Surprise!

I am noodling with a word this morning. Sometimes I just have a word introduced to my consciousness and later  explore its etymology. Lovely things etymological dictionaries! It was floated as a potential middle name for my husband. He was one of twins. But this was back in the day before you had scans. He was literally the “Oh my goodness, Miz Cuckson, there’s another one here!” baby. I’ve struggled with poetry practice this morning and am not entirely happy with it. Even a little happy. But I offer you a luscious digital collage by Gregor Wright seen in Glasgow Museum of Modern Art as a featured image. Consider it a consolation prize. In the meantime, I must be off to a classroom of eager 10-12 year olds who attend a gorgeous two-room school in the uplands of West Cavan. 

This poetry practice is not all about triumph. It just keeping at it, chipping away at a monolith with mind and words.

Surprise!

A turn up with a gasp

or blast from your long dead past.

Like a prodigal plant in the garden

that is an exotic,

possibly problematic,

or a baby delivered in the cabbage patch.

It’s the seizure following the long siege,

the tremors when facing the final attack

and soldiers evacuate

the wooden horse.

It’s being shaken right down

to your very boots.

The earth quakes. Or you do.

But hey! You still have boots!

Hallelujah! 

Boots and limbs, beating heart and face.

It was never meant to be a party.

Although

having survived it

is also

surprise.

Copyright 2019 Bee Smith

Day 28 NaPoWriMo2019 Why Poetry?

The challenge today is to write a metapoem, or poem about poetry. AKA and Ars Poetica. Archibald Macleish has done this so well that I could weep over my own paltry effort this morning. I commend to you also Marianne Moore, Wallace Stephens and Emily Dickinson. I have considered the nature and purpose of poetry before in this blog here.https://sojourningsmith.blog/2019/03/21/world-poetry-day/.

I begin the first leg of a what will be a week long road trip later this morning. I hope to find wifi along the way to be able to post a Poetry Daily each day. But who knows what the wilds of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland will provide – other than astonishing beauty and inspiration. So, although there may be delayed posts the actual writing of a poem a day will still happen. I have a smaller notebook. I won’t have my magic fountain pen. But travel is supposed to rattle you out of your comfort zone.

Why Poetry?

It's a way to see
360 degrees,
outside and interior.
Or interrogate
tastes, feelings in words, sound
the heart's echoes in the round.
It's a way to be
free - within lines  that unbound.
You can never be lonely
with some poetry.
Not while it talks with your walk.
It's turnkey and Houdini
unshackling the locks.


Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.

Featured Photo by Trust “Tru” Katsande on Unsplash

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Day 25 NaPoWriMo2019- Bealtaine

Wakening to bright sunshine and blue sky after a nighttime that brought welcome showers on our acre plot. NaPoWriMo’s last Thursday prompt is:

I’d like to challenge you to write a poem that:

  • Is specific to a season
  • Uses imagery that relates to all five senses (sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell)
  • Includes a rhetorical question, (like Keats’ “where are the songs of spring?”)

So the season I am writing about is just around the corner. In Ireland we call May Bealtaine. It is pronounced Be-ahl-ta-nah round where I live. Or you can have it as Beltaine in English. It’s also the name for one of the four cross quarter days of the pagan wheel of the year. It marks the six weeks up until midsummer . Or, the three month period up until harvest, or Lunasagh, at 1st August. Seasons are a bit flexible like that in Ireland. Call it late spring. Call it the official opening of summer. Beataine is the most sensual time of year. Living as I do in the West Cavan part of Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark, nature is providing plenty of sensory inspiration.

Bealtaine Galore

I heard the cuckoo calling
its plaint for a mate quite faint
last Easter Sunday,
but full throated and hearty
the evening of Tuesday.
It will carol the uplands until
the longest day when nights
are shortest and dawn does not delay.

But today...well the bluebells are still out
in the shade, mingling in with
the aromatic of wild garlic,
(which sharpens the appetite.)
its star white flower crowding into
the bluebell dell on the forest floor
along with the white bells of wood sorrel,
that  not-shamrock tasting of lemon spinach.
A munch quenches thirst on walks
through this wooded glen,
the river in full conversation
rolling over the rocks from another epoch,
the fallen trees downed

or bent like the crick in my back
from sowing beans and carrots.
I have an ache in muscles unused
to industry, gone slack
during the dark months.
We mimick all these nesting birds
who already have some hatchlings,
or the energy of gamboling lambs
ridiculous and bucking up their heels.
Calves are appearing in neighbours' pastures
sporting their new eartags.
And the weeds!
Everything is rushing towards being.
The bees are at the nectar.
The butterflies have been released
from self-made cocoons.
The blackthorn blossom is floating down
butterfly kissing our foreheads.
It's a benediction. It's a glory.

Bealtaine Go leor!
Is everything not plenty?
Is everything not enough?
Everything
is in a rush
towards its blooming and being.

Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.



