Geopark Poetry Map Prompts 8

Greetings Earth lovers and Poetry writers this watery Sunday. We are on a land of lakes theme this weekend (and I do not mean to plug a certain USA brand of butter from Wisconsin. Wisconsin may have more lakes, but it is also twice the size of the island of Ireland.) Both Fermanagh and Cavan, however, claim to have one lake for everyday of the year. Which is why Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark can claim to be the Lake District of Ireland. With so many to choose from surely you can put today’s lough on #MACGeopark digital Poetry Map.

Today’s lough is one that is close to my own home. Lough MacNean straddles the international boundary between Northern Ireland’s County Fermanagh and County Cavan in the Republic. There is an Upper Lough MacNean and a Lower Lough MacNean. Lower Lough MacNean is completely within the Fermanagh boundary. There is a little strip of river and wetland between the two with a bridge that links the villages of Belcoo in Fermanagh and Blacklion in Cavan.

The freshwater would have provided abundant fish and the system of loughs and rivers would have been a good way to navigate to better hunting grounds. Cushrush Island in Lower Lough MacNean shows evidence of habitation from the Mesolithic Age, when people first migrated to the island of Ireland. The many small islands would have made convenient stop offs. There are also remnants of crannogs in Lough MacNean, those man made islands (!) that modern eyes see as easily defended from marauders. But that is pure speculation. Some early ancestor decided to experiment with engineering. But, given the many megaliths surrounding the Lough MacNean area, it seems that the early dwellers were keen engineers, which is not pure speculation. We can still see the evidence of their labour and ingenuity.

This is the geological background to how this landscape was formed.

The single biggest impact on the landscape of the Geopark comes from the last glaciation.
As huge ice sheets slowly crept across the entire area, acting like giant sheets of sandpaper
and removing everything from their path. Some of the ice moved westwards forming the
glacial valley of Lower Lough Erne and Lough Macnean. Indeed many of the islands located
within Lough Macnean are in fact drumlins. These form from till or boulder clay that was
sculpted into this shape as massive ice sheets slowly crept across the landscape during the
last glaciation. Glacial moraines are another relict of our icy past and this is a general name
given to material left behind as the ice retreated at the end of the last glaciation. They tend to be primarily composed of sands and gravels and the land bridge that connects Upper and
Lower Lough Macnean is an excellent example of a glacial moraine.

Martina O’Neill, MACGeopark Development Officer, Partnerships & Engagement

Moraines and drumlins walk hand in hand across the landscape. The island of Ireland has the largest moraine field on the planet and the Irish language gave geologists the word drumlin. It comes from the Irish droimnín, translating as little ridge. These whale-backed hills (metaphorically) swim in pods across the breadth of this island from County Down to Donegal.. You can find moraines and drumlins in many counties in Ireland. The moraines may not be seen, but the drumlins certainly can be seen and are the visual clue to what has gone on over the eons under your feet.

I hope thaat you have been finding some inspiration to submit poems to the Geopark Poetry Map. All sites are open to the public. But if you have to be an online visitor because of these pandemic times, you are also welcome to visit with your imagination and submit a poem, too. You can get full guidelines by emailing GeoparkPoetryMap@gmail.com. The closing date is 15th June 2021.

Mapping a (Part of the) Geopark this Poetry Day Ireland

Today is Poetry Day Ireland and the 2021 theme is New Directions: Maps and Journeys. I love those synchronicities where the Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark Poetry Map project intersects so neatly with the 2021. theme. Obviously, there is something in the zeitgeist wants those themes highlighted. The pandemic has had all of us recalibrating our internal True North. There is about as much anxiety about ‘re-entry’ post-vaccine as there was in Lockdowns 1,2, and 3. While, as one reader of this blog has observed, the illness has divided so many in terms of approach to isolation, masking and vaccinating, we have also been challenged to connect, to stay together by remaining apart.

Poetry, at least in my mind, is all about the connections and innovating to make disparate dots meet. Poets have long been inspired not just by visual artists, but by science. Poets however, as Emily Dickinson would say, “Tell all the truth but tell it slant.” As curator of this project, I am eager to see how poets will look at so many of the sites in Fermanagh and Cavan and tell the truth of them – and their geoheritage – but slant.

The digital Geopark Poetry Map was born out of a need for a Plan B when the Artist Development Award from Cavan Arts Office project was completely impossible under lockdown. Plan A was to work in schools the week of 2020’s Poetry Day Ireland. The schools were closed. The light bulb went off in my brain one day. I had the vision, and the Geopark staff loved the idea. But we needed more money than my award. Enter Geological Survey Ireland’s Geoheritage Fund who were keen on the project, which includes commissioned work from established writers, as well as new and emerging poets and schoolchildren.

All the poems must include an element of geoheritage which is defined by Geological Survey Ireland as “encompassing features of geology that are intrinsically important sites or culturally important sites offering information or insights into the evolution of the Earth; or into the history of science, or that can be used for research, teaching, or reference.” The rocks and the earth sciences have been in synergy with this region’s inhabitants for millenia- humans, flora and fauna. It is all part of the spiorad áite, or spirit of the place.

The Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark has this special designation because both natural and built heritage are of international importance. Ireland is an island that has a vein of literature, that runs to the very marrow of the culture. It’s the right time to celebrate the heritage literally under our feet with this digital map during a time when our movements are circumscribed but our imagination can remain wide open.

For this Poetry Day Ireland I set myself the task of writing a geoheritage poem that is set in the Geopark. While I have left particular sites open to the new and emerging poets who would wish to submit contributions to the Geopark Poetry Map, I chose to write a poem about one of the distinctive features of the geopark – ribbed moraines. Indeed, Ireland has the largest ribbed moraine field on the planet. It’s just you cannot see it, except aerially.

A map of Cavan’s drumlin country
The Hindmarsh Theory of Instability
In Ribbed Moraines

The world is made of caprice and chaos.
Or so it may seem.
Even as the land quakes and is sliding
avalanches, sacred geometry
spirals around ice,
its melt, clay and rock.
Though you might not see.
Though the evidence is there at your feet.

Boulder and clay fractured by ice slide.
Dragged like Jayne Torville
in the grand finale to Bolero,
Dean pulling them prone,
their skates scarring tracks across the surface.
Parallel ripples 
evidence of creation’s  mammoth feat.

Minibus bouncing down a Cavan lane,
a verdant hummock,
suggestion of the ribs in the moraine.
More like lazy beds
built for Giants’ appetites in times
before potatoes
would be a feed in a fulacht fia.

A lough pocked land where little rivers run
between, twisting,
gnarled like the antlers of the Giant Elk
dropped off at the end
of its last rutting season. Extinction.
Fossil memory.
The sacred geometry in chaos.

The buzzard flying high above can see
the lines that ripple,
running down ancient Grandmother Earth’s cheeks.
The buzzard can see
more than we who have all the evidence
there beneath our feet.
Caprice. Chaos. Sacred geometry.

Copyright © Bee Smith, 2021. All rights reserved.

Have a wonderful Poetry Day Ireland. And I hope to see many submissions to the MAC Geopark Poetry Map in the coming weeks. The deadline for submissions is 31st May 2021.

Geopark Poetry Map

Off to Tir na nÓg

It never fails to surprise the process as I keep this daily poetry practice to create the published Poetry Daily. I arrived home from a more than twelve hour long day trip with my fellow Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark guides at 9:30 last night. Meanwhile, I am due to begin teaching a poetry workshop in just over an hour and a half. (Cue my routine anxiety thinking “whatever can I teach about poetry except to just keep at it?!”) When I began my morning writing I was sure I was going to write about THIS, but what emerged on the blank page was THAT. THIS will probably come along over the next week as the trip to Uisneach was rich in inspiration and imagery. Uisneach is the the mythic and mystical centre of Ireland from the Neolithic age. We are talking pre-history here, when the oral tradition ruled and the ogham alphabet would not emerge until the early medieval period.

For those unfamiliar with the concept of Tir na nÓg, this was the land of the forever young of the mythic race of early Irish inhabitants, the Tuatha dé Danaan. Some said it was beyond the ninth wave of the ocean.

Beyond the Ninth Wave

I am always the foreignor
on the bus, no matter what country,
rolling around the sound
of the syllables I am hearing
from snatched conversations,
handling them like a found
pebble on the ocean's strand,
or the shell put to hear
sing the ninth wave's eternal echo.


Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.

Spring Flow

Irrefutably, it is springtime. At least in our far corner of West Cavan Spring has arrived. The narcissi Tete a tete have flowered, not just in the pots, but out in sheltered parts of the garden. The first croci and hydrangea are starting to bloom. Of the wild flowers, the bold aconite has been out for a couple of weeks, outfacing the snow and frost at Brigid’s Day. The hellebores are in flower. The first of the primroses are flowering, too, again in a sheltered corner of the garden.

Yesterday was the first of what my husband terms ‘laundry days!’ Mostly sunny, mild,and with a breeze that promises it will dry your washing if you hang it on the line outdoors. Given the humidity in Ireland, outdoor drying is something of an art and whim of nature. Yesterday was the first time in many months that I chanced pegging out washing on the line.

We have now had the official opening of spring in my part of Ireland. Which happens to be a stunningly beautiful area. So much so that UNESCO recognises its significant natural and built heritage by naming it as a geopark. I live in a geopark community on the first village on the River Shannon after it pokes its head out from underground caverns and begins to flow towards the Atlantic Ocean.

Poetry practice may have an element of spring fever to it today. But indulge me a little as I have been up since dawn’s earliest suggestion of light. The dawn over the Playbank was a full on kiss this morning.

Arteries

Peachy rose gold threads
brocading the light
coming up over the Playbank.

The throated notes of waking up song
Is it a robin?
I do not know for sure.

The trickle of the flow-
ditch, spring, stream to out from, feed in
the River Shannon down below.

A clear light. A song's note.
Springtime.
A rise in bloodheat.

The snow on the Playbank
melted ages ago,
a cataract tear

flowing down the drumlins
sculpting  the karst below over ages
with the seasons' flow.