January Micro(scopic) Poems

It is one of those bright winter mornings where there is real fire in the sun’s rays. You can understand why Brigid’s feast day is this time of year. You can also understand why some translate her name as ‘bright arrow.’ She is also described as a ‘sun gold’ or ‘red gold’ woman. On this Irish morning I get it. It is very real and imminent.

For my poetry practice this morning I felt drawn to writing haiku, senryu and micropoems. Micropoems are little things. Haiku celebrate a (hopefully) epiphanous moment in nature; senryu look (often wryly, frequently fondly and humourously) at human nature. They do it in seventeen syllables or less. Micropoems cover the rest of the tiny poems that fulfill neither technical description. They have a wider thematic brief and also tend to have titles, whereas haiku and senyru go out into the world nameless.

This was actually how I started the day.

 A thump as beak meets glass
Hey! Open up the Birdy's Café!

This time of year in Celtic lore is considered a wrestling match between Mother Winter, the Cailleach, and the Maiden, Brighid.

The Last of the Cailleach

Safe in her cave
Sucking marrow from bone
Bright rays piece her fastness

Actually, it is often the coldest weather right at this time of year in Ireland. Often this is the the last push for snow and ice at Imbolc, so we acknowledge this by making hearty stews and mashed potato or ham and colcannon. Neeps are not just for Burn’s night either. Turnip and bacon is pure January comfort food. Making a stew from shin of beef probably inspired this.J

To fire our bellies
We want to sup marrow from bone
Hungry days

But then the Maiden Brigid is right on the threshold of the season and year. Spring is coming. We see it in the bulbs popping up. The gorse has bloomed again in this upland country. (And it’s scent is almost tropical! True!) This little poem is a riff on the old custom of welcoming St. Brigid into you house, opening your front door and saying the welcome aloud.

These fiery rays
Melting morning's frost
Brigid is welcome! She is!
A welcome to Brigid, acknowledging both her saintly and goddess status

This is a week where I will be giving public readings of some of my Brigid inspired poems, weaving St. Brigid’s crosses, telling Her folklore to groups and generally having a lot of fun. It is time to bake my special seed cake because we are on the threshold of new growth. It’s time! We can feel it in our belly.

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Omen Days 11

The penultimate day of Omen Days. And, later today or the early hours of tomorrow depending upon your time zone, a New Moon eclipse. For the first time in what feels like weeks I missed the pre-dawn call to poetry. I woke to daylight, having slept nearly eleven hours. Not waking in the darkness does add a new dimension to omen seeking. So after the pets paraded outside to do what they needed to do, I opened the curtains to see another steady parade of seekers at the bird feeder.

Two friends have commented on some of my…well, let’s just call it thematic continuity for me. Mick asks “What is it about you and rocks, Bee?” Patricia arches an elegant brow and queries, ” What is this compulsion to feed, Bee?”

I could not settle until I had hoked out the wild bird seed and refilled the feeder just outside the window where I am now typing this. Hence, a haiku for today’s Poetry Daily.

The blue tit and robin
perch on the feeder
cock heads, stare
hopefully

Featured Image: Photo by Jan Meeus on Unsplash

Haiku Out November

haiku walk

Yesterday, despite gloomy weather forecasts, I led the final Creative Ireland Haiku Mindfulness workshop. Rain held off and we even saw a splash of sun and fluffy cloud. This workshop included the entire student body of Curravagh National School, Glangevlin, Co. Cavan. So, with two teachers, my beloved husband bringing up the rear herding stragglers, the seventeen pupils took a nature walk up Claddagh Glen in Florencecourt, Fermanagh.

Yes, that’s right! Seventeen bright sparks make up a school in the upland reaches of Co. Cavan. It is a two room, two teacher school and just pure pleasure to visit and work in. While the youngest pupils were not haiku writers, they were taking pleasure in the nature walk, learning names of tree species, and ferns, mosses and lichen. As I have heard others say, “Nature teaches stillness.” And stillness is key to mindfulness. We paused for some moments to listen to the river flow over its rocky bed and enjoyed that quality of silence when twenty pairs of ears listen to it. Or the roar of the Cascade Waterfall.

Footage of the Cascade Waterfall in Claddagh Glen, part of Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark.

Haiku is often one of the first poetry forms introduced to school children, along with acrostics and list poems. Yet, it is a real challenge for children who are just learning to form sentences to start chucking out the definate and indefinate articles. However, what they have no problem with is letting their ‘imagination eye’ rove and see wonders.  One lad regaled me with how a bush could be a castle and a palisade of straight young ash trees became sentries. No goats or herons appeared but they were mesmerised by a spider’s web on a tree.

Back in the classroom, with a cup of hot chocolate in hand they told everyone what images had really impressed them – the hollowed holes at the base of a tree trunk, that spider’s web, tree rings on felled trunks, the big waterfall, and the much smaller one running down the rock face with the many kinds of fern.

