It’s Not All Countdown

The closing date for submissions to the MACGeopark digital Poetry Map is fast approaching. The closing date is 15th June 2021 and I am still getting enquiries for submission guidelines. While I am feeling the countdown of days – 5, 4,3,2,1…it’s not all about the countdown. There are a lot of moveable parts to this project and even after the closing date there is much more that will happen before it is unveiled in October 2021.

Last month’s blast of poetry prompts and memes on Twitter and even Instagram seems to have caught some traction. We have had an open call out since Poetry Day Ireland since 29th April for poem on specific sites within Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark that highlights some aspect its geoheritage. Martina O’Neill, Development Officer for Partnership & Engagement created a wonderful document siting the geoheritage points of dozens of sites around the Geopark. (I quoted copiously during the 14 days of Geoheritage Poetry Prompts for the Poetry Map.) The earth has been reflected in ancient monuments like the wedge tombs and dolmens, and more recently, in industries like Belleek Pottery and family run lime kilns. The Geopark has glacial erratics, but also has the built heritage that the smaller rocks were used to make sweathouses, dry stone walls, castles and abbeys. We also have many sites of special scientific interest for plants and the blanket bog on Cuilcagh and other upland areas. Because of the limestone we have orchids, too.

Early Purple Orchid

But that is only one moveable part of the project. First we commissioned five established writers to create new work. Dara McAnulty, author of the award-winning Diary of a Young Naturalist, will write on Big Dog Mountain. (The North American edition has just been published by Milkweed.) Noel Monaghan has many poetry collections published by Salmon Poetry; Loughoughter is his chosen site. Maria McManus grew up in Belcoo with the Marble Arch Caves just down the road from her homeplace. Seamus Mac Annaidh has published in many genres – novels, poetry and history – in the Irish language and is known by English readers mostly for books centring on Fermanagh history. A J Quinn is best known for his crime novel series set in Northern Ireland and Scotland.

We were able to announce all the commissions for Poetry Day Ireland on 29th April 2021. Then began the push and open call to new and emerging poets for their poems which will conclude this Tuesday, 15th June.

Sundials are much quieter than ticking clocks…potentially more earth friendly, too…

The other part of the project has been really challenging. How to involve school age children? I have facilitated poetry workshops in primary schools before. So that held no terror. But there was a long wait for getting vaccinated as I felt it only prudent, given my age and health, to have that done before venturing out. Immunity Day came on 24th May for me.

But even venturing out still means not going into schools. And therein we have another challenge – the Irish weather! The school year for primary pupils ends in the last week of June. This has been an extraordinarily challenging year for teachers and having someone come into the school with an additional project which may, or may not, compliment the curriculum was just one factor to consider. The other is that they are playing catch up from winter when they have only had home schooling. In rural areas remote learning was sometimes just impossible. As far as I am concerned teachers are the unsung front liners of this pandemic.

Yet despite all these challenges one school in Cavan and Fermanagh agreed to have me come in for a 45 minute session on the project. Fortunately, the Geopark has a lot of good material that is aimed at schools that were stockpiled from when they could engage with them pre-pandemic.

Given Covid regulations the workshops are outdoors. Fortunately, the rain and the midges were busy elsewhere when I worked with the older students at Curravagh National School in Glangevlin, Co. Cavan. What better way to teach geoheritage than to point to the rocky outcrop behind the school and name it – karst, weathered limestone. And then swing my arm the other direction and talk about drumlins and how drumlins even gave their name to a Cavan abbey. Outdoor classrooms have more than just one advantage.

I have worked with these kids before and it felt joyful to see how much they have grown and matured over the two years since I last worked with them in June 2019. Even though we were outdoors, I masked so that I could look at their work and help them when they asked questions. But what really impressed me was that all but the very youngest pupil opted to wear a mask, too. As did their teacher.

But who they really wanted to see was my husband, who they know for his guitar and singing and sometimes even a story. He sang into his plastic face shield from a safe social distance. And somehow, it felt a bit like the old normal for us and for the kids. As their principal told me. They need to see new faces and hear new slants on things. It was a memory of how things were when we last met two years ago and how things are now, but still there could be some silly singalongs and laughter.

