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.

Hibernation Recuperation

I last posted twenty days ago. That was probably the last time I put my fingers to the laptop keyboard. In the interval I have made do with the the finger stabbing at the tablet’s keyboard. I briefly flirted with the dictation facility, but that was just annoying. For this past twenty days I have been in both hiberation and recuperation. I am only just emerging from my bear’s cave.

On 5th January I made the very bad decision of trying to preempt a fight between the two warring tom cats in our household. For my trouble I had over twenty pounds of angry cat hurl himself at me. My forearm was badly bruised, the wrist sprained and there were a number of scratches. Over the night of 6th/7th January as I watched the storming of Capital Hill my right hand swelled to double of the left. By dawn my husband was driving me to Sligo General A&E.

No one wants to go to a hospital in the middle of a pandemic, especially when your country has suddenly ranked first in the world for the number of infections per capita. Also, no one wants to be Cat Scratch Woman on a snowy day when A&E is suddenly flooded with falls, fractures and heart attacks who all are definitely higher in the triage pecking order. By the time Cat Scratch Woman got seen I needed IV antibiotics. There were mutterings about sending me to Galway, three hours away, to see the plastic surgery team there. There were dire mutterings of losing some of the hand’s use. In the end, eight hours after I registered at reception, it was decided I needed to be admitted to hospital for regular antibiotic infusions. They thought I would be there for three days. In the end it was overnight and then home with antiobiotics the size of horse pills.

I am now home fifteen days and do not seem to have have any symptoms of hospital acquired plague. My Covid test at the hospital was negative (Of course! I have been no where and only seen my husband and grocery store staff and had shouted conversations with neighbours from sixty paces away for the past three months!)

A&E Departments are their own little universes at the best of times. In a pandemic they take on a certain surreality. No one spoke to each other. We were all hunched into ourselves, masked behind our masks. The hospital porters seem congenitally, relentlessly cheerful and postive. The hospital cleaning staff toss their banter about like it is street theatre. But those of us waiting were as silent as a church before a funeral Mass.

Once I finally was seen and could find a sandwich to buy I did not want to eat it in A&E. I paused on a bench outside it in the foyer that was the pre-Covid19 entrance to the hospital. A&E is to the right. To the left was once upon a time the Oncology Ward and is now the Covid19 ward. As I chomped on my egg and mayo sandwich a small woman in full protective gear, looking like a back to front elephant, trundled past on her way into that ward. Or was she more like the Caterpillar in the Tenniel drawings of Alice in Wonderland and the hose not an elephant’s trunk, but the Caterpillar’s hookah. Her locomotion was more caterpillar than elephant. Or, as my brother said to me a couple days later, perhaps I was a tad feverish at that point.

They made me Bed 7 in a six bed ward and they kept pumping me full of antiobiotics. My husband had sent out a Facebook request for prayers on my behalf. Between them, and the IV antibiotics, the Orthopoedic bods were happy to send me home by 2pm the next day. Besides, there is pressure for beds. I was released home on the tenth anniversary of my mother’s death.

Compounding that sense of not quite reality were some synchronicities. First, the Malaysian A&E doctor shared my father’s forename. On the ward, one of the nurses was Julian; I say the Julian of Norwich mantra daily. Then came the challenge to get blood from my deep veins. They called in their own Sure Shot, a Polish man originally from the hometown of the Black Madonna, who had a ‘shaman trick’ to finding the vein for the required sample. I wasn’t aware of my small army of well-wishers since I keep social media off my mobile phone, but I felt very ‘held’ all the while nonetheless.

Home has been a slow process of medication and gradual rehabilitation of the hand and wrist. I have managed to keep up the haiku/senryu/tanka a day journal. Though I did have to compose 7th January’s in my head while I was sitting in A&E. My handwriting was very shaky those first days back, but you try writing with your hand in splint!

It has also meant that I have had to let go of certain January projects. There are limits and I have had to humbly accept them. Though I did have a real bargaining phase where I thought I might adapt things. So no 30 day e-course is available for the Season of Imbolc. It was a worthy project, but it will have to be for another year. I especially wanted to do it as this is the tenth anniversary of my leading a Brigid Pilgrimage in Ireland for Celtic Women International. The blandishments of many loving friends, as well as the dearly beloved husband, talked me down from those overzealous ambitions…eventually. I am truly indebted to one of my students for helping me see clearly and to let go of any lingering guilt about not trying to do it all. Once I stopped trying to push the river, the healing began to flow.

