Geopark Poetry Map Prompts 14

Hello all you earth lovers and poetry lovers! Geoheritage poetry is for you! And we hope you will submit poems inspired by a wide array of sites across the wide Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark so we can put them onto our digital Geopark Poetry Map which will go live in October 2021. And why, you might ask, have you not covered the Marble Arch Caves or Cuilcagh Mountain Park already? Well, for two good reasons. The first is that two of our commissioned poets have bagged those sites as the focus of their own poems. The second reason is that the iconic Marble Arch Caves are sometimes wrongly considered the whole of the MACGeopark. Part of this Geopark Poetry Map exercise is to rectify that misapprehension. The Caves and the Cuilcagh Mountain Boardwalk, nicknamed the Stairway to Heaven, are two of the most heavily visited sites in the Geopark, but the Geopark is so much more.

Today I am going to conclude this series of geoheritage poetry ‘sparks’ to inspire poems for the Geopark Poetry Map with two sites in County Fermanagh that have been put in the shade by the better known neighbours. The first is a dramatic viewpoint that can beat even the breathtaking expanses seen from Marlbank. The Magho Cliffs offer, on a clear day, an unparalleled prospect.

Magho Cliffs

The spectacular view from this location is arguably one of the most dramatic in Ireland. The
bird’s eye view of Lower Lough Erne and its islands allows you, on a clear day, to see the
rounded Sperrin Mountains to the east, the Blue Stack Mountains to the north, and Slieve
League, Donegal Bay and the Atlantic Ocean to the west.

The most striking feature from this location is Lower Lough Erne itself with its breathtaking
size only really appreciated from a viewpoint like this. Like so many places on the island of Ireland, the present landscape is a direct result of the last glaciation, which ended around 13,000 years ago. The valley that is now occupied by Lower Lough Erne probably contained a pre-existing river and was a v-shaped valley.

Glaciers usually follow the easiest route along which to flow, often a pre-existing river valley. The erosive power of glaciers, resulting from the debris embedded within the ice, changed the original v-shape of this valley to form a wider u-shaped valley. Further evidence for this is the presence of many drumlin islands in the lake, formed as glaciers moved across the valley floor. Once the glaciers melted, sea-levels rose and this huge valley became flooded and formed the over-deepened glacial lake that we now call Lower Lough Erne. The drumlin islands of Lower Lough Erne are clearly visible from this location.

The Magho Cliffs themselves upon which the viewpoint is perched are a 9km long limestone escarpment dominating the southern shore and skyline of Lower Lough Erne. These are hugely significant in their own right both geologically and ecologically.

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

The other site I want to mention is Belmore Forest. Drive up towards the village of Boho (pronounced like the gentleman caller – beau) from Blacklion’s Holy Well. You pass Margaret Gallagher’s Cottage on the way, which has been kept exactly as her ancestors lived in it.

Boho Village is worth a stop if you are like me and like to wander around graveyards. They have an impressive High Cross and some very cool skull and cross bones on gravestones. (You can see those at Drumlane Abbey, too.)

Boho High Cross

Belmore Forest is above and beyond the village, which is prime caver country. It also hosts Pollnagollam Falls which fans of Game of Thrones will recognise as one of the series’ sets filmed in Northern Ireland.

Pollnagollam Falls

Belmore Mountain lies above the village of Boho in western Fermanagh and is substantively
covered in coniferous forestry. Belmore Mountain with a summit roughly 398 metres, is the
second highest point in Fermanagh and provides breathtaking views of Boho, Lower Lough
Erne, Lough Navar and to the east, Brougher Mountain with its distinctive television masts
on top.

The forest is at the heart of Fermanagh`s Boho cave country and beneath your feet lies an
extensive maze of caves which attract cavers and potholers from far and wide. The geology
of Belmore Forest is dominated by limestone, which is found as horizontal layers (beds) that
formed at the bottom of a shallow tropical sea over 340 million years ago, during the Lower
Carboniferous period. A viewing platform at Pollnagollum Cave provides a great vantage
point to see the impressive cave entrance which is fed by a beautifully cascading waterfall
toppling down a 12 metre limestone cliff to disappear into the depths of darkness. The
viewing platform is located in a feature known as a collapsed doline, these form when a
cavity is hollowed in this case in the limestone rocks below by a process of dissolution and
then collapses. The first exploration of this cave was undertaken by two cavers known
as Édouard-Alfred Martel and naturalist Lyster Jameson in 1895 (the same gentlemen who
explored the nearby Marble Arch Caves) and during Victorian times the cave was opened as
a show cave. Depending on the time of day and year keep a watchful eye out for bats and
birds around the cave entrance.

