Writing Spirit

Spiritual autobiography can take many forms. It does not always choose prose, or even a linear narrative. It can be about as slippery as that piece of tofu that is dodging around your plate. You can get the sauce into a spoon, or lick a chopstick, but that chunk of tofu can disintegrate right back onto your plate if you are not dexterous and quick. And then you go chasing it all over again. Such it is when it comes to writing about, not so much spiritual matters, but Spirit.

Put another way, spirit is Spirit, one of those words regarding divinity that is likely to offend the least.  Or it could refer to the fifth element in the medieval alchemists, who also called it quintessence (LOVELY word!). In the Chinese world view they thought of metal being the fifth essential element after fire, water, air and earth. So take your pick!

Quietly, in a closed group of trusted friends, we have been writing our way through the elements with respect to our spiritual autobiographies. This week the vote went to add the fifth element – ether (not in either the anaesthetic or alcoholic sense of the word). Or spirit. Or Spirit. Or metal.

Given that I have three workshops to run this week and a Risk Assessment walk to vet a walking route for Cavan Youth Arts Lab, I am a bit time famished. But I am also committed to writing a new poem each week to get in training for NaPoWriMo2018 from 1st of April. To learn more about the thirty poems in thirty days challenge, check out NaPoWriMo2018. So I am ‘doing the double’, using one exercise to fulfill two committments.

I am curious about word origins.  During the doodle that is often the shitty first draft, I got hooked on the origin of ‘scape’, as in landscape or seascape. And that opened all sorts of thematic horizons.

 

Scape

 

Somewhere else entirely

with completely porous boundaries

where the indoor and the outdoor escape

the doors slide free into another kind of scape

one without bleating goat,

the sort to have a stake for the Puck King

 

Watching now from my window I see

trees. There are also weeds.

A blue tit taps at the glass and then…

There. It opens. I step out.

The edges have all dissolved

inside me

 

The outside me

matters not at all. To be sure,

I have been swallowed whole

like a communion host

that does not linger

sticking to the roof of the  mouth

 

The scape always hands you

your royal prerogative

Ornamented land

Jewelled tide into the timeless

As slim as a feather’s shaft

As fine as an insect’s antenna

 

© Bee Smith 2018

 

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Lost Worlds

Fellow blogger, Traci York of  www.traciyork.com, spotted the anniversary even before WordPress sent me a notification. Four years ago, I started this WordPress blog on the back of an amazing opportunity to travel and learn and write at Lumb Bank, Yorkshire and in Manchester. I was travelling with a company of strangers cum creative colleagues and tutors; the whole travel package was courtesy of Cavan Arts Office and the Cavan Office for Social Inclusion through EU funding programmes. (If anyone bad mouths EU funding projects, I passionately defend them because this one certainly renewed the lease on my creative life and mental health. ) Living in a remote rural area I had had a few of my own creative wilderness years. That trip and blog changed everything. So was born Sojourning Smith, sometime tour guide, writer and creative writing tutor. Exploring the world one word at a time. For within a word, there is a whole world. And some are being lost.  You might think it odd then that the title for this anniversary issue is Lost Worlds, when what happened  for me personally was a world regained.

Continue reading “Lost Worlds”

Finding Your Purpose

When I began to write this blog back in 2014, the purpose was to document the progress of a creative writing program sponsered by Cavan Arts office with EU funding. A group of us spent a week at the Arvon Foundation’s Centre at Lumb Bank in Yorkshire, and a week in Manchester. Once back in Cavan it was time to give back to the community. (Thank you, taxpayers!)  Cavan’s Office of Social Inclusion asked if I would be willing to give a workshop in the nearby Open Prison, Loughan House. I said yes. And that has made all the differance.

Purpose, at least for me, is linked to a sense of vocation. After facilitating two workshops at Loughan House,  I realised I had a passion for working with beginner creative writers. They are inspiring examples of ‘first thought, best thought.’ I had facilitated a few workshops in a past lifetime when I lived in England. But I was still too uncertain of myself then. My boat was pretty rocky and the sea rolled beneath me.  Cavan living has been good ballast to my boat.

What is such a privelage in working with beginners, whether they are living ‘inside’ or out, is communing with virtual strangers on a soul level.So my passion and purpose unite when I lead these workshops. They may be called ‘poetry workshops’ or ‘creative writing’, but really they are held spaces where the participant can listen to that still, small voice inside and begin to record what their soul wishes to speak.  I have worked with women only, men only, young people, literacy challenged, Travellers, the settled and everything in between. They all shine on the page as they (metaphorically speaking) clear their throat and tell the story of their soul journey.

I recently posted about a workshop I facilitated at the Wise Woman Ireland Weekend last month.  Last week the feedback sheet comments popped up in my email Inbox. Here’s a sampling:

  • A wonderful workshop given by an amazing women. Got over my anxieties and learned some great tools Thank You Bee.
  • Bee is very patient and caring,her workshop inspiring. I can write a poem.
  • Fabulous got so much out of it.
  • I actually ended up in the wrong workshop, but it was the right one for me. I got a lot from the writing exercise and finding my omen Thank You Bee.
  • I wrote 3 poems fantastic energy!
  • Really lovely! A lot of thought and energy had gone in to creating it. Facilitator very responsive and able to handle what came up with gentleness and attentiveness.
  • Nice structure for us newbies.
  • I really needed this workshop it was the reason I came I know this now. Thank you so much.

In 2015 I was accepted on to the Irish Arts Council’s Writers in Prison panel. Prison work isn’t for everyone, but I have witnessed a great deal of soul getting a buffing up in a workshop. I love these guys even though I am aware that they have done harm. They are often vulnerable in their writing, so doubly brave given their circumstances.