I have also had to delay plans to get back to my Zoom classes. This is because I do have a very large project, Mapping the Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark Poem by Poem, in the works. That is going to need a lot of energy, which I do not have an infinite supply of at the moment. More about that in another post.

My fingers may be dancing over the keyboard, but the wrist tires out far sooner than I would like. Domestic chores are my physio therapy and each day I do a little bit more. I am having to treat my body like a temple.

Here are a couple haiku/senryu/micropoems from my journal while I have been in hibernation/recuperation mode.

7th January 2021, Sligo General A&E

Stolid faces gaze
Waiting for their name to be called
Quiet stoicism
21st January 2021

Remorseless toil
Perpetual do over
Sisyphus' housework
23 January 2021

Outside my window
Icing sugar coated world
Birds' chirruping spring

It is good to be back at the keyboard again.

2021 Haiku A Day Anyone?

Happy 2021! I took a two week break from blogging. The laptop, which represents work, was firmly left closed and put away in the drawer. I hope you have had a time of rest during these Twelve Days of Christmas that are time our of time. Literally! The twelve days were leftovers when they switched from the Julian to Gregorian calendar. My rest has been spent reading, calling/Zooming friends and family, making nice food, eating same, making sure I get some exercise everyday (step counter appended) and writing a haiku, senryu or tanka for the Omen Days.

The Omen Days come from a tradition of observing nature during the Twelve Days of Christmas, from 26th December/St. Stephen’s Day/Boxing Day until Epiphany/Nollaig na Ban on 6th January. From each day’s observation one should have some augury for the month of the year ahead. So Stephen’s Day would be Day 1 of the Omen Days. And January 6th is Day 12 of the Omen Days.

Some use tarot cards. I used some Emily Dickinson Divination cards last year. I cannot say if they accurately foretold the theme for each month in the year ahead, but I can say that over 2018/2019, writing a poem a day sustained me while my husband’s sister was dying, the funeral and aftermath.

This year nature and it’s resurgence (and THERE is a lovely word of the year for 2021, isn’t it?!) has sustained us in our isolation. So it seemed right to write a haiku, senryu or tanka each day through the omen days. We shall see if they have been any kind of augury.

Then,as I was totting up some steps on my pedometer the other day, I wondered if I could keep a haiku/senryu/tanka journal for the 365 days of 2021. I have said in previous posts that I feel that Doorways is a real theme for 2021. What doors will open? Maybe by keenly observing nature I will record this threshold time.

I have been given a lovely notebook with bees on it by our goddaughter. It is quite small. A perfect size for keeping a haiku journal. I have a couple projects that are going to keep my nose to the grind stone over the next few months, so keeping my poetry writing hand active with small, obtainable daily objectives seems sensible.

It’s been frosty and cold most of these Omen Days with Day 8 being the exception. Far sunnier than we normally experience in winter, too. My ten year old grandniece in Pennsylvania is a keen amateur meterologist. I wonder what she would predict from our weather? Although she is having far more fun following tornados in Galveston.

Here is a sampling of my Omen Days haiku, senryu and tanka. Haiku traditionally has a season word and, ideally, a bit of an ‘Ah ha! wrapped up in its seventeen syllables. Senryu also has the same seventeen syllable pattern, but observes human nature rather than the environment. A tanka is basically a haiku/senryu capped with two lines of seven syllables each.

Omen Day 1 - St. Stephen's Day, 26th December 2020

When's the sky true white?
A blank page that's fluttering
Wind an ocean roar

Omen Day 4 - 29th December 2020

Birds glide on thermals
They trust in their skill - or fate
Would that I could
Omen Day 5 - 30th December 2020

The forecast: snowfall
Frosty, bone cold daybreak
Prediction: mug's game!