I now have a wealth of haiku written from four differant groups – the general public, some residents of Loughan House,  and the children of St. Hugh’s National School, Dowra and Curravagh, National School in Glangevlin. Now I will sit down with artist Tamaris Taylor and we will select some for illustration that can be on permanent display in Dowra Courthouse Creative Space.

Not to forget my own poetry practice for today. Or my ‘poetry daily’ as one friend has styled it. (I like it. It’ll stick!)  Two haiku, one inspired by yesterday’s outing. And one about this morning. I really am getting up early. I replied to a friend’s message who found it patently weird to hear from me at dawn’s break. This morning lark turnabout is freaking my friend’s out!

Small cascade flowing
over rock face baby's tears
Water's power
The year winds down
Wind me up clockwork style
To power through December

Have a great weekend as we begin the final month of 2018.

Dawn to Dusk Haiku

May not have mentioned it, and you wouldn’t need to otherwise know unless you stayed with us,  that I am not a morning person. I need to have a gentle run at the day- say two hours- before I fully have the power of speech. So if I am facilitating a morning workshop I need to get up way earlier because I am definitely not a hit the ground running sort of person. I also reserve that gentle ingress into the day for poetry practice. Given that I was due at the local primary school for 9:30AM, I felt I should spend some quality time with pen and paper beforehand. Because I have been doing this poem a day for over two months now, I was worried I might get ratty with the wee darlings (who are only nine to twelve years old after all) unless I did some poem creating.

Now here it is coming up to sunset before I am anywhere near able to post. Since the workshop was on haiku writing and mindfulness, I limbered up this morning with some.

Dawn Crack

Phone alarm goes off

It’s dark. And chilly

Pull the duvet up!

Pinky mauve fingers

Stroke dawn’s azure sky

Wooly weather. Wrap up!

And, just to round out my day after workshop and life laundry…

Dusk Chorus

Wind down the day

A pink in the west

Last chance for grub at Bird Café

Copyright Bee Smith 2018

Haiku Walking

An early start for the second of my Creative Ireland mindfulness haiku walks on the Cavan Burren. This particular group came from the Education Centre at the local low security prison.  I love working with these guys and it is always a privilege. The Cavan Burren offers megaliths, upland landscape and woodland where rock art and remains of neolithic living can be seen. It has a very special presence. And while it is a specially earned opportunity, it also challenges guys who are used to a foreshortened viewpoint. Up by the Tullygubban Wedge Tomb they could look out and count six counties. They could look down on their own residence over looking Lough MacNean where ancient people left remains of shellfish feasts. Some city dwellers have only ever experienced concrete. This was wilderness to some Dubs amongst us.

And then how do you handle presence and silence when you have been living in a perpetually noisy environment? That, too, is a challenge. For then the chatter in the mind gets louder sometimes. Which is where mindfulness meditation can come in handy.

Haiku can help focus on a moment – a pause, a revelation – and then share that connection. So many offenders in prison have some element of addiction that contributed to their landing there. Studies in Portugal have posited that the opposite of addiction is connection. Connection is the business of poetry. Which is why I am in there pitching poetry writing  for the past four years. I hope the lads have got as much out of it as I have received.

Two haiku from today’s foray:

In the woods – the wind

Ruffling spruce needles whoosh.

And. What’s that? Silence

Coming down Mollie’s Brae

A rainbow: my wish

A way to be free

Haiku to a Quieter Mind

I am prepping for a workshop later this week which combines a walk in a Geopark forest with mindfulness and haiku writing. Synchronously, a friend pointed me to a website that is  running online haiku courses to override negative thinking. While I am not sure that haiku writing can achieve that, what I do know is that because it is grounded in the present moment it is similar to mindfulness meditation. While it may not completely quiet a mind, I do think a regular practice of writing haiku or senryu may help the mental chatter and static recede. Nor am I persuaded that it is constructive to label any of our thoughts as ‘bad.’ It is what we do with our thoughts – whether they harm ourselves or others – when put into action that is more to the point. Mindfulness meditation helps us enter into a space where we witness our thoughts and let them go. Or,alternatively, they can be put to paper.

Haiku is traditionally nature based and is no more than seventeen syllables long. Senryu is also seventeen syllables long, but takes human behaviour, often human foibles, as its inspiration. Either, being grounded in a moment of perception and realisation, ground our witness consciousness using this abbreviated format. It may not calm you, but I do believe it helps centre even the most restless and anxious mind.

Today’s poetry practice is neither haiku or senryu, but a tanka. A tanka is a five line poem made up of a haiku with a capping two liner made up of fourteen syllables. Traditionally, the Japanese use a format of 5-7-5-7-7 syllables. I have kept the syllabic count, but arranged it to make sense as an English language speaker.

Leaf frost

Golden sun crowning Paddy’s hill

The day is in right order

Light spreads over our townland

The world is in right order