On the 15th Tony and I will be in Fermanagh, but there the primary school has a big bell tent that we can shelter in at a safe social distance with a large group. The tent has been acquired because of the interest in Forest Schools post-pandemic. And they are fortunate enough to have the space for it. There, too, the head teacher was keen when he learned that my driver can come along with his guitar. We dropped off the Geopark material and my lesson plan in advance to prep the class teacher on what we aim to accomplish – a poem. I have two short forms to offer that can rhyme or not, but what I really am eager is to hear where they have been in the Geopark and how they feel about those places. Getting some aspect of the arts into schools during the pandemic is considered a huge boost to the kids by teachers who know the added value they bring.

In the Cavan school I learned that one pupil has a lime kiln on their land. (Oh, for a lime kiln or sweathouse to feature in a poem; wish list!) Another lad climbed Cuilcagh with his family as a memorial walk on the anniversary of his father’s death. Geoheritage is not something museum-like to these kids who live in Geopark communities. It is all around them and inside them.

You can email queries or submissions to GeoparkPoetryMap@gmail.com by 15th June 2021.

MACGeopark Poetry Map Work Continues

It is a bank holiday weekend here is the Republic of Ireland. There is still time to visit various sites around Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark and see if your poem could make its mark on our digital Poetry Map. The project includes five commissioned poets who are working on poems on the Marble Arch Caves, Cuilcagh Mountain, Big Dog Forest, Devenish Island and Cloughoughter. Your poem could be one among those written by Dara McAnulty, Anthony J Quinn, Noel Monaghan, Maria McManus and Seamus McCanny. Poems can be in Irish, but need to be accompanied by an English translation.

There are well over fifty sites scattered across the many hectares of land that straddle the Fermanagh and Cavan boundary. The Marble Arch Caves was the original site, along with nearby Cuilcagh Mountain Park, that first earned European Geopark status . We became a Global Geopark in 2004. But there was a wider vision. With the Good Friday Belfast Treaty of 1998, there was the real opportunity to create the very first cross-border Global Geopark on the planet. South Fermanagh and West Cavan share the lakes, drumlins and moraines, the limestone and Neolithic history that were formed long before a line was drawn on a map in 1921.

Just as UNESCO recognises that the Giant’s Causeway and Brú na Boinne are part of world heritage, so too do they recognise that this landscape is also an important feature of world heritage. Geoheritage will be celebrated in the poems that will mark these sites on our digital Poetry Map, which will go live on the Geopark website this October.

The deadline for teen and adult submissions closes on 15th June 2021. We have already received submissions not just from Cavan and Fermanagh, but from the USA, France and Singapore! The project has been able to engage with the Irish diaspora, as well as let the wider world know about the importance of what lies beneath our feet.

Meanwhile, Covid-19 restrictions have meant that working with the Fermanagh primary schools and the Cavan National Schools has been fraught with obstacles. So far I have a school in each county for one session each. Basically, I will be facilitating a geoheritage poetry workshop outdoors. The Fermanagh school has a bell tent, which is blessing, given the capricious and often fluid nature of Irish weather. The Cavan school will check the weather on the morning and we shall go forth accordingly in faith with a prayer that the weather gods be kind.

When I was first proposing a project in pre-Covid 19 days, it was with a plan to engage with schools on Poetry Ireland Day 2020. We may not be in Lockdown these days, but we still live with restrictions that are often unpredictable. I do want to try and involve the kids – they are the future of the planet after all – in some way. I have to say that teachers really have my sympathy. They are working under some really stressful circumstances. One principal noted that while the Department had said that school trips were now allowed, another directive indicated that transport for said proposed outings was not available! I imagine that across the country many feel that what is given with one hand is then often taken by the other! Teachers have been working heroes and sheroes these past eighteen months and they are sometimes not given the credit for being pandemic front liners.

I am just grateful that I am vaccinated and that we can do these gigs outdoors (roll on Forest Schools!), which is actually more appropriate when you are talking about the earth. I can wear a face visor, so the kids will be able to see my face. Both principals mentioned that their kids are hungry for seeing new faces and hearing a differant slant on a subject. In which case, I feel a bit like Inspiration R Us! (Tony is allowed to bring his guitar into the bell tent. When I cautiously asked if he was allowed to not have to sit in the car to wait for me, I tentatively ventured that he bring his guitar. The response was not just positive, but positively enthusiastic! He may even have a short Geopark kind of story up his sleeve, too!)

