Sunday Weekly, Poetry Edition

Contemplating the function of poetry in these strange times, it seems to me that the themes of impermanence and small joys speak to our current global condition. Elegies exercise grief over loss. Odes, too, can eulogise. Haiku, senryu, and tanka offer a snapshot image and feeling that is already gone except for the paper it is written on. Perhaps nature and love poems are the compensating joys, even if that, too, proves evanescent. The Celtish culture defined poetry as being ‘all memory.’ Memory can be a tricky thing. Holes can appear; we mend and make do to create meaning in the face of the great imponderables. In the face of our inchoate, post-Covid 19 future, philosophy may help us navigate day to day reality, but poetry may actually be what helps us navigate grief and uncertainty.

I know that some of my readers will be in the belly of a polar vortex this weekend. One Ohio based Facebook friend posted a photo of snowflakes on dandelion clocks. Here in Ireland today is chillier, after several days that were 20C (or 68 Farhrenheit in old money.) The sunshine made it feel warmer and I anointed myself with sunscreen for the first time this year, as one step beyond the floppy hat protection. We had the full Flower Moon, the last supermoon of 2020, this past week and astronomical Bealtaine (or Beltane outside of Ireland). As if waiting for its cue, the hawthorn began to unbutton its tight white buds and began to flower. I wrote a long Beataine poem this week that has been sent to a friend who posted me some life enhancing Lockdown light literature – crime fiction by Antonia Fraser, Raymond Chandler and J. M. Cain. I asked what I could send as a thank you and all she wanted was a Bealtaine poem! Classy lady, as another friend commented.

In the USA it is Mother’s Day. On this side of the pond we celebrate that on a Sunday that is close to the vernal equinox; it also is close to Lady Day, the feast of the Annunciation of Mary. Either date, the celebration of Mother’s Day has strong Marian overtones. Bealtaine, the month of May, is also a great fertility celebration as the growing season gets into full swing.

So for the Sunday Weekly I have written some tanka, although I have played a bit fast and lose with the rules in the latter. One is a salute to American Mother’s Day, which must feel rather odd this year for families that don’t share one roof. Lilacs are strong in my childhood memories of the month of May. Partially because there was a bush by the kitchen side door. Also partially because of hay fever memories from the bouquets brought to school for Marian celebration processions.

And this other tanka-ish poem is a nod to my near neighbours. I shouldn’t really say they are noisy, but… Their nest in the roof’s eaves is just above my writing space. So I cannot help but notice them.

Have a peaceful, restful Sunday with many small joys.

Featured image is a Photo by Nellia Kurme on Unsplash

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.
Bee Smith is participating in GloPoWriMo2019

May Morning after NaPoWriMo2017

It has become a habit this poetry writing in the morning. I am not a morning person. But writing in the quiet is very soothing to one who does not usually have the power of speech until two hours after rising, except to exchange civil greetings. The poetry writing neural pathway seemed to have formed a groove that I want to keep fresh and well-traveled.

But it is May Day, or Bealtaine, and in Ireland the air has turned almost balmy. Everything is all leafy and juicy green. There is sunshine and the washing machine is humming. So are the bees on the comfrey. The world may be a Bealtaine bonfire, but the birds are singing their hearts out. Which may also be why it is important to keep on and write poetry. It’s a way of building a healthy moral and emotional immune system. It builds resistance.

So, one more poem. I haven’t decided yet if I will keep posting regularly or not. I have a full collection of poems in the works. Time to get back to that. My friend Helen Shay and I are also hatching another ‘poetry conversation’, a two-hander of poems that can be performed. So keep in touch. Follow the blog if  you want to read updates.

The raw second or third drafts have been what was posted here. Yeah, there will be a lot of revising and organising in May. The NaPoWriMo2017 site joked that May is NaPoReMo – National Poetry Revision Month. I didn’t read that until I had finished a reworking of a poem drafted last September. And the person named in the poem will now have to write me one back!

paper bag poem

Paperbag Poem

 

The preserving jars

Carefully wrapped

By the shop assistant

Arrive home

Perfect

 

Smoothing out

For recycling

Recalls a September

Forty years or more

Pristine

 

Paper lunch bags

Half a cream cheese

And pimento olive

On white bread sandwich

Fridays

 

High school cafeteria

As amphitheatre

Time cascades down

Like a slinky marching

Backwards

 

Suddenly

Richard Knecht is standing up

Blowing into a brown bag

Punching it

Goes  ‘pop!’

 

Here is a brown paper bag

Naked of my name

Pencilled in

My mother’s precise

Handwriting

 

I am free to fill it

Scrawl over it

With crayon, tempura or ink

My imprecise

Imaginings

 

 

To breathe into it

Toe let it go ‘Pop!’

This brown paper bag

A memory

And object