One of the most intriguing mammals found in the Belmore uplands in addition, to bats is the
Irish hare. Unique to Ireland, the Irish hare is arguably our oldest surviving mammal having
been present on the island since before the last Ice Age.

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

Here’s a bit of video ambience.

Boho, Fermanagh and Pollnagollam Falls & Cave

You have until 15th June 2021 to submit your geoheritage themed poem on any of these Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark.

I hope they inspire you to write poems of every sort .Please see the comment from Day 13 where a follower has posted what was sparked by that blog posted yesterday.

Poetry writing has an important place in our lives during all times, but, I feel, especially during an pandemic. It is good for our minds and souls to express ourselves in writing. Because, as Jane Hirshfield has noted, a good poem offers us a surprise. She also reckons that poems offer a sense of hiddeness and uncertainty. While these past years have given us plenty of the latter, the element of surprise is often its reprieve. We may have had a lot of drama to process during this pandemic year and more, but what we may have lacked was genuine surprise. A good poem packs some of that.

I am eager to read all the poems submitted to GeoparkPoetryMap@gmail.com in the coming month. I hope to be surprised.

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 4

Good morning Earth lovers and Poetry writers! To get your geoheritage themed poetry juices flowing Day 4’s poetry prompt has us visiting the Cavan Burren Park again.

New to this concept of a Geopark Poetry Map? Well, it is born out of the pandemic as a physically distanced way to connect us. The map will be digital and will include commissioned poems from Dara McAnulty, author of Diary of a Young Naturalist, Geopark born poets Maria McManus and Seamas Mac Annaidh, Cavan poet Noel Monaghan, and A. J. Quinn, better known for his crime writing.

The daily poetry prompts are part of the Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark’s open call for poems inspired by specific Geopark sites written by new and emerging poets. I will also be doing outreach with schools along the Cavan and Fermanagh borders to involve primary and national school age children in the project, although we are still trying to figure out the safest way of interacting with classes in two jurisdictions.

While yesterday looked at how the land’s geology launched an internationally famous china brand, today’s prompt looks at a cottage industry. You see dotted across the limestone landscape around the Cavan Burren remnants of Lime Kilns. There is the remains of one in Cavan Burren Park known as McCaffrey’s Lime Kiln. My friend Morag took some snaps when we visited the Cavan Burren last week. (And it was a celebratory cross border visit since it was the first time since Christmas she could cross over from Fermanagh into Cavan given the Covid travel restrictions. It was a happy reunion in the open air.)

Here is what Martina O’Neill, MACGeopark Development Officer for Partnership and Engagement writes about this site.

This lime kiln located in the Burren would have been for use by the adjacent farmhouse.
The farmhouse would have been abandoned 50 years ago but the lime kiln may not have
been used in the last 100 years. The material produced from working these kilns, quicklime,
had many uses including as a fertiliser, pesticide, mortar and for bleaching linen. In this
particular limekiln, limestone rock was broken into small, fist sized lumps. It was set-up with layers of wood, turf and limestone. When lit, turf and limestone were added in equal
quantities and it would be kept burning overnight. The burnt lime, quicklime was recovered
though a small opening at the bottom, accessed through an inverted stairway structure.
Quicklime is chemically unstable so whenever water is added to it a chemical reaction
occurs and great temperatures are produced hence the inverted stairway structure and use
of a long poled shovel in this case to remove the quicklime.

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

Ireland is often associated with pretty white cottages with thatched roofs. Before there was commercial paint there was limewash. And, you guessed it, it was made from limestone and lime kilns were involved in the manufacture of the components.

Do you think you have a poem about a lime kiln to offer to the Geopark Poetry Map? The closing date is 15th June 2021. If you live in Ireland you can see the lime kiln in Cavan Burren Park. All the Geopark’s sites are open to the public. And it’s FREE to visit!

If you live beyond our island’s borders I hope that some research and imagination may help spark a poem. You are also eligible to submit a poem. For full details email GeoparkPoetryMap@gmail.com.

