One Year on from the 365 Day Poetry Marathon

Yes, it is a year since I completed writing a poem a day everyday and posting it on this blog. There was only one blip on 30th November 2018 when our internet got knocked out by a storm. I posted the last of November’s poems at like 1am on 1st December and December’s later that day.

Since then I have posted a poem each Sunday until this past Sunday. We had quite the domestically traumatic week in our household that culminated with letting our old dog, Ellie, go into the Big Sleep. Ellie appeared in many poems and mention of her has been salted throughout this blog over the past couple years. She made a passing appearance in the penultimate poem’s blog on 14th September 2019.

Ellie at Corry Strand looking very grande dame – she was a Leo!

Humans are a peculiar species. I was able to write through a death and a funeral during the 365 day marathon, but this loss had me taking to my bed over the weekend. I appreciated having to keep it together for my Zoom groups, but after Saturday’s session I crashed.

Dogs, especially, with their trust of their humans, are a special type of bereavement. Ellie was an extended family dog. She was a puppy for our niece, as well as a family pet to companion her mum’s dog Cara when she went off to uni. As Ellie’s Mum No. 1 dealt with cancer, she and Cara came to us. Cara died of cancer at the end of 2017, exactly a year to a day before Mum No. 1 went to hospice.

I became Mum No. 2 to a rather obdurate dog who really preferred the company of cats and would only obey a woman issuing respectful guidance. Which often was under review. Ellie was, we all agree, and can say with fondness, a stubborn girl who knew her mind. Until age and UTIs began to confuse her.

I was really going to make this blog about what life has been like in the year after I completed the poetry a day marathon. But, in the end, it is about an aged dog who has been teaching me about mortality and grief and letting what we love go on without us. Also, grace and trust. About the last trip to the seaside, but knowing that really time was past for paddling anymore. That becoming elderly means letting go of past pleasurable activities, but that the reasurrance of loving faces is everything.

So I will just reiterate a poem where Ellie makes a guest appearance. It is part of a sequence of poems on each of the moon’s lunations. This one is from February 2018.

Cailleach Snow Moon

We are both old(er) girls now,
Ellie The Dog and I, and we treasure
our bladders. So we see a lot of morning dark.
The snow overnight is reflecting just enough
illumination. There is no cloud.
Venus is up there all twinkly bright.
So are Jupiter and our old friend Luna.
It is just Ellie, Luna, Aphrodite, Zeus
and me here huddling in the porch doorway
with rapidly cooling cup of tea.
I softly call Ellie to come back in out
from the snow. Not to linger. Though now
we are both old(er) girls there is this fascination
with darkness, the cold, the company of starry gods.

Friday Senryu

After the bonus poem for World Poetry Day yesterday, I figured I could cut myself a little slack on poetry practice this morning. Especially, as I have a cat who has somehow managed to injure his left hind leg. So I am more concerned about keeping him warm and quiet; we shall have to see if that will mend matters. He is a wily, often bad-tempered, utterly loveable former feral whom I have socialised into a household. He is full of contradictions. He yearns to belong. He auditioned long and hard to come indoors, but then had the arrogance to misbehave and bully the girls. We could not have that! Manners maketh the man I would quote to him over his windowsill supper many times. It can be a bit of work in progress some days. But he is a bit of a spirit animal for me, or familiar, or a Pullmanesque daemon.

The love for our companion animals (and they for us) is often complex. We since we do not share a common language. Apparently domestic cats only meow to communicate with humans. They enrich our lives immeasurably even as I complain about the amount of cat litter I have to change (there are four cats in this household.)

At any rate, I need to attend to my pet. So senryu it is for today. Haiku is concerned with nature. Senryu has the same number of syllables, but its concern his with human nature.

Limping cat snarls and snaps
I offer soft words and strokes
Now you purr

The formerly feral feline

And simply for species equality I include one for the dogs. We have two dogs in the household as well. Then I need to become matron of Pet Hospital.

The auld dog's day: breathe, sleep,
sniff air, sun bask
the odd sprint for old time's sake

Have a good weekend. Happy Friday. Hug your fur babies. Pat a friend’s companion animal, but ask nicely first. Animals require that they give consent, too.

Old Dog

Old Dog

While the Poetry Daily has previously sung the carol of the cats (or one specific one) that share our household, the old dog was wanting to get into the poetry act this morning. Our household currently is home to three cats and two dogs. But over the past thirty years there has been a procession of dogs. The first was a mongrel of indeterminate origin rescued from a house in Beeston with wallpaper saturated in chip fat. Poppet (aka St.Poppet) was our first dog, who taught us all about unconditional love and glued our partnership at times when ties were strained.

Murphy came next, a  bouncy sheepdog-Springer spaniel mix, who fell under the spell of his pure  bred sheltie pal Princess Pippin. Like Darby and Joan, those two were inseparable and died within six months of each other. Obe, a deaf terrier-spitz mix who had been ill-treated, came to us in New Year 2011, three weeks after Pippin’s sudden death and four days before my mother died. We were hospice for Sweetie for four months, during which she completely owned my heart. Then Cara and Ellie joined us when a relative could no longer look after them. Cara died between Christmas and New Year last year.

