Geopark Poetry Map, NaPoWriMo and More

I have had quite the hiatus from the blog. Initially, I told my Zoom group I was going to take time out in March to write. But actually, life, the universe and everything had other objectives. No worries, I am well. And just a little miffed that some doctor is opining that those who have not had Covid-19 so far have no friends. I certainly have friends – I just know how to interact by socially distanced means and have kept face-to-face interactions rationed. Well, until March anyway. And I am still fine. Just very busy. Also keeping track of those who did get felled by the illness this past month. Moral and spiritual support is a vital ingredient to all truly meaningful friendships. And March has been an intense month on both the macro and micro levels.

So, not a lot of writing done except for some haiku and a speech on UNESCO World Poetry Day when we launched the digital Cuilcagh Lakelands Geopark Poetry Map. It was fifteen months in the making and the pandemic offered many challenges but the project is done! You can read and listen to the poems here. Scroll down the Communities page and you will find the link to the Poetry Map. https://cuilcaghlakelands.org/discover-explore/communities/

You can hear how the project grew and developed over that fifteen months in the video of the launch at Cavan Burren Park (yes, we did it outdoors, sheltered but open at two sides to ventilation; nothing, but nothing was going to stop us getting this project launched!) You can also listen to some poets reading their work at the launch in the video..

On the foot of the March 21st UNESCO World Poetry I conducted some haiku walks in the UNESCP Global Geopark with adults and school children.

Adult Gingo (Haiku Walk) for 2022 UNESCO World Poetry Day

For some of those kids it was the first school outing in two years. The Fermanagh primary pupils did nature art with Geopark colleague Julie Armstrong, while the older children wrote haiku poems inspired by the sights seen and touched. They got to run fingers over multi-millenial aged rock art, mosses, lichens, liverwort and lung wort. (The proliferation of the latter near where we live is an indication of our clean air quality, which other doctors reckon might have accounted for our ducking the virus. Also, we have lots of trees. And we garden so our Vit D levels might be good from exposure to sunlight year round. We do SO have friends!) The children were out and about in the fresh air for two hours before heading back to school for the afternoon classroom sessions.

Rock Art at Cavan Burren Park
Tullygobban Lough, formerly a turlough

Peering at Prehistory. View of Calf Hut Dolment
What animal do you see?

And as to that question – and from which side you look at this glacial erratic, you get many opinions. Some see a snake’s head. Others see a cat, but not necessarily the domestic variety. Still others see a frog. Here’s the haiku I wrote with the Tattygar Primary School P5 class.

Limestone tortoise crawls

Slowly – for eternity

Across old sea floor

Bee Smith, 29th March 2022

For the first time in five years I am not doing the write a poem a day challenge for NaPoWriMo. I highly recommend this exercise, but though it feels a bit weird not to participate, it also feels right. It is an intensely busy, as well as an intense time for our planet. There is plenty needs doing in the garden. Also, sometimes you need to let things fester a while before you face the page. The rapid response with a daily poem feels somehow…ill-conceived…for 2022. Certainly this time needs poetry, but it feels, to me at least, that a time of consideration is needed at the inception. A week of playing around with a phrase from the ginko on 19th March wound up as the refrain in a much longer poem written yesterday.

But don’t let that stop you from writing a poem a day this April! Work away!

I am very much enjoying the resumed Zoom creative writing group of about eight women who get together to free-write on themed topics each Saturday afternoon Irish time (though it is 10am for the participants Zooming in from Ottawa and Rhode Island.) The Irish group is also cross-border, with women tuning in from Fermanagh, Leitrim and Cavan. This group has really bonded and feels a very precious part of my life.

See! I do have friends! I just see them on Zoom a lot of the time still.

Cuilcagh Lakelands Global Geopark Poetry Map Update

Did I mention that we have had a name change for our Geopark? What was formerly known as Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark has rebranded as Cuilcagh Lakelands UNESCO Global Geopark. The Cavan Geopark Ambassadors and some of the Fermanagh Heritage Champions were in on the rebranding consultation process and we all were more than satisfied with the final decision. It more completely embraces a truly crossborder identity, marrying the iconic Cuilcagh Mountain that straddles the border along with the many lakes and other waterways that meander back and forth across the international boundary. The mountains and drumlins and the waters winding through and around them are the characteristics that define this Geopark region. While Marble Arch Caves is responsible for there being a Geopark in this region in the first place it limited the identity and confused visitors who did not quite grasp that there are over fifty other sites they can visit in Fermanagh and Cavan as well, each packed with geoheritage significance.

The past couple of weeks have been immersed in other people’s words. There has been the anguished process of drawing up the long shortlist from the nearly fifty poems submitted for our digital Geopark Poetry Map. May were outstanding, some awesome in their execution. But all the poems submitted had a bedrock of genuine love for this region and its geological heritage. Many said they had really enjoyed the challenge of creating a geoheritage themed poem; it was a welcome activity that broke up the routine of Lockdown. When travel restrictions were lifted it spurred on the stream of submissions. Yet, this is an interesting statistic. In 2020, the visitor tickers around the Geopark clocked up nearly half a million visitors; that was the most ever recorded. Clearly, people were returning again and again to this awe-inspiring and uplifting landscape. We needed nature more than ever before, even as nature in the form of a virus was changing our lives utterly. All the submissions had great heart. Which is why the selection process has been so anguishing.

As of yesterday, all the commissioned poets have delivered their poems on various sites. Each is in a very different style, but all have addressed various aspects of the landscape in their geological and mystic wonder. There is an Irish/English poem from Séamus Mac Annaidh on Cuilcagh. Belcoo born poet Maria McManus offers a stunning view from the depths of Marble Arch Caves. Dara McAnulty takes us up to the raptor heights of Big Dog Mountain. Noel Monaghan travels the finger like tributaries of Loughs Oughter and Erne. Anthony J Quinn’s visit to Devenish Island is an exploration of hiddenness, uncertainty and surprise.

The next stage will take these offerings towards their eventual digital home. Watch this space for news of its launch.

I am working on a poem for submission elsewhere so there is only the briefests of haiku from the archive fthis week. But they all celebrate aspects of Cuilcagh Lakelands Geopark and geoheritage. And I decided to share some of my Geopark inspired haiku from ginkgo we have taken at various sites in years past.

Shakehole, Claddagh Glen
Fossils under your feet
Because August 15th was the Feast of the Assumption and there was a Mass celebrated at the local holy well. No four-footeds in attendance though

The world is, as the Aussies say, doing it tough, this week. Read a poem, hug a tree, pat a mossy rock or a pet. Watch birds in flight. Listen to their calls. Be well and stay safe.