Still a bit unsure about what geoheritage is exactly? Maybe my previous article will help https://sojourningsmith.blog/2021/05/11/what-is-geoheritage/

Lockdown Fatigue

8 of swords

It’s a real thing, a recognised phenomenum. We are so over the restrictions of staying in our 5km zone and here in Ireland we are waiting, waiting and waiting for our vaccination notification. But, even those who have been vaccinated have few places to go; only essential travel – work (which has been mostly at home for a year), medical, pharmacy and grocery. That’s it! I live in a very beautiful place and have a garden. I feel a bit ashamed to make this admission given that I am privileged to have pretty fine technology -phone, internet, devices – and natural beauty. But we want to reach out and actually touch the far flung loved ones. We keep hoping to see one another and the dates recede and recede. Maybe summer. Maybe in late summer, outdoors, we will be able to give a masked pandemic hug.

Also, I am fortunate in having Zoom students where we can air our experiences and compare how things are being handled in Canada as opposed to Ireland. It is thanks to one of those students that I have taken up the challenge to build a poem around some quotes from our conversation last Saturday. The second poem also reflects a telephone conversation with another friend. She cares for her 94 year old mother who has pronounced that this pandemic is worse than World War 2. Sure, they faced death. But living didn’t threaten your life. “We could go to dances. If we were down in the dumps we went next door and had a cuppa tea with a neighbour and had a moan.” Peggy fell in love and married 75 years ago at the end of the war. She has a point. The Guardian newspaper writes articles with headlines such as “How the Whole World Lost Its Libido.”

We compare anecdotes from England and the USA , where the vaccine roll out has been gaining traction, and feel like we are living in corsets. They hope to have all the kids back into in-person schooling by 12th April, but…the numbers of infection dictate everything. The week after Mother’s Day weekend and St. Patrick’s Day saw a jump in reported cases. Easter weekend, four days of no where to go, will be the final temptation.

Safe to say that the phrase ‘stir crazy’ has taken on layers and layers of texture. It’s more a cri de cœur.

Thanks to Susan for stating this challenge.

We are so over Covid

"We are so over Covid". "But it's not over us!"
Life is slow as treacle in a January
freeze. Framed in a five kilometre square. It's messed
up. In my head it's a convention of fairies'
wishes washed up ashore after a hurricane.
How is it that days inch by at warp speed? Because
I'm taking my reality cues, hemmed by routine.
But everything is always strange. It's collaged.
We have taken scissors to what used to pass as
society. Some days I feel as if I hold
a beating heart, lifted up, out, by blood soaked hands
during transplant surgery. I want to be told
"It's time. It's done. Close her up. Let her live again."
However we repair, or process, will we transcend
what is lost? We count the cost, regretting offence.
But have we built a world with more walls and fences?

Telephone conversations that crossed oceans, seas or just down the road a piece inspired the next poem.

Truly

Truly, I am glad that my sister can drive out
to a mountain cabin in another state now.
But here, we dream more modestly.
My friend, connected by telephone, and I
we dream of when we might venture forth, ranging
into the county, say.  Or maybe even ten kilometres wide.
That would take us both to separate forest parks, larger sky.
My friend's 94-year old mother, now fully vaccinated, perked up
after twelve weeks (more!) feeling incarcerated.
"I can go out in two weeks!" Said triumphantly.
"But where?" countered her carer.
The fleshpots of Tesco beckon, her prospect
of living the high life now.
In England, my friend reports they can sedately
cluster in groups of six outdoors
in the fresh air from this week. Where
we remain locked up and downcast within
our prescribed five kilometre zone.
Even a trip to the dentist is welcome excuse
to travel passed scenery not seen for months past.

So I am feeling a little bit green, in all its varying shades
from this Emerald Isle, from nausea to envy,
and dream of Blue Ridge hills or the ocean waves that break
upon a shimmering sandy strand , 
but not viewed in video clip.

Copyright ©Bee Smith, 2021, All rights reserved.

The featured image comes from Biddy Tarot. https://www.biddytarot.com.

It’s the 8 of swords and that pretty much sums it up!

The Bearded Lady

Poems are full immersion experiences. Sometimes the symbols or extended metaphor may make you feel out of your depth. But if you can stay afloat long enough with a doggy paddle, it can feel more like a natural habitat. Friends who are clinical psychologists may send out a life raft. (Thank you, Bláthaín! And you, too, Tony!) It is true of our dreams, too. It can take a while to fathom their depths when you are swirling in the currents of culturally defined masculinity and femininity.