Beataine Galore
My townland, bog cotton blooming in pasture

Bealtaine Galore
Bluebells

Bealtaine galore
Wood sorrel in flower

Bealtaine galore
The Playbank. The sight that always means I am getting close to home.
Bealtaine is the Irish for the season of early summer. NaPowriMo's daily prompt allows me to riff on the the sensory pleasures of living within Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark.
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Day 24 NaPoWriMo2019 Lexical Slaw

The daily prompt from NaPoWriMo2019 asks us to take a reference book and choose words from two pages in front of you and go from there. I mixed this up a bit, since it is a bit like an exercise I do in Word Alchemy that I call “Word Salad.” But I choose up to six words that pop up at random and then go about trying to make a connection. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it’s a stretch. Sometimes it’s hilarious. For the purposes of today’s NaPowriMo2019 exercise in poetry writing I left the OED on the shelf and picked up the Chamber’s Dictionary of Etymology, which always makes for fascinating reading. The random words I picked out were spike, exemplary, protest, detest, nomad. They are all in there in some form of their etymological definition.

This was great fun! Who doesn’t love a lexicon?! I’ve loved the word ever since I found it in an Emily Dickonson poem age 11.

Lexical Slaw Word Alchemy

So many versions of how
to know the word universe
in the mind of God
in just about any language

which may be somewhat helpful
to the venturing nomad
searching and incurring
on new pasture

yet even words can splinter
language deflecting into dialect
so dense the origins
get swallowed whole

but something sticks in the throat
like a vow to dissent
that then regurgitates
like a solemn curse

Source document as reference
is public testimony for all to see.
Yet time will free the redactions
of agreed meaning, as necessity
or adventure into word alchemy.

Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.



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Day 20 NaPoWriMo2019

Whole Nuther

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.
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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.

Pesach/Good Friday in Stroke City

As I was opening the iPad mini this morning to check out Day 19’s prompt from NaPoWriMo2019 a random tweet came up on my screen. And that changed my morning routine. There was news of riot and shooting in London/Derry City last night. There! Now you know what the Stroke City in the title refers. It was coined by the late Gerry Anderson, a radio announcer in Northern Ireland. The full or abbreviated version you choose to use tends to reveal a lot about where you stand sectarian wise. A journalist was shot in the melee and died. Right on the the 21st anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement that stopped this kind of thing making the morning news. It’s not that there have not been the odd incidents over the years, but for there to be one so close to this kind of anniversary is just not the way you want to begin your day. Truth be told, with the Brexit wrangles there has been a low level anxiety that things might kick off again. Also, a lot of denial that things will ever go back to how bad things were before the Good Friday Ageement. It all feels especially poignant since I was working yesterday on an EU Peace IV arts project that had children from both Cavan and Fermanagh in the group.Peace building is a long haul process.

So I have scrapped NaPoWriMo for today and have reverted to Poetry Daily type. Thoughts this Good Friday for the family of Lyra McKee, 29, who died in the course of doing her journalism job.

Pesach/Good Friday in Stroke City

Last night, a full moon so bright
it might as well have been daylight.

All the uncertainty has peaked.
Still, it is accord most of us seek.

The danger has not passed.
Blood on the street. But no tear gas.

It is a season of bitter herbs,
salt tears, the temple disturbed.

Once, a generation ago,
on a Good Friday the flow

of hope and history rhymed.
Today, I awake to a report of a crime

too like the past of tension and tears,
when people lived on their nerves and fears.

This was then Planet Normal.
A twenty-one year lull...

Wash her blood from the street.
Pray the Peace never becomes obsolete.

Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.
Imagine an island living in peace sculpture Lough MacNean Park, Blacklion, Co. Cavan

Today’s featured photo is my own of a sculpture that looks over Lough MacNean and the border between Fermanagh and Cavan, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Imagine peace…may it be so and make it so.

Day17 NaPoWriMo2019 – Notebook

NaPoWriMo2017Day29

I am less rebellious today. But I also realised that I picked up the daily prompt yesterday from another year.(I thought it felt a bit familiar! I know there is recycling, but really…!) Anyway. Day 17 of NaPoWriMo2019 has dawned and the #APoemADay prompt is “Today, I’d like you to challenge you to write a poem that similarly presents a scene from an unusual point of view. “ Hmnnn…my notebook is nearly full. So I thought I might allow the notebook to have a voice from its perspective.

Notebook

There are only two pages left
fully blank.
I am nearly full
of your ink
your squinky handwriting
that smoothed across me
day after day
since just before New Year.

You began me on the first day
of official mourning
the restlessness
after relief of suffering,
in the exhaustion
after bedside hovering.

Nearly four months you have
massaged your mind
across each page
every morning.
In two days time,
at most three,
you will fill the last
blank space in me.
I will be full
of your preoccupations.
Or not.
What deflections
and elisions
have not been confessed?
After all
it is not just a case
of commission.

If a daily practice
is for the good
of your soul
leave some imprint.
What is the shape
of your spirit?
Ink blot and flow,
crossings out,
re-routes of
line breaks,
countings out
of each syllable
in pitch black Quink
to match my cover
and the ribbon marker
and the elastic
arm band that surrounds.

Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.
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Day16 NaPoWriMo2019-In Translation

I broke my rule yesterday. I looked at the prompt today and felt similarly rebellious. The challenge is to take a poem in a language you don’t know and see what you can make of the words to do a translation that is not a translation. I did have a bash at it, but felt very flat and uninspired. The resource they offer includes translations into English, so there is a temptation to peek. That feels like a cheat. Nor can I get my head around rhyming nonsense verse this morning. Which might be one way of tackling the challenge. So I took my poetry practice today on my own merry way again this morning. Maybe there is something rebellious in the air. I am feeling all wayward this week. I did, however, stick to the theme.

In Translation

Sitting in the classroom
with my two-way dictionary,
I still can smell stale fumes-
chalk dust, adolescent bodies -
hear the sing-song droning
of foreign vocabulary,
verbs that are transitive,
or intransitory.

No one knows anyone
speaking this way everyday.
It's like ancient Greek,
or  snatched ancestral language.
Who can match sounds of lost voices
long in graves to words on this page?

The sounds of lost voices with words
in translation.
How much is lost? How much is gained?

We seek new connections
in words on a page gone two ways.
Of walking in the world
that can be both. Of course,
in translation we hear
a new conversation.

Body spray overlaying sweat
of curious adolescent.
Do ancestors clap, stamp,
dance at this new version?
Some will. Some won't. You can be both.

Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.


Featured Photo by João Silas on Unsplash

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Breaking My NaPoWriMo Rules

Some days a combination physical tiredness and the demands of the daily diary meet poetry and something has got to give. My personal NaPoWriMo rule for 2018 and 2019 is to write a poem according to the prompt.Today’s prompt is a dramatic monologue. I’ve written a few. It’s not a new challenge. Also, they take a bit of time to write. What I don’t have this morning is a lot of time. This is when Poetry/Life/Work balance goes all crunchy.

So I have written a poem. Not a dramatic monologue. Because I do want to keep a the daily poetry practice I started last 15th September. To prove that I actually CAN write a dramatic monologue I will append one after the new one. Just to show off…probably. It’s in video format.

Breaking My NaPoWriMo Rules

When time in the finite realm
of this continuum
in space one occupies...
and poetry infinite
in universal place...
Finite meets infinite.
The rules of physics bend.
Sometimes they even break.
The boundaries have blurred.
It is now all multiverse
which is a new frontier.
I am alone in here.

That was always the point.
The voice in the head sings
pentatonically,
or not, as may be.
The hand moves across
the blank page, cuniform
graphs messages sent
from a new found land
in some new language
just found across the line.

Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved

The dramatic monologue poem I am including in the blog today is something of my party piece. It is popular with John Wilmott, the Woodland Bard, oat many gatherings over the years. I have read it better than at this event when it had it’s maiden voyage in 2011. Danu is a goddess and Bile was her husband. Bile, in Irish, translates as tree. Enjoy!

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Today’s featured Photo by Heather Zabriskie on Unsplash

NaPoWriMo2019 Day 11 – Rivers

Day 11 dawns early given many mission and tasks to complete. I set the alarm extra early. And what do they ask of us? A personal origin poem? ” …we’d like to challenge you to write a poem of origin. Where are you from? Not just geographically, but emotionally, physically, spiritually? Maybe you are from Vikings and the sea and diet coke and angry gulls in parking lots. Maybe you are from gentle hills and angry mothers and dust disappearing down an unpaved road. And having come from there, where are you now? ” Big theme NaPoWriMo! Poems need compression. How to put a gallon in a pint pot!? It’s been a longish life, too. But a few years back I did a similar exercise and realised that the recurring theme in my peripetic lifetime is …rivers. I even did a collage around it, figuring in all the rivers that have been relevent to my life story. Not all have made it into the poem, See if you can spot the difference.

Rivers origin story
Spot all the Rivers that have somehow been important to my personal origin story

Rivers

I am of rivers.
All flow.
They meet the ocean,
roll on.

First was East River.
I'm Bridge and Tunnel
for four generations.
There's a Delaware
ferryman mother's
side piloting flow
back and forth. I know
rivers, how they meet.

Then Susquehanna.
Marcellus rock formed
my teeth and bone.
I am of rivers.
All flow.
They meet the ocean.
and roll.

Potomac, then Thames,
preoccupations
adult. Capital!
Then slowing down to
Yorkshire's Ouse, Wharfe, Aire,
snake goddess piercing
my heart. There's a hole -
river hewn hag stone.

Yes, I'm of river
all flow
going to meet, reach
ocean
still seeking the source.

At last
the River Shannon
close to its pulsing
Pot, where the river
rises, trickles, flows,
spreads, widens over
Midland plains, rolling
down the lip of land.
Fresh water meeting
sand and salt and there
river meets ocean.

I am flow, rock, roll,
water of love meets soul.
I am of rivers
seeking
all flow
yearning
for the ocean's
rocking
and roll.

Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.

The featured photo is my own of the Shannon Pot, where the longest river in Ireland rises about three miles from where I have lived for the past seventeen years. The photo was taken when the Pot was very full, almost to overflow, not unlike how it might have looked at the mythic start of Ireland’s own origin story.

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