There are lots of moveable parts to this project. We have commissioned work, poems from new and emerging poets, and school children. The final piece will be recording all the poems so that there will be both an ‘off the screen’ and an ‘in your ear’ poetry experience. The digital Geopark Poetry Map will go live in October 2021.

There is still time for you to make a contribution to this project! Ten days left to submit a poem!

Geopark Poetry Map Prompts 9

Greetings from a scattered sunshine day here in a MACGeopark community. I say scattered sunshine because there is still the odd raindrop now and then. But at least it is not the hail stones that drummed on our roof yesterday! Spring is coming late to us in 2021, which may be why we just bought ourselves an upcycled fire pit. It is made from old tire rims and other bits and pieces. If we are going to have a cuppa with friends outdoors then we shall be swathed in blankets and can toast our toes along with the marshmellows this summer!

For today’s Geopark Poetry Map prompt I am sticking with the water theme. Because, along with rocks, water is a lot of what we have got! Today, I want to highlight Shannon Pot, the point when the underground source of the River Shannon bursts above ground to pour itself along ever widening banks down the length of the Republic of Ireland. My husband and I live in Dowra, the first village on the River Shannon after it’s rise a few miles north We pitched up in Dowra on a Mart Saturday back in September 2001. Little did I know then that this small corner of Geopark heaven would wind up being the place I have been resident longest in my lifetime. Who would have thunk it?!

But…back to the Shannon Pot:

The Shannon Pot is located in the foothills of Cuilcagh Mountain and is regarded as the
source of the River Shannon, the longest river in Ireland and the UK, with a length of
approximately 280km. The river flows from its source on Cuilcagh Mountain, to its estuary
below Limerick, and together with its tributaries drains an area of some 15,500km2, or about
one-fifth of the island of Ireland.
The Shannon Pot’s fame can be traced to the legendary Finn MacCool and the Fianna, the
great warriors of Irish mythology. Legend has it that Síonnan, the daughter of Lodan (a son
of Lír, the Celtic God of the Sea) came to the Shannon Pot in search of the great Salmon of
Wisdom. The salmon was angered by the sight of Síonnan and caused the pool to overflow
and drown the maiden. Thus the Shannon Pot was created. As surface water flows down from Cuilcagh Mountain, it will eventually sink and flow as underground streams and rivers. Up until recently it was thought that the Shannon Pot was the ultimate source of the River Shannon, but water tracing experiments have revealed that the Shannon Pot is fed by a variety of streams that sink on Cuilcagh Mountain, the furthest of these being over 10km away in county Fermanagh.
In this region, whenever water sinks underground, it works its way downwards through pure limestone (Dartry Limestone Formation) until it reaches the impermeable muddy limestone(Glencar Limestone Formation) below, forcing it to travel along this boundary until it intersects the surface as a spring or resurgence. However, the Shannon Pot is unusual as
the resurgence here is found within sandstone and shales, meaning that there is an
additional influence on the underground hydrology, apart from the lithology. In this instance
there are a number of faults that are most likely to have controlled the flow of groundwater,
acting as conduits instead of the limestone itself.
The hydrology of Cuilcagh Mountain has been studied for over 30 years, with many
important water tracing experiments being conducted to determine the underground flow of water.

Martina O’Neill, Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark Development Officer, Partnership & Engagement

Our very first Christmas in Dowra we visited Shannon Pot before having our dinner. We had closed on the sale of our new home not three days prior. It felt very peaceful and we were completely in a state of awe and gratitude that we could afford to live in such a gloriously beautiful place, so close to nature.

I also have very fond memories of visiting Shannon Pot with a USA visitor on a misty and rainy April day. The hawthorn was blooming in the hedgerows that line the path down to the Pot. Through the mist we saw this very white horse (often called greys) with a sheep. It felt very ‘into the magical.’

You can visit the Shannon Pot if you are in Ireland. It is along the posted Cavan Way hiking trail. If you visit by car there is a picnic spot and small playground to exercise the little ones.

Here is a video that my friend Jane Gilgun posted on You Tube ten years ago. The information is all still relevant and it gives a good feel for the landscape.