Bearded Lady

She's a freak,
a circus sideshow combing
her facial hirsutism
on display for all to see,
which feels so wrong
in so many ways.
She inspires pity and terror,
(the ancient Greek formula
for pure tragedy)
that she may never know love
or the safety
of a good husband.

I have sprouted the blonde beard
of a Viking sailor,
but without the moustache,
which comes out looking
disconcertingly Amish,
pacifist Anabaptist farmer
meeting Scandi noir-ior-
marauder, raider, rapist,
coloniser, usurper,
appropriator, trader.

No, no, no, no!
I cannot have that!
There is not enough beard oil
in the world
that can soften all that bristle.
I do not want to identify
with that!

Get out the trimmer.
Consider the strap and the blade.
Pour on the chemical
depilatory cream to disable
any stray traces
of masculine shade.

But when I look in the mirror
what I see
is that Viking sailor
with that weirdly Amish
non-tache
and I now have the task
of masking my bearded lady
who is still there
without her whiskers
nonetheless.

living with the knowledge
I am only the circus' sideshow
while the main event
is happening out
in the Big Top tent,
where the only women
who get to perform
are certain speciality acts.
They balance on the high wire.
The only ones who get to fly
swing on the trapeze.
Both without a safety net.



Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.

Today’s featured image is of a vintage circus poster which can be found and purchased fromhttp://garageartsigns.com/product-tag/vintage-circus-posters/

Everyone Needs Someone

Call it one of the realisations that comes with aging. Or remembering the day that you both knew you had become one of those couples sitting in a car in the rain looking out at the ocean. Consider the truth of Michael Harding’s book title “Staring at Lakes”. Perhaps I am under the sway of too much Scandinoir. This was the turn poetry practice took today.

Everyone Needs Someone

Everyone needs someone
(and not only a dog -
a dog or a cat is an
optional extra)

who will sit with them
(and they don't need
to talk or even
touch hands often)

when you are getting old
(to witness your staring
at the horizon,
share the flask of coffee)

to watch over your soul
(that etheric substance -
part angel, part vital animal,
that will depart)

if you believe in that kind of thing
(call it animating force then
whatever it is that leaves
the building or a corpse)

Everyone needs someone
who will sit with them
when they are getting old
to watch over your soul
if you believe in that
kind
of thing

Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.

Featured Photo by Sasha Freemind on Unsplash

When the Well Runs Dry

I finished making my brídeog (Biddy Doll or St. Brigid’s doll) yesterday. The festival of Brigid (or Brigit or Brighid or Bride) runs from 31st January to 2nd February and coincides with Imbolc, the ancient Celtic festival that heralds spring time. And the return of the goddess Brigid in her maiden form. And the Feast Day of St. Brigit, Abbess of Kildare, one of Ireland’s three national saints. What you need to know about me is that I celebrate the coming a springtime (even though the upcoming Wolf Moon is also known as the Snow or Ice Moon) with as much fervour as most people reserve for Christmas, Thanksgiving or Halloween. I prepare, decorate and bake. And if there is snow that is no bother. The point is that the days are getting much lighter. When you live in Ireland that is is something to celebrate. Winter is on the wane. Wey-hey! The light is returning!

So I have been considering the many associations of both the goddess Brigid and St. Brigit. They are both fire and water women. This year I am feeling all ‘watery’. So today’s Poetry Daily celebrates sacred springs and holy wells. Of which Ireland has many. The poem is an octet -eight lines of eight syllables each. Eight being the number of infinity, it seems to be suited to water.

I was seeking inspiration when I started the day feeling a bit blank as my page. But the patron saint of inspiration never runs dry of ideas. She is also the patron saint (matron saint?) of poets.

When a Well Runs Dry

What to do when the well runs dry?
You dig a new one, so you do.
Where's the cure gone when the well's dry?
It flees into nearby tree. See
the clouties tied, where all wishes vie?
Wells may crumble, silt up, dry.
Water stays holy, cannot die.
Water will ever sanctify.

For those living outside of Ireland I will treat you to photos of crumbling wells, clouties and the shrines that surround many of them. All those pictured are within a ten mile radius of where I live. It’s limestone country. Springs are everywhere. And everywhere are sacred.