Dogs and cats both have valuable lessons to teach their human companions. Dogs teach us to receive. Cats teach us how to give. At least, that has been my experience

Old Dog

The old dog’s paw nails
clickety-clack on the floorboards.
She’s done this tap dance twice tonight.
She needs to go out…
Night is tarry dark.
No crescent moon pierces darkness.
Cloud must be huddling close, low down.
Even the dog dreads
stepping outside without light.
She hesitates. Then goes forward.
She does what every dog must do.
Comes back.
She’s fifteen years old.
Dogs somehow always know the score.
They love. Look at life unflinching.
Right up to the end.
They sniff morning air.
Let the wind tell their nose stories.
They have the instinct when to
remove their collars,
let go of the leash.
Even though love always calls out
Copyright © Bee Smith 2018

Bear in Winter

bear in winter

Winter arrived yesterday with a hard frost and black ice on our lane that did not melt off until late morning. We had errands to run.Our industry was rewarded on the drive back home with the most exquisite exhibition of low lying mist under the karst backdrop of Boleybrack. We stopped for me to take a snap on my phone, one of which is today’s featured photo. Sadly, I couldn’t get an angle that would have shown off the full profile of the sphinx-like mountain that broodingly guards over the region where the Shannon River starts its journey to the sea. It really does look like an Anubis and locals refer to it  by nicknames like  The Dog Mountain, or just The Big Dog. Such are the marvels of this internationally designated region. We live in a Geopark community and we certainly live with a bounty of natural and built heritage and its abundant beauty.

West Cavan Cattle,  curious and  very keen for news

So my poetry daily harkens back to that trip along the R207 as we approached Dowra. I was delayed by a few chatty cows who were eager for a photo call. I realise that a herd of differant species are cramming into both the post and the poem, but that’s my life out here living in a geopark.

Bear in Winter

Wait patiently in thedark, Rumi has said.
Even in the winter dawn’s half-light.
The sun’s dimmer switch is set just on glow.
It watches us from behind net curtains,
filtering light through banks of mistiness,
making the world seem muffled in whiteness.
The Anubis in our local mountain
snoozes, content under a month’s long frost
and more, the ice and snow an enfeebled
sun cannot melt down with its golden horde.
We settle under theheft of layers-
Sweaters, fleeces, duvets and blankets.
The whole weight of this passing year bears down.
It is time to lay it down. And, for us,
to curl up and recline, to rest and sleep,
to behave like our childhood’s cuddly toy.
To make like the bears for our souls to keep.
Copyright © Bee Smith 2018
dog mountain
Playbank, aka the  Dog Mountain

Better Haiku?

Old Dog

Day 5 of NaPoWriMo has more of a GloPoWriMo theme. The prompt is all about translation and I very nearly wimped out on this prompt. You are  meant to take a poem in a language you don’t know,  and add in a photograph.  And then write about the photo modeling your language on the original un-translated version. My head exploded!

Just to clarify, this is the exact wording of today’s prompt.

Today, we’d like to challenge you to write a poem that, like the work in Translucence, reacts both to photography and to words in a language not your own. Begin with a photograph. Now find a poem in a language you don’t know (here’s a good place to look!) Ignore any accompanying English translation (maybe cover it up, or cut-and-paste the original into a new document). Now start translating the poem into English, with the idea that the poem is actually “about” your photograph. Use the look and feel of the words in the original to guide you along as you write, while trying to describe your photograph. It will be a bit of a balancing act, but hopefully it will lead to new and beautiful (and possibly very weird) places.

Ideally, we are supposed to choose a poem from an unfamiliar language. Here I cheated some, eventually going for a short German poem.  I have forgotten more German than I ever knew, since I last haunted a beginners class in 1975. I looked at other Germanic languages, but the translations were side by side the original in the online examples I checked out, which felt like a bigger cheat temptation. So I decided to grab a bi-lingual Rilke from my bookshelf. I also have some Nuala ni Dhomhnaill, but Irish sounds nothing like it looks and my head had another melt down. So Rilke it had to be.

And since I was getting a headache I decided to cut myself some slack and ‘put a dog in it’ as suggested on Day 4’s NaPoWriMo prompt. I had a perfect moody black and white of Ellie at Corry Strand last autumn.

Die Bettler


Du wusstst nicht, was den Haufen

ausmacht.  Ein Freunder fand

Bettler darin. Sie verkaufen

das Hohle aus ihrer Hand.


Sie zeigen dem Hergereisten

ihren Mund voll Mist

und er darf (er kann es sich leisten)

sehn, wie ihr Aussatz frisst.


Es zehrgeht in ihren zerruhten

augen sin fremdes Gesicht;

und sie freuen sich des Verfuehren

und speien, wenn er spricht


Rainer Maria Rilke

“New Gedichte/New Poems”, Fyfield Books, 1992




You watch harbour side

open , alert. A friendly find

better  than  kitschy tat

a log rather than hollow hand.


You zig zag, hurrying, then resting

in mud and  cloudy mist

and you bark (I listen out)

for what you see, your flotsam gift.


We go, making a groove in sand

Eyes  framing the click

and free from vilification

for spying , your ear flicks.


© 2018 Bee Smith


But I cannot say that I am proud of this effort. I can only say that I did not opt out, which I frequently did last year. And sometimes you just have to push yourself out of the comfort zone. This was distinctly uncomfortable.

But to get to a point where I could even try today’s assignment, I had to haiku . I wrote one to another photo, which was taken from a bridge not far from the source of the River Shannon. It was glorious springtime and I was with Cavan BirdWatchers.

Bee Smith River Shannon

Avian chorus

Pollen dancing on air

Clouds slip downstream

© 2018 Bee Smith


Bee Smith facilitates creative writing workshops, with experience with all age groups and in men-only and women-only groups. She lead haiku walks in Northwest Ireland. If you would like to information about workshops and events and would like to be added to the mailing list please fill in the contact form.