Geoheritage of Shannon Pot

I hope these blogs will prompt geoheritage-themed poems that will put this site on our digital Geopark Poetry Map and inspire you to visit the Geopark. All the sites are open to the public now. You can get full submissions guidelines by emailing GeoparkPoetryMap@gmail.com. The closing date for submissions is 15th June 2021.

River Shannon between Shannon Pot and Dowra

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.

Geopark Poetry Map Prompts 7

Having a good weekend Earth lovers and Poetry writers? I hope so. To spur on geoheritage poems on #MACGeopark sites for our digital Poetry Map, I have been posting blog prompts for a week now with every intention of offering another week’s worth of poetry prompts. All the Geopark sites are open for visits and we are, at long last, able to travel outside our own county. You can get full guidelines and some great research resources by emailing GeoparkPoetryMap@gmail.com . The closing date for entries is 15th June 2021.

Today’s featured site is Lough Annagh, near Belturbet, Co. Cavan. The photos featured today are by my Zoom fitness instructor, Claire Shannon, who lives virtually beside the lough. She is also part of an intrepid group of year round swimmers known as Lake Annagh Dippers.

Remember back to Poetry Day Ireland and my poem about ribbed moraines? No? Here is a refresher.https://sojourningsmith.blog/2021/04/29/mapping-a-part-of-the-geopark-this-poetry-day-ireland/ Lough Annagh is part of the Lough Oughter system of ribbed moraines.

It is also part of a Special Protection Area and Special Conservation Area as a natural eutrophic lake. Whooper Swans over winter here from their Icelandic summer nesting home and year round residents include widgeon and crested grebes. So plenty of geoheritage happening here to find its way into a poem!

Geopark Poetry Map Prompts 5

Hello Earth lovers and Poetry Lovers! For the fifth day of highlighting sites which your poem could potentially put on our digital #MACGeopark #PoetryMap, I thought we would look at how the land relates to the region’s ecclesiastical heritage. With the coming of Christianity many monastic sites were founded on islands in the loughs and rivers in the Geopark region. Lough Erne and the Shannon River and its tributaries acted as a medieval motorway. There was a chain of monastic communities up and down Lough Erne.

In County Fermanagh, two of these former monastic communities are now Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark sites. Cavan’s St. Mogue’s Island in Templeport Lough is also a Geopark site.

Here is what Martina O’Neill, the Geopark’s Development Officer for Partnership and Engagement writes about Inishmacsaint , Devenish and St. Mogue’s Island.

The small island of Inishmacsaint can be reached via a small pontoon accessed after a short
walk from the car park. Inishmacsaint is one of several important ecclesiastical sites located along the natural waterways of the Geopark. The founding saint, St Ninnid, lived in the 6th century, and was a contemporary of St Molaise of Devenish and St Mogue of Drumlane.This early monastic site contains a comprehensive record of different church styles is also home to a High Cross, thought to date from the 10th or 12th centuries.

Martina O’Neill, MACGeopark Development Officer, Partnership and Engagement

St. Ninnid’s name is immortalised in the hill overlooking Upper Lough Erne, Knockninny. as well. St. Molaise’s name crops up in parishes across the region, not just on Devenish Island. Back in the 1930s, Duchas, Ireland’s Heritage Council, collected folklore from school children. One of the stories that is in the online archive can be found here: https://www.duchas.ie/en/cbes/4602719/4598212/4630220.

Devenish Island can be visited by boat. Here are some images from a visit I made back in 2015. The roundtower, built during the Viking invasions as a defense, is as fine an example as the one that can be found in Glendalough.

St. Mogue’s Island in Templeport has a reputed ‘cure’ from the clay on the island. Miraculous and protective qualities are part of the folklore of many sites with a spiritual history. One of the stories involves the flouting stone that St. Mogue was sent off the island as a newborn to be baptised post haste. The floating rock was pumice, which is found locally. St. Mogue is also associated with Drumlane Abbey, which is a Geopark site.

I hope you find some inspiration from these visuals and research pointers will help you create and submit your geoheritage themed poem. We want to put less well-known Geopark sites ‘on the map’ in the public’s consciousness. If you would like to get submission guidelines email GeoparkPoetryMap@gmail.com. Closing date for submissions is 15th June 2021.