St. Brigids Holy Well
Killargue, Leitrim St. Brigit’s Well
Holy well
My local holy well at Tubber before restoration
Holy Well
Holy Well, Belcoo, Fermanagh
Cloutie Tree Holy Well Leitrim
Cloutie Tree at Holy Well, Leitrim
Badgers Well
The Badger’s Well, Glenfarne, Leitrim
Brigids Way Bee Smith poems
Poems celebrating Brigid in all Her glory
Available as a Kindle on Amazon.com

The Omen Days

The Omen Days are upon us. These are the classic twelve days of Christmas from today, St. Stephen’s Day to Epiphany, the feast of the Three Kings. These are the in between days of the winter feast, that include the liminal time of the New Year.  This whole winter tide is a threshold place, from pale glimmering of dawn on winter solstice until Epiphany. Oh, how I love that word. Would that we would all have a healing or self-improving revelation.

But I digress. The Omen Days. In former times, it was the custom of folk to look for portents of the future year.  I expect they would be looking at how the birds and beasts were behaving to judge weather patterns and consider harvest yields.  So seeing snowdrops in flower in our raised beds yesterday, did make me wonder if that would count as an omen.

Now that we are no longer mainly an agrarian society (although the masses depend upon them for the food they consume) we look at tarot cards, or read runes, or take a line from a poem or the Bible, and figure out the omen from them.  What I like to do is see what random thing crops up early in the day. Even what first occurs. So waking to a cat on your lap (even if you had dreamed of her the night before) does not quite cut it. Although, Sparkle is really my dear husband’s cat, but we are seeing a subtle realignment of cats with Felix is gravitating towards Tony and Sparkle attaching herself to me. But that has been happening over the past week, so doesn’t quite qualify I feel.

In the end it was early rising well before dawn and using a new Christmas present from a friend, bought explicitly to respect the velvet darkness of the amrit vela, these ambrosial hours when our soul calls to us. It is a pen with penlight for writing in the dark.

Two poems for the Poetry Daily today, since I reckon that my Omen Day offering will probably take the form of haiku over the next twelve days. Although that may change. One must respect the random. Also, I may be posting later than usual. It is all down to how the omens roll.

Omen Days

Read the runes!
What's in the cards?
How will the clouds form our future
from the present shards?
Collect the portents
in fevered times where fear
and uncertainty foment.

The old is not quite done.
The new not yet begun.

We feast and slumber in dreams
where we feature as heroes
just like those we watch
in our holiday films.

Deep down, we are all listening
for our call to adventure,
but we want to be heroes
without fear of any censure.

The old is not quite done.
The new not yet begun.

Collect the portents.
We are heroes all,
even if we think
we are only small.

Mighty oaks begin
with acorns who fall
on fertile ground.
They gain strength and girth
straight from Mother Earth.

The old is not quite done.
The new not yet begun.

Copyright 2018 Bee Smith

Omen Day 1
St. Stephen's Day, 2018


Writing in darkness
Wand - without phoenix feather
Illuminato!

Copyright 2018 Bee Smith

May the omens be with you!

Featured image Photo by Nikhil Mitra on Unsplash

Poem Prayer

Samuel Beckett has a quote that is often truncated to all poems are prayers.  The late Patricia Monaghan spun it to include spells. Spells and prayers are often petitionary -for protection, for love and to be loved in return, for the wherewithal to survive or thrive.

It is a sunny day here where I live. But it also feels like a day to keep prayer ceaselessly in one’s heart to cast out any dark.

Today marks the beginning of the fourth week of my writing and posting a poem a day. I feel it is evolving into a journal with the poetry practice plotting my preoccupations. We shall see how long I can keep up with this practice. I am surprising mself a bit.

Sound and Fury

Signifying nothing.
We mean nothing.
We, with less ambition,
less malcontent
than his Lady MacBeth.
We are idiots
condemned
to suffering singly,
singularly alone, alien
in the homeland,
living with the din, aggrieved.

Power confers a cursedness.
Blessed are the powerless
for the day they inherit
the kingdom of heaven on earth.
It will come.
And may they then evade
becoming one among the cursed.

Copyright 2018 Bee Smith

Featured image is a portrait of Samuel Beckett by Barry Hodgson, owned by the author.