Weekly Poem – Sunday Morning Meditation

This is the mystery of writing. While you may practice it sitting on your arse staring at the blank page or screen, it happens in other ways, too. The late Dermot Healy once said in a master class I attended that all reading is writing. Even when you are slogging in a very muddy garden performing the autumn clear up tasks, writing is happening on some back burner in the brain. We sleep and dream and wake wanting to write it down and unriddle those images that stir us and make us confront the secret anxieties of our waking life. The longer I am at this writing lark I realise that wielding the written word is a coping mechanism for life. Or perhaps, it is more accurate to say that the creative process is what configures hope, peace, faith and love. It’s just that writing is my preferred creative vehicle driven in this life time. Next one, can I please be a visual artist?

We are living in anxious times. It’s difficult to ignore even if you strictly ration the gloomy news. If you duck the gunk going on the macro, the micro news carried by friends, acquaintances and colleagues cannot be given the blind eye. In my Zoom creative writing class this past weekend I used a quotation from a Leonard Cohen song as the spark for our in-class writing.

Ring the bells that still can ring

Forget your perfect offering

There is a crack, a crack in everything

That’s how the light gets in

Leonard Cohen, Anthem
Goosebumps! This guy is just so good! Bravo maestro!

So the spark for part of the session was about cracks and where the light can get in or out. That is going to be an ongoing exercise over the next few weeks. Even though 92% of the Irish population over the age of 12 is vaccinated, the HSE is still prepping for a “difficult winter.” Medical staff are exhausted, between Covid and the cyber hack of the HSE computer system. Most everyone is flagging emotionally, mentally or physically. Who does not know someone who is down with the ‘cold that is not Covid?’ Resiliance is feeling a bit threadbare. A friend’s 95 year old mother said she felt this past 18 months had been more difficult in many ways than World War II. People may have been dying left and right then, but you could have a cup of tea with a neighbour if you felt down. Or go dancing, while not dodging bombs.

Sunday morning, even though for the first time in a week it was not raining, I woke early and grabbed my notebook. I had a very leisurely few hours of writing ‘downtime.’ The Weekly Poem is the result. It is an abecedarian. It is similar to the acrostic, with lines beginning with a word in alphabetical order over the course of the poem. It was a new form for me to experiment with.

BTW, I recommend finding one day a week for dedicating a morning to just mooch, or lie abed late, or stare out the window for a full hour. It can help steady the centre of world that is fizzing, fizzling, and sending up frantic distress signals.

Sunday Morning Meditation

A milky mist obscures next door’s field, and out
beyond I hear geese honking, a wailing a long way from home. Can it be
Canada is just their summer 'vacance'? Or is Lough Moneen 
   their winter palace?  What is home? I guess it

depends upon how you look at it. I watch them fly
east towards the mountain most days going
forwards and back from the lough, a noisy
gaggle in tight formation, expostulating.

How can we transliterate their soundings?

I look out as the morning gradually takes shape, mist receding over 
    the murky horizon. 
Jays have not visited the garden of late. Are they seasonal, too? 
    How is it that I do not
know my year round neighbours and which are the blow ins 
    from the Arctic?

Listen. Even in October there is some birdsong playlist, several species
making conversation. Or concert? Con-something or other.  Together,
notes make chilled jazz for a Sunday brunch ambience.

Onyx-eyed magpie stares straight at me as I write behind the window’s glass, bemused 
    or beseeching
perhaps. What can a bird want of me? One  likes to 
quantify symbolisms, let the bird’s shape signify, elevate it to messenger from
realms beyond the mist, but by nine o’clock

sunshine breaches this early autumn cloud. The world comes into sharp definition, the day’s light no longer
totally eclipsed. But do you feel the chill
underlying the light? Take the pulse of the unseen, the unheard, untold
verities, a
world of meaning craving anyone’s ear. Or eye. Or heart, offering itself up to be as revealing as the

X-ray that lights up the shadows, showing everything in photographic negative 
     when really what is needed is a very positive
'Yes!' To life. And yes to mourning. And yes to the lost,  and the already gone missing. 
     They are missed. Why did we never notice that once there
     was an ark, but now a

Zoo is an asylum for very nearly, almost, listed, life extinct.

Featured image Photo by Dewang Gupta on Unsplash

Zoom with Word Alchemy in September

Zoom

Since publicizing the Zoom introductory creative writing workshops starting on 1st September, we have had the first international student join the group! I figured an evening slot might draw a few participants from different time zones and I am pleased to be able to include them. The places are rapidly filling up. There is a maximum of eight, so if you have been just thinking about registering, you might want to act on that impulse sooner rather than later.

Why do I call this introductory program Pick n Mix?

There are still some places available in the workshop that will allow you to try out several different types of writing form – short fiction, poetry, creative non-fiction, and memoir. I call this introductory programme ‘Pick n Mix’ because it caters to many tastes. And you might be surprised to find out that you do have a craving to write short fiction or poetry even ifyou think you are strictly a non-fiction kind of writer.

These online weekly workshops include some in-session writing exercises, as well as group sharing of homework and ongoing work. We will explore these forms over the course of September, a different form each week. You will receive emailed course reading material, inspirational video resources at the beginning of each unit, some weekly homework, and a weekend motivator email to help you keep on track with your writing practice.

This is the outline for the Pick n Mix introductory course over September 2020:

Week 1 – September 1st -8th – Short fiction

Week 2 – September 9th -15th – Poetry

Week 3 – September 16th -22nd – Creative Nonfiction

Week 4 – – September 23rd – 30th – Memoir

The course format includes:

  • One weekly emailed assignment
  • 2hr  weekly Zoom seminar from 8pm-10pm  Dublin time on Thursdays, September 3rd, 10th, 17th, and 24th And/or 2 hr Zoom seminar from 12noon – 2pm Dublin time on Saturdays, 5th, 12th,19th and 26th September
  • One weekly writing motivational email

Block book the four weekly sessions for a cost of €45/£41 payable by Paypal. Alternatively, Residents of Republic of Ireland and UK may pay by cheque if they prefer.

Word Alchemy creative writing workshops are held spaces where we can inspire, encourage, and share ideas with one another. We collaborate in the process of beginning with raw ideas and support the magic as they are transformed into something meaningful for both writer and reader. I love teaching creative writing – and would really miss sharing the glory of creative expression using the written word. Covid-19 has challenged me to reconfigure the way I can continue working. These Zoom seminars are the way forward for me as a creative writing facilitator. Under the trading name of Word Alchemy, over the past seven years I have worked with kids from ages 9 to 14. I have worked with adults in all women and all men groups and mixed gender groups. I have worked in schools, community halls, arts centres, outdoors and in prisons. I have conducted workshops outdoors at sites in Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark. It’s a bit of a vocation for me.

As I tell those who have walked around the Cavan Burren Park with me while visiting the megaliths created by our neolithic ancestors -humans craved making art from our earliest beginnings. They made rock art before they got around to inventing agriculture to create food security for the growing population. They connected with the numinous and aligned their dolmens with the stars at important seasonal points in the year.

As the wheel of the year turns toward the darkening in the Northern Hemisphere, nurturing our creativity is one way of asserting our being human. Covid19 cannot take that from any of us. We just have to get canny with how we continue to connect and create.

Want to sign up? The registration form can be found here! zoom-into-creative-writing-this-september

There were some initial issues with the registration form, which WordPress tell me is now working fine. But if you do wish to register and experience a problem, please do not hesitate to email me at dowrabeesmith@gmail.com.

I am looking forward to meeting old friends and new participants as we all encourage each other to deepen our writing practice.

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

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

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