Geopark Poetry Map Prompts 3

Hello Earthlovers and Poetry Writers! This is Day 3 of a fortnight of poetry prompts to help you write a site specific, geoheritage poem that will put that site on the digital Poetry Map of Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark. You still have time to submit your poem. The closing date is 15th June 2021.You can email GeoparkPoetryMap@gmail.com and I can email a map of the Geopark and plenty of supporting material that will give you useful background to many of the sites.

Today I want to look at the interaction between the land and how it influences the development of industry in a region. Belleek Pottery is an international brand. So many of us have been given some Belleek ceramics as a wedding gift or a landmark birthday or anniversary present. When I led the Celtic Women International Brigit’s Day Tour in 2011, a visit to the factory in Belleek was a special request for the itinerary for a group of visitors from the USA.

But the reason Belleek has become the internationally renowned ceramic brand is down to the feldspar and kaolin deposits in the region of Castle Caldwell. Let me quote from the document created for the Geopark Poetry Map project by Martina O’Neill, Development Officer-Partnerships & Engagement.

During the 1840`s the Caldwell family fortune declined, leading to the entire estate,
including the village of Belleek, being passed to John Caldwell Bloomfield. It was Bloomfield
who commissioned a geological survey of the estate, revealing rich mineral deposits
of Feldspar and Kaolin (china clay). These minerals are important raw materials used in
the production of fine china and so Bloomfield capitalised on his good fortune by founding
the now world famous Belleek Pottery and to this end a large industrial lime kiln is present
along the loughshore.


The rock that surrounds Castle Caldwell Forest form part of what is known as the Lough
Derg inlier, inlier being the term given to an area of formation of older rock surrounded by
younger ones. The inlier allows a window through the ‘shallow’ sub-surface rocks to reveal
deeper and older formations. These are metamorphic rocks, pegmatites, have been formed
due to the transformation of existing rocks, by heat and pressure. These are coarsely
crystalline granitic rock produced in the final stages of cooling from the molten state. Veins
of unaltered pegmatite are found in this area, cutting though the earlier rocks and their
structure. They contain quartz, microcline feldspar and the micas biotite and muscovite. It
primarily this microcline feldspar, along with a clay similar to Kaolin also found on the estat that provided the original raw material for the porcelain produced at Belleek Pottery. Kaolin
is typically associated with the weathering of rocks rich in feldspar.

Martina O’Neill for Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark

Do you have a poem about Castle Caldwell or Belleek china? Did you purchase some as a souvenir of a trip to Ireland? Or was it a wedding present? Consider how the land has sustained employment for generations in the area and its by-product travelled the world.

If you do have a poem about this MACGeopark site, please submit your poem to be considered for the MACGeopark Poetry Map. Email me for full submission guidelines at GeoparkPoetryMap@gmail.com.

What is Geoheritage?

The poems for the Geopark Poetry Map are beginning to drop into the GeoparkPoetryMap@gmail.com inbox. We have twenty more days for poem submissions and I thought a timely reminder on the theme of geoheritage might be in order. Now this is how scientists view the matter. Geoheritage 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.’

What could this mean as the subject of a poem? Think long time and slow time, what ice ages have written in the land and how that has affected those who have lived on it. In that respect you might want to write a poem about the lime kilns, sweat houses, the dolmens and wedge tombs that were created from the glacial eratics that can be found across the landscape. This is one I see virtually everyday when I walk my dog down our lane, sitting in the middle of a field.

Hag Stone Corrogue

It is also the way water, wind and the earth interact with one another and how they slowly change over time. When I walk around Cavan Burren Park the limestone pavement was once subtropical sea floor.

If you look at our townlands’ names in the Irish you see the literal landscape painted in language. Down the lane from us is a little lough called Corrakeeldrum. In Irish it is Corr an Chaoldroma. This translates as the round hill in the narrow ridge. Those rounded hills are drumlins and drumlins are what is very distinctive about our Geopark landscape. Have a look at this photo and see for yourself.

Corrakeeldrum

Whether you choose rock art or fossils wrought in rock we see the long stretch of eons in the making. Poetry is about both connecting and making with language. The glacial eratics on the landscape and the waterways have been immortalised in myth. A rock is Fionn McCool’s fist. A pool springing from underground caves becomes the source of the River Shannon that will run all the way down the length of the land. Two wedgetombs mark the place where two Giants would leap across a dry river valley. Story helps us connect the long time in our own immediate time. The bards, Ireland’s original poets, did just that.

