National Poetry Day in Britain

Today is the UK’s National Poetry Day. Since Northern Ireland is part of the UK and my husband was born in Northern Ireland I like that I get to celebrate a National Poetry Day twice a year. Three times if you include my birthplace, the States. But today, I want to wish all my British poetry friends a wonderful poetry filled and fuelled day.

Cuilcagh Lakelands UNESCO Global Geopark is partly in the Republic of Ireland and also in Northern Ireland. There is a UNESCO World Poetry Day every 21st March, too. So we get three opportunities at celebrating our earth’s heritage and the natural environment each year. I felt that today is an appropriate day to give you an update on the Geopark Poetry Map.

As all things in the time of Covid, in a time of remote working and summer holidays, projects can snail pace at times. We are working steadily towards the launch the Geopark Poetry Map. The long short list has been read and re-read, silently and aloud and the final eight poems have been selected from our Open Call. Those who will be included have been informed. In the final formation I am satisfied that we have a balanced representation in terms of geography and gender. We also have poems, cinquain and haiku, from school children from Cavan and Fermanagh so we have also involved young people in the project even under very restrictive circumstances. We were also lucky enough to have Dara McAnulty, who spent his childhood within the Geopark, to agree to writing a new poem for the Geopark Poetry Map even as he was working on his A levels!

Sidebar: I am so grateful that two schools stepped into the project given that they have had a horrid year and incredible academic challenges during Covid. The Fermanagh school has a kind of bell tent pitched so that there is a foot off the ground to allow air flow. This gave us some shelter from the rain the day of our workshops, though the midges were feeling pretty frisky! The Cavan class was very small and they cheerfully carried their desks and chairs outside and remained masked because they shared desk space. Which I found very moving – considerate of others’ health, stoical in the face of current realities and still engaged with the creative process! The principals of Florencecourt Primary and Curravagh National School are heroes in my estimation. Despite all the bureaucracy, both public health and educational, they wanted their kids to be able to do something creative. And mostly to engage with someone who was not the same face seen every day for that past eighteen months. Truly, they are educators with a wholistic sense of welfare for their pupils.

Meanwhile, during this week of UK Poetry Day, Ramor-Townhall Cavan are busy casting the actors and recording the voice overs of the texts written by the five commissioned authors, the four schoolchildren and eight adults selected to have their poems mapping the geoheritage of various sites around Cuilcagh Lakelands UNESCO Global Geopark. We are plugging along and are getting closer to the finished product.

We hope to have a launch date for the Geopark Poetry Map firmed up soon…but as Mercury is retrograde until 19th October and Mercury Retrograde tends to slow down and snarl alll things internet, transport and communication, I am waiting with bated breath…

In the meantime, I include the geoheritage poem I wrote to Poetry Ireland Day last April.

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.

Map of ribbed moraine area that straddles North and southern parts of Ireland

LabelLit for Poetry Day Ireland

Day 25NaPoWriMo dawns for me in a different land. But I am flying the tricolour for Poetry Day Ireland by participating in Maria McManus’s Label Lit project. (Sure she grew up only up the road from me inFermanagh). Poetry Day Ireland is technically tomorrow, 26tyh April. Yesterday I was handing out LabelLit poems to staff and patrons of Ireland West Airport.

Rx for National Poetry Day

It pays to read your lit’s label.

First, prepare to be surprised.

Take a poem a day each morning,

Preferably with a little food.

First, prepare to be surprised.

Poetry takes a strong stomach, hence

‘Preferably with a little food’.

Watch out for contraindications.

Poetry takes a strong stomach, hence

The warnings to the public.

Watch out for contraindications –

Elation, possible perturbation.

It pays to read your lit’s label.

Risk raising a hue and cry.

Take a poem a day each morning.

Start each day with a little surprise.

Copyright 2018 Bee Smith

#PoetryDayIRL @LabelLit

Asbestos Mouth

Day 23 NaPoWriMo and this is my second attempt at posting. Unfortunately, my ipad WordPress app didn’t save. It looked like it published, but it didn’t. On the one day when I composed straight onto the post. You see, I am going to be on the road for the rest of NaPoWriMo. I will be distributing little luggage labels with poems on them for Maria McManus’s Label Lit project for Ireland’s National Poetry Day on Thursday, the 26th. Even though I will be outside of the country I am still flying the poetry tricolour.  I have a certain amount of airport travel anxiety (Cue a big eyeroll from my big brother Steve who has wanted to stuff valium down my throat on occassion. Even my husband wanders away from me and mumbles he will  meet me at the gate.) Now I am going to miss my trusty laptop even more than I thought!

