Free World

The Poetry Daily is going to go on the road again this weekend. At some point I will post the daily poem over the weekend, but it will be between workshops when I can hop onto Wes’ and Tuesday’s wifi in their kitchen. My husband, Tony Cuckson, and I are doing a two-hander creative writing workshop over the weekend. It’s part of a weekend of creative writing workshops at a Willowbrook Glamping site in Roscommon. So, close to the earth, as well as writing. The sun is blistering bright this morning. Temperatures are going over 25C. Which may not sound hot. But it is for Ireland! Which will probably mean we will be writing outdoors. I shall be the one swathed in shawls, floppy brimmed hat worthy of Scarlet O’Hara, the one who has sun screen and insect repellent in her workshop bag (along with the talking stick, pens, notebooks, etc.) Being a congenitally pale person I prefer shade and cooler temperatures. Living in Ireland, where I can go whole years without fishing out my sunglasses, I generally am only uncomfortable for a week or so, rather than months on end.

Poetry practice comes before packing up the car.

Free World

Wouldn't that be a free world?
If we did not get whiplashed
by others' assumptions
about who you are and
what you are?
That you wouldn't get defined by
the kinds of things you eat
for breakfast, for instance,
or the flat pack that lies
ready to assemble
beside your kitchen table,
what it says about you
(your budget, skill level, taste, or lack thereof )
the narrowness of your choices.
But if others' assumptions
could be the devils freefalling
off your back
that would, indeed, become one
way of being free.


Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.

Featured image Photo by Adi Goldstein 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

When I am not writing…

I am popping peas from their pods

Plucking carrots I sowed last May in nice, neat rows

Snapping the necks of courgettes

Pulling lettuce for supper, washing it, gussying it up like its a gala instead of Wednesday night

I am eating ice cream everyday because it is sultry

Or to cool off after savage Scrabble games

Or inventing cozy mystery titles over dinner, like

“The Last Scrabble Match” (where the victim has a U shoved down the throat)

I continue to cheat at crossword puzzles

The pets pant and lie on tiles

And shed like they want me to spin thread from their coats

I could knit into shawls for wintertime

I  chase animal hair down the corridor

Like they are ghost town tumbleweeds

At the launderette I watch God go around with the wash

It’s spin cycle time

But the rains come and give the laundry on the line

Three heavy showers so it takes five days to dry

I still have to iron dry the cuffs and waistlines

I Hate ironing

I mention my not writing to my bestie who asks carefully if anything

is festering

I embark on a long

Extended metaphor about how it is more like compost building

And I have been doing that, too

Wet stuff, then the green matter scrunched up from the recycling bin

Then some chopped comfrey as an activator

But you need heat to make the good crumbly fertile stuff

That is perfection

And I am not sad. Or anxious.  Really.

I remember the profound silence at the solar eclipse a month ago

When the whole world was holding its breath

It was that still, palpable

I held it like it was a touchstone or talisman

The blank page isn’t really scary

It is just waiting patiently for that moment

When the cloud formation speaks

And it is time to transcribe
Copyright 2018 Bee Smith

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

 

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