You can play at being an archaelogist with language and imagination instead of a trowel and soft brush when you write poems on the theme of geoheritage. For the weekly poem I have chosen an older poem that has been tinkered with over years. Poems, too, evolve over long time. This one I worked and reworked until I got sick of the sight of it. But today I pulled it out and the tinkering was a pleasure. And it still may not be ‘done!’ done. Sometimes the re-drafting process is a bit like chipping an image into rock like those cup and ring marks of old.

Except in our own age we have deadlines to attend to. The deadline for submitting poems to the Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark Poetry Map is 31st May 2021.

Layers

As a marriage can be happy,
fruitful as a tree –bud, blossom, 
to ripe berry.

Another layer of being,
many and one, but never
one and the same.

The land is layer on layer-
mud, grit, sandstone, granite, and lime, 
veined with iron.

Once, land was the word for people-
springing up to bud to blossom
to ripe berry.

Once, land  also meant belonging.
Just as a forest is a tree’s
one family.

Copyright ©Bee Smith, 2021. All rights reserved

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

Will You NaPoWriMo this April?

sunflower

I think this is my fourth or fifth year of writing a poem a day every day in April, which is both National and Global Poetry Writing Month. It may sound daunting, but there is no better way to up your poetry writing game than by writing regularly. With the daily prompts and supporting material from websites like https://www.napowrimo.net/ you can really exercise your poetry writing muscles. I like to think of it as a kind of poetry jocks’ annual event. Which is sort of cognitively dissonant since most poets are the antithesis of jock. But, hey ho!

Tarot afficionados may like Angela T. Carr’s April poetry prompts based on the Rider Waite deck. Here is the link to that: http://www.adreamingskin.com/fools-gold-30-days-tarot-writing-challenge-napowrimo-2021.

Exercising the poetry muscles might just be the kind of training you need to compose and submit a poem that might well put one of Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark on the Poetry Map I am curating. You can find out more about the project on a past blog here: https://sojourningsmith.blog/2021/03/21/happy-unesco-world-poetry-day/.

You can email GeoparkPoetryMap@gmail.com for submission guidelines and support material on the geoheritage of many of the Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark sites.

But back to NaPoWriMo or GloPoWriMo as those of us living outside the USA may style it…There is an early bird prompt to get us warmed up. I did a little yip of delight (and there have not been many of them here lately) when it was revealed that the prompt is based in one of my happy places on this globe. As a family used to visit it regularly from when I was a tween and most trips back to the States have incorporated a visit to the Met and the Brooklyn Museum of Art to see Judy Chicago’s Dinner Party in the Feminist Art Wing.

Finally, because April 1 arrives a few hours earlier for many of our participants than it does for us at Na/GloPoWriMo headquarters, we’re also featuring an early-bird prompt today. Today, we’d like to challenge you to spend a few minutes looking for a piece of art that interests you in the online galleries of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.

napowritmo.net

I wandered many galleries but always seem to gravitate to the Impressionist to visit Monet’s Bridge over Waterlilies and to say hello to Vincent Van Gogh’s work. The last visit was with my 15 year old niece who went on to study art at college. She was working on a GCSE project at that time and commented that one of her classmates was doing her project on a Roy Lichtenstein and here she was looking at one in person, not in some book or online. Seeing art in-person really is an entirely different experience.

My own first draft was compelled from early memories of ranging round the Met galleries.

Impressionable

The water lily pond could wash you away!
So massive, taking up all a gallery wall,
dwarfing a twelve year old, who in memory
shuddered at the huge canvas' dimensions, all
majesty and "Look At Me!" - how minute
the ambitions of lesser imaginations.
Let the colour and brushwork engulf you -
one artist's grandeur, an act of diminution.

I preferred the paintings more human scale.
Monet did do flowers very well - sunflowers
in a Japanese vase. Gauguin is alleged
to have said Van Gogh's were much better.
I agree. Even sunflower husks dredged
have more heart beating in every strand of his brush.
I bought a print from the museum shop.
Years on, I went to A'dam on the Magic Bus
to have sunflowers and night stars make my heart stop.

Happy GloPoWriMo/NaPoWriMo!