This poem appears in my collection “Brigid’s Way: Reflections on the Celtic Divine Feminine.” (The Celtic goddess Brigid presided over justice.)

For the Lads at Loughan House

The poems always start outside.

The lough is a wind rippled plain,

Open expanse with nowhere to hide.

 

Matt blue sky forms another side,

Slant of October’s light a golden vein.

The poems always start outside.

 

Starlings scythe the sky then abruptly divide.

Loneliness could drive a soul insane.

Open expanse with nowhere to hide.

 

A way to be free. A place to abide.

The dock stops here. With that I have no complaint.

The poems always start outside.

 

Freedom is a grace, just as the swan pair glides.

Time well spent is eternity’s gain.

Open expanse with nowhere to hide.

 

Behind and beyond no escaping  inside;

A way to be free, the words are that golden vein.

The poems always start outside.

Open expanse with nowhere to hide.

 

© Bee Smith 2015

Writing isn’t about fame or fortune. It’s about these precious moments of being. Also, those precious moments of being shared with others as they break through into that state of excitement when the words and emotions meet on a page, the elation of finding voice.

Day 8 NaPoWriMo2017

Week 2’s theme begins with repetition.

Repetitions

 

I am old, grown upon

Massacres in far flung fields

Where napalm and Agent Orange

Rained onto the jungle

 

I am old, grown upon

Massacres in far flung fields

The rubble and demolition

Of refugee camps in The Lebanon

 

I am old, grown upon

Mourning the cruelty in calculating

Famine in far flung fields

In Sudan, Eritrea, Darfur …

 

I am old, grown up to

Know a few things.

Lamentation is to care

To hunger and thirst for justice

 

I am old, grown enough

To see the waste of fear

The terrible retribution

How anger eats the soul

 

I am old, grown perishable

I know it in my fragile bones

Weep at the careless men’s perverse

Pleasure in their death machines

 

I am old. Our love needs

To be greater than our fear

For this is the only legacy

I would wish upon the world

 

I am old, Earth and I

Together with our anguish

Thrill at crop cycles, wet and dry seasons

The inevitability of creation

 

I am old, the Earth more ancient still

Stalwart as standing stones

We survivors

Of stupidity, hubris and greed

Day 7 NatPoWriMo2017

felix headshot

Today’s challenge asked us to list three random objects, three random locations, two items lost and two found AND THEN to choose from the lists and find a link. Just as I settled down to write there was a growl in the corridor outside. Well, that was random! Upon investigation, the rear view of the somewhat feral feline who is auditioning to be third housecat. We call him Felix. Because he looks like the fellow on the tin.

Wildcat

One somewhat feral cat

Found prowling the corridor

Definitely not the blue lane

Head House Cat growls, Passport!

You are not in the correct zone!

The customs of this home require

Certain decorum, but

Who can resist a wildish kind of guy

Without papers

Looking for something more

Than a dinner dole

A scratch on the head

He wants to cross the frontier of love

To sing his song

To belong despite his fears

The dogs, the other cats

The two-legged with the beard

Incarceration

But the naturalisation

Process has begun

We are, so to speak,

Affianced. At least

I have pledged my troth

The family will come around

Eventually

Meanwhile he camps outside our door

We agreed upon this experiment

In mutual trust

Finding refuge

In my heart

Day 4 NaPoWriMo

Today’s challenge; “write a poem with a secret – in other words, a poem with a word or idea or line that it isn’t expressing directly.” As usual, the titling was a bear!

Taking Tea in Liberty

 

Taking Tea in Liberty

 

 Let’s lay the tea things

On the tray, shall we?

Speak of this, but never that

Keep our cards tucked in Daddy’s drawer

 

Let’s talk of granny’s silver sugar prongs

But not the rise and fall

Of all our futures

Speak of this, but never that

 

How was your journey? Shall I be mother?

You still take sugar?

Speak of this, but never that

How was your weather?

 

See this hallmark stamped

On the saucer’s bottom?

A wedding gift from my Uncle Tom

Speak the speech, but just not yet

 

Leaving so soon? What a shame.

My dear, Your taxi’s here.

Speak soon. We’re on the phone

Safe journey. Safe home.

Day 3 NatPoWriMo

Today’s set task is elegy, but with the added challenge of including some very personal tick or characteristic of that person.

My Mother’s Face

 

At her funeral

Much was said of

Her faith

Her frugality

 

Lesser known

Was her fierceness-

The Depression kid

With a Roman nose and overbite

 

Becoming a young lady

When the gloves, the hat

The heels and matching bag

Mattered oh so very much

 

Sealed your status

Was your Fate.

But without kismet

Best to be discreet

 

Another most ladylike

Attribute. Decked out

In concaving girdle

The metal garters

 

Carving into pale

Very slim flesh

Suspending her, engineering

her identity

 

But the teeth!

That was Mother Nature’s

Bad fairy godmother gift

Beyond any dental intervention

 

 

The world and women

Moved on.

The gloves came off

Somewhere around 1968

 

 

Only a very few women bothered

Wearing a hat to Mass

(In defiance of St. Paul)

Much beyond ‘72

 

Nuns raised their hemlines

Wimples were bygone

Sister Celestine dyed her fringe

Peeking from a postulant style veil

 

But that was all fashion

Not faith. For it was, after all

About the principle

Which is immortal, like the soul

 

 

Only in her sleep

Dozing on the couch during the 11 o’clock news

Would you notice it

Her jaw gone slack

 

So relaxed at day’s end

The reprieve from the practiced

Thrusting forward of her teeth

Into self-imposed alignment

 

A discipline, like daily mass

Grace and night prayers

A fierce sculpting that

Was her original face

 

natpowrimo2017