Omen Day 8 - 2nd January 2021

Look up! Starry night
Dots of light sprawl the sky
The infinite small

The haiku shoguns would probably come after some of these efforts. But sometimes you just have to allow yourself to do the best you can and not let others judge it as not good enough.

Be gentle with yourself. Take care. We are not out of this viral storm yet. In the meantime, continue to create. Keep the hearth fire burning in your soul. St. Brigid’s Day is coming soon, and with it a 30 Day e-course to keep you inspired and resilient.

Snowdrops, a harbinger of Spring and Renewal, sacred to the saint and goddess Brigid

Featured image Photo by Jude Beck on Unsplash

High Summer- It’s a Beach

How was your week? It may sound a bit ridiculous when I say we have simmered and sweltered in the sun; the temperature has had a high of 24C (that’s 75 degrees ‘in old money’, as they used to say in England after they changed to a decimilised currency back in the 1970s.) But it is a very humid 75 degrees. I don’t like sweating. With the windows left open at night to welcome Morpheus, the biting insects also fly in overnight. Afternoon naps have become a regular feature of most days.

And, be clear, many of us very pale persons are just not used to  hours of continuous sunshine. My husband spirited his wilting wife off to the seaside mid-week; regular readers will know the Atlantic Ocean is Bee’s Happy Place. We went early and left by lunchtime as sun broke through the cloud cover. It was low tide at Mullaghmore and I waded out to thigh high, kicked the water and anointed myself in salt water. Is there anything more delicious than licking your upper lip after washing your face in seawater?

Mullaghmore Beach
Mullaghmore Beach- It wasn’t quite this empty this week, but there was plenty of social distancing, especially if you kept dogs on extendable leads.

The other important bit of news I need to impart is that there are just a few more places left available on my Zoom Creative Writing Workshops starting on 1st September.

glen-carrie-AzyqGr35vH0-unsplash

You can find full details and the registration form here: Zoom with Word Alchemy in September.

As to the Sunday weekly poem, I am cutting myself some slack this week.  Suddenly, my writing practice has taken a prose turn. It has been a long time since I dipped into writing creative non-fiction and the first draft is a hot mess. But you just have to push through the the merde first draft and see what can be cleaned later. I am 4000 words deep into hot mess first draft and have barely scratched the surface.

So as I looked out my window at an eerily still landscape I decided that a haiku was appropriate.

The restless sleeper
Twists out from sweaty bedclothes
Heat haze shrouds the hills.

May you have a peaceful week. I hope you find your Happy Place, too. And if you cannot physically visit, may the memory of it be vivid and quenching to your parched soul.

NaPoWriMo Day 10 Good Friday

After the fiend of a yesterday’s concrete poem, today’s prompt is a little bit more in my comfort zone. It is a spin on the spare haiku form. Calling itself Hay(na)ku, it is still the familiar three lines. But instead of syllabic counting you need to count words. Line 1 has a single word. Line 2 has two words. Line 3 has 3 words. You can stop with a single stanza or you can link them a bit like a renga.

Nature does not come into it necessarily, like it would for a haiku. Although nature wanted in when I started writing. Also, I realise that I am a product of my religious upbringing, so other certain seasonal imagery crept in. My creative colleague, http://@HelenShay, did a Maundy Thursday poem instead of the concrete poem yesterday, which may be why my own poem today is straying into that territory. Also…I am a product of my religious upbringing, no matter how lapsed I may now be.

(NB: NaPoWriMo is a bit of a community. It is good to connect!)

But before I give you the hay(na)ku, here are some photo images of nature as it is unfurling this spring in my townland in Ireland. I know that for city dwellers this lockdown must be a lot harder than for us country dwellers. Being able to look at nature, even digitally, is supposed to be good for our immune systems. So this is my contribution to shut-ins’ daily dose of immune boosting nature.

townland home
The townland I call home

Communion
 
Leaves
On twigs
Emerged overnight, tiny
 
Blossom
On blackthorn
Appeared communion veiled
 
Trees
Stand. Say
“Take this. Eat.
 
We
Are memory" 
Twig, leaf, thorn
 
Flower
Bud, fruit
Beech mast floor
 
Tree
Branches bare
You and me
 
Copyright © Bee Smith 2020. All rights reserved.
 

