats or herons appeared but they were mesmerised by a spider’s web on a tree.

Back in the classroom, with a cup of hot chocolate in hand they told everyone what images had really impressed them – the hollowed holes at the base of a tree trunk, that spider’s web, tree rings on felled trunks, the big waterfall, and the much smaller one running down the rock face with the many kinds of fern.

I now have a wealth of haiku written from four differant groups – the general public, some residents of Loughan House,  and the children of St. Hugh’s National School, Dowra and Curravagh, National School in Glangevlin. Now I will sit down with artist Tamaris Taylor and we will select some for illustration that can be on permanent display in Dowra Courthouse Creative Space.

Not to forget my own poetry practice for today. Or my ‘poetry daily’ as one friend has styled it. (I like it. It’ll stick!)  Two haiku, one inspired by yesterday’s outing. And one about this morning. I really am getting up early. I replied to a friend’s message who found it patently weird to hear from me at dawn’s break. This morning lark turnabout is freaking my friend’s out!

Small cascade flowing
over rock face baby's tears
Water's power
The year winds down
Wind me up clockwork style
To power through December

Have a great weekend as we begin the final month of 2018.

Haiku Walking

An early start for the second of my Creative Ireland mindfulness haiku walks on the Cavan Burren. This particular group came from the Education Centre at the local low security prison.  I love working with these guys and it is always a privilege. The Cavan Burren offers megaliths, upland landscape and woodland where rock art and remains of neolithic living can be seen. It has a very special presence. And while it is a specially earned opportunity, it also challenges guys who are used to a foreshortened viewpoint. Up by the Tullygubban Wedge Tomb they could look out and count six counties. They could look down on their own residence over looking Lough MacNean where ancient people left remains of shellfish feasts. Some city dwellers have only ever experienced concrete. This was wilderness to some Dubs amongst us.

And then how do you handle presence and silence when you have been living in a perpetually noisy environment? That, too, is a challenge. For then the chatter in the mind gets louder sometimes. Which is where mindfulness meditation can come in handy.

Haiku can help focus on a moment – a pause, a revelation – and then share that connection. So many offenders in prison have some element of addiction that contributed to their landing there. Studies in Portugal have posited that the opposite of addiction is connection. Connection is the business of poetry. Which is why I am in there pitching poetry writing  for the past four years. I hope the lads have got as much out of it as I have received.

Two haiku from today’s foray:

In the woods – the wind

Ruffling spruce needles whoosh.

And. What’s that? Silence

Coming down Mollie’s Brae

A rainbow: my wish

A way to be free

Poetry, PoeTree & Culture Night

A busy couple of days without the leisure to polish a lengthy poem for poetry practice. Tonight is Ireland’s Culture Night and up and down the country there will be events celebrating every kind of art form. Tonight I will perform some poems at Dowra Courthouse Creative Space, a repurposed redundant rural courthouse that is now an exhibition, performance and meeting space. It kicks off at 4:30pm with a pottery class by local ceramics teacher Jim Fee. (The courthouse even has a kiln to finish off the production!). From 7:30pm there will be a procession of performers starting with estimable Mike Absolem and his harp. My husband, Tony Cuckson and I share a storytelling and poetry slot at 8pm. Musicians and singer/songwriters will entertain until 10:30pm.

From poetry to PoeTree on Saturday with another of my outdoor writing workshops. This one is free courtesy of funding from Create Ireland and Cavan County Council. The walk and workshop will concentrate on haiku as both poetry form and a mindfulness practice. Cavan Burren Park, Blacklion is my favourite venue and never fails to offer fresh inspiration on every visit. Meet me at the Visitor Centre at 2pm for a stroll with a pen and notebook. Be prepared for some stop and stare time. If you want more information ring me on ++353-71-964-3936.

So writing practice for today demands exercising the haiku muscle. Also, it is brief. So it. An ideal form for the time famished writer. Okay, breathe in. Breathe out…and

It can be done in seventeen syllables. Or less. It can be less.

The storm stripped the willows

The gaps between trees

Lets new light in