So – to reconstruct . This was the prompt.

And now for today’s (optional) prompt! Kate Greenstreet’s poetry is spare, but gives a very palpable sense of being spoken aloud – it reads like spoken language sounds. In our interview with her, she underscores this, stating that “when you hear it, you write it down.” Today, we challenge you to honor this idea with a poem based in sound. The poem, for example, could incorporate overheard language. Perhaps it could incorporate a song lyric in some way, or language from something often heard spoken aloud (a prayer, a pledge, the Girl Scout motto). Or you could use a regional or local phrase from your hometown that you don’t hear elsewhere, e.g. “that boy won’t amount to a pinch.”

Now I used a phrase my mother would use in a conversation over a shared cup of tea with my neighbour. Winnie said, ‘Don’t let your tea grow old.” And I piped up that I didn’t have an asbestos mouth. Which I then had to explain wasn’t really a strange American phrase, probably only a Smith one and maybe only one my mother used with me who was waiting for her tea to cool or was blowing on her dinner before forking it into my mouth.

Asbestos Mouth

I guess you don’t have an asbestos mouth.

Let me eat and drink tepid,

have no need for a tin foil tongue.

Let me not sup on brimstone and fire

or inhale charcoal into my lungs.

It will not make my speech vapid

to not have to swaddle my mouth.

Let me taste the taste, savouring my own arpegio.

Let me know what I know.

 

Copyright © 2018 Bee Smith

National Poetry Days

The UK usually celebrates a National Poetry Day the first Thursday in October. So I was caught off guard and the September 28th festivities completely passed me by.  Ireland used to join in with that but this year did a break away to April, which coincides with the USA’s National Poetry Month. At least World Poetry Day is set in stone on 21st March each year. But maybe even UNESCO will wobble on that date.

This basically makes me feel like a grumpy, grumbly old person. We like our routines, our schedules to rely upon and heaven help  you if you move the tinned baked beans to another aisle in the supermarket!

But I digress…

Belatedly, I note that the UK theme for Poetry Day is Freedom. Which is a big theme. So two poems,one based on Biblical story inspired by the plight of refugees. The other is practically a manifesto for social introversion.

Two ways to be free…in poetry

The Zamzam Well

Hagar, did you flee?

Or were you cast out,

left for dead in the desert

with your infant son Ismail

wailing and kicking in his swaddle clothes?

 

In a place where his mother’s milk

would soon dry, withering

like the thorn tree berries,

your inconvenient son Ismael

keening and kicking

 

at sand and stone, kicking, howling,

kicking, hollering until –

miracle of miracles! –

in answer to his mother’s prayers

her son, or some angel

 

directing his little heels

unearthing

the spring

the Zamzam

the well open to all.

 

They lived and made no one strange

where all were strangers.

 

They were blessed and praised

Hagar and her son Ismael.

They came like pilgrims

supplicants

making the Zamzam  holy

 

until even Abram came,

acknowledging his seed.

 

Hagar, did you flee the wife’s envy?

Did you fear the power to harm?

Were you cast out by weakness, or fear?

Were you left for dead for some

inconvenient truth?

 

Your son

the spring of surprise and salvation

a blessing

even as his mother was cursed

cast out, forced to flee

 

to make a new tribe

those who wander but are no strangers.


A Way to Be Free

 

getting the top deck

of a London bus, front seat, all to oneself,

soothed by intermittent ding-dings,

conveyed in stops and starts,

looking out the front window,

sulphur street light freckled with rain…

 

immersing

into the womb  of cheap stalls

a rainy Saturday afternoon

mesmerised by the actress singing

all for me down in the matinee dark

the sound of

the fourth wall falling…

 

browsing

an art gallery

especially those with portraits

with whom I can play talking heads

making imaginary friends with Francis Bacon

or  Gwen John’s

implacably impassive face

 

the bliss

of never ever to be at the beck and call

of flower arranging rotas

or deciding a room’s colour scheme

or the hell of formulating a policy

by committee

 

finding

a way to be free

to go about unmolested,

undeterred

uninterrupted

invisible

subversively

solitary