From a Distance

How are you doing? The Sunday Weekly poetry post will offer you two poems this week. I have been writing virtually daily though not posting here on such a regular basis. If you want a daily dose of haiku poetry, illustrated with photos taken in our garden, then I recommend that you follow me on Instagram. Look for Word Alchemy for some #haikusofinstagram.

Here in Ireland we are now restricted to remaining within two kilometres of home, except for travel for food shopping or pharmacies or medical centres. Leitrim, which is just the other side of the bridge in our village was the last county in the Republic to report infection. We live in a remote location and can go days just waving at the odd passing car. So not a lot has changed for us, except the new distancing drill at our local supermarket. For such a small village, we are blessed to have a well-stocked shop. While the rest of the world is hoarding toilet paper, in Ireland there has been a run on flour. Apparently, Ireland is baking her way through quarantine.

But before the first poem, so eye candy from the garden.

Cowslip
Cowslip
Daffodils
Daffodils

The first poem came about when my friend in England had a text from her neighbour that the NASA Space Station is visible every night for a brief time. There was too much cloud cover the first night, but I did manage it in a five minute window on Thursday. You can sky watch for it until 4th April. Plug in your location and they will direct you from https://spotthestation.nasa.gov/.

Irish Earth to Space Station
26th March 2020
 
It was a streak, like a comet.
It was a blip. There. Then gone.
So my friend reported from her own
viewing platform
in another country.
 
A crescent moon with Venus
flirting over Her shoulder.
Eyes bisected vectors of horizon,
West, south, east, northeast.
Then. There.
 
In the newly darkened sky a steady
blinking, an elliptical swirling,
a lumbering quasar moving inexorably
in Enniskillen’s direction, an elephant
patrolling earth, crossing borders
 
in air space. No. Make that
outer space, the final frontier.
Wave to those pioneers.
We salute you, space sailors.
Imagine up there if you can
 
all those waves to you from
a distance, before you disappear
behind the cloud cover.
We are waving to you in your
isolation from our own.
 
Copyright ©Bee Smith, 2020. All rights reserved.

Another bit of eye candy before the next poem…

Quaker Bonnet Primrose
The mauve primrose on the left is called Quaker Bonnet


Pocket
 
A river pebble. A small cowrie shell.
A lock of baby hair tied up with silk ribbon.
An acorn found, picked with foraged morel,
in among crumbs of broken chocolate bourbons.
A shiny penny piece of change to spare,
a bit of luck to give up when the hat’s passed round.
All this collection could be anywhere,
but they are soundlessly secure in their clothbound
world. A pocket. Talismans. Amulets
more valuable than a leather wallet.
 
Don’t let anyone pickpocket your joy.
Jingle your happiness like a carefree schoolboy.
 
Copyright © Bee Smith, 2020. All rights reserved.

Look out for haiku during the week with Word Alchemy on Instagram. Check in here, too. You never know what might turn up…

Start the Week: Write Haiku

As many of my readers will know, I am a great advocate for writing a poem a day. Some folk are natural rhymsters and rappers. Others are not. To those who are averse to end rhyme I commend the practice of haiku and senryu writing. It is perfect for a contemplative life. Writing poetry is very grounding. It’s like a daily internal check-in with your heart. But you are also looking outwards, noticing seasonal changes or human behavioural foibles. Haiku and senryu are gentle poems. Gentleness is what we need right now – both with ourselves and to others.

Try it. Seventeen syllables. You can do it in less, but absolutely no more. That’s the boundary on your haiku ballpark. Three lines. Although some people do two or four. The lines are flexible. For haiku you need to use a kigo, or seasonal word, that gives us a hint of the season when written. Something like daffodils to indicate spring. Oh, and another thing. No comparisons. No ‘as a..’ or ‘like a’.

Senryu is more an observation of human behaviour. Often it is wryly amused. But also it often has great affection.

What I offer to you today is really neither a classic senryu or haiku. So that falls into the category of a micropoem. But it was a very pleasing snap taken in our garden. For people who are staying in and do not have a view of spring emerging I thought I would offer this picture with a few words.

haiku senryu micropoem buddha garden

Cocooning

It’s a golden Sunday morning in a week that will shape all our lives. I really like that our Taoiseach has called this time of social distancing cocooning. We are waiting for the new beginning, the afterwards when there will be a transformation and a beautiful butterfly will burst forth. I am sure he may not have have all that metaphorical stuff going on when he was writing his St. Patrick’s Day speech to the nation, but…it works for me! Because there is great beauty in the expressions of kindness to one another that are happening. We are called to cherish one another. May the butterfly that emerges from this cocooning time be one of kindness and universal care, that the time spent in isolation will be a cure for our most selfish instincts. Wouldn’t that be something?!

For those who are staying home and want creative activities, Poetry Ireland’s poet in residence is posting a daily poetry spark to get you started. Check out Catherine Ann Cullen’s Twitter @tarryathome. She posts a prompt for kids and adults. I am writing daily and have been finding writing haiku a wonderful exercise in focusing on calm. Spring is here, despite some cold temperatures and hoar frost in the morning. Things are growing and transforming. Our little acre is waking up and looking lively.

Stay tuned for random haiku here on the blog. Even if you don’t have a window and are unable to get out to public gardens to view the daffodils, I will beam you some of nature’s signs that creation persists. Haiku writing can be habit forming though. You have been warned! Given the restrictions of seventeen syllables, a seasonal hint, and making sense in the English language, not to mention having a little Zen something, it can be fiendishly challenging. A bit like crossword puzzles. But so worth it! It really does cure the hamster wheel of negative thoughts going round. Try it!

But here is the Sunday weekly poem. Which was in part sparked by a quotation from an Egyptian poet Iman Mersal:

Poetry is a journey in the dark towards an unknown destination.

Iman Mersal
I Know You Read This Poem
 
I know you read this poem
as if it were some sorcery,
or a conjuring trick, or as if
it were a spell for a way out.
I know you read this poem
with fear in your heart.
 
I know you read this poem
as it if were a map
of an uncharted territory.
And I know! That's an oxymoron,
but they often contain all known
fears at their very heart.
 
I know you read this poem
because you want to learn
how to read your own heart,
because you seek a kind of light
to show you the way out. 
And because you also want
 
there to be more than fear
in your heart. So…
You turn again and again to art.
Which is why I know you read
this poem, which is part spell and
part prayer, from deep in my heart.
 
Copyright © Bee Smith 2020. All rights reserved.

Vernal Equinox Haiku

Spring arrived in the early morning hours. I awoke to the most sparkling of mornings. The light was golden. There was frost on our field. It is the perfect day for gardening. My 70 year old birthday boy husband has been out since he finished his breakfast. A sunny day in the garden is the best of birthday presents as far as he is concerned. It is the perfect day, as far as I am concerned, to be writing some haiku and sharing them with the world, especially for those who do not have nature within eyeshot.

I have been writing each morning. Here are some spring time haiku for you. I hope you have some garden space, or a window box, some compost, so you, too, can grub around in some dirt.

vernal equinox haiku

HumpDay Haiku 3

Many who normally would not be at home midweek and able to surf the internet, welcome! If uncertainty is certainly our new normal, this is my tip for those new to staying at home. Try writing a poem a day. It beats paranoia and if you draft it with pen and paper, that will keep you temporarily distracted from news of Doomsday as you cower behind your bog roll tower. (Seriously, some are going without because others were greedy and somehow thought this bug gives you the shits. It doesn’t. So stop hoarding so those who have medical conditions that require a lot of toilet paper have some! My brother reports that New York City seems sold out.)

If you are new to the writing a poem a day gig I suggest that you connect on Twitter with Poetry Ireland’s poet in residence Catherine Ann Cullen (@tarryathome). She is posting a prompt daily, one for kids and one for adults. From personal experience I can say that writing a poem a day is a very grounding activity. It will help harness some of those monkeys swinging on the bars of your jungle gym mind.

While I am less enthusiastic about poetry manuscript re-writes at the moment I am thinking that I will step up the poetry practice, even if I don’t post daily. For the moment I am sticking with the midweek haiku and the Sunday Weekly. But that may change. Which mirrors our current reality.

In the meantime HumpDay Haiku is here:

HumpDay Haiku