Happy NaPoWritMo/GloPoWriMo 2019! I may have been writing a Poetry Daily since 15th September 2018, but I am really happy to open a website and have a prompt AND some poetry resources that are new to me to get me inspired and fired up again with the daly poetry practice. It’s not too late for you to join in. The website I follow is http://www.napowrimo.net.But there are other sites out there offering daily poetry prompts, too. Just Google your way around NaPoWriMo and you will find one that suits.
Today’s prompt is all about instructions. Five years ago Clare Shaw gave a workshop I was participating in the prompt on instructions for saying goodbye. Instructions are like list poems. They are great gateway poems. NaPoWriMo.net mentioned IKEA. Which did get me thinking about past flat pack furniture assembly. Then I decided I had not written a villanelle in a really long time. So I challenged myself on that score.
How to Know How To
It's hard to know how to how to when facts and the truth are so slippery and the flat pack arrives missing some screws. So the furniture wobbles like tofu. Which makes spousal types loudly disagree. It's hard to know how to how to when the culture is self-help and can do. We're supposed to know how to live sanely, but the flat pack arrives missing some screws. The final straw to a major boo-hoo makes you sound like a neighbourhood banshee.. . It's hard to know how to how to when the world doesn't want a big to-do. There are oughts to get you caught so archly. Why did the flat pack arrive missing screws? Why did the wood glue not hold true? Why can't we help feeling completely screwed? It's hard to know how to how to when the flat pack arrives missing some screws.
Perhaps it is because I have young people much in mind that my Poetry Daily writing mind turns to youth and their future. Yesterday, I began what will be a whole Springtime’s co-creation of story with a number of 10-12 year olds from Curravagh National School. This is part of the Cruinniú na nÓG Creativity for Children program being run by Cavan Monaghan ETB. Then again, I am giving lunch today to an over 35 year old that I first met when he was about their age. I am old enough now to see both the beginning and the middle of some stories, as well as witness the endings of others. That is the privelege of age.
The feature photo today is one I took of a youngster in our party, the son of one of the Geopark guides standing in the window of the dining room of Belvedere House on Saturday. These past twenty years we have known peace in our border counties. I pray that Brexit does not spoil their young adulthood and lives, the way the Troubles stained so many in the previous thirty years.
Offer yourself to the world beyond this glass. Imagine!
Crayon yourself outside the lines of boys' dreaming bayonets.
Girls, do not be confined to polishing glass, just looking.
No, offer all of yourselves. Re-wild your dreams. See the toads
in the garden someone made. That was their toil. Plant your own.
Today’s Poetry Daily takes inspiration from another site visited with the Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark guides on out familiarisation trip with Ireland’s Heartland in Westmeath. We lunched and had a guided tour of Belvedere House and Gardens. Originally what was called a gentleman’s shooting box or hunting lodge, the Palladian House sits in splendour overlooking Ennels Lake. One of its claims to fame is having Euope’s largest folly in the grounds, built when one brother’s next door pile gave the heir a view of the back door and servants going to and fro. He built a wall to look like a monastic ruin, which is known as The Jealousy Wall. The period seems to lend itself to rhyming couplets. The House and family seemed to have little talent for happiness, although the nobleman who held the title during The Great Hunger kept all his tenants in employment and was respected locally.
I needed a few days to let all the mythology and mystical feeling of Uisneach to settle and process. It was only just Saturday when I was travelling with many of my Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark guide colleagues to Ireland’s Heartland to visit what is considered Ireland’s sacred centre, a nexis of mythology and ancient cosmology.
Just to prove how we are never more than three degrees separated from anyone in Ireland, we had no sooner disembarked when I met an acquaintance who introduced me as “The Poet.” (That was very edifying Kathleen!) By the time our tour had concluded ninety minutes later I saw more familiar faces and found that they were gathered for a memorial service for Kevin Hayes whom I had not met, but perhaps only my an accident given the number of common acquaintances.
Uisneach is a natural gathering point since it is near as damn all the geographical centre of this island. If you imagine Ireland as a shallow bowl, Uisneach rises out of the flatland to have a 360 degree view of Ireland on a clear day. You can see all the mountain ranges east, south, west and north. There were processional roads from each direction for the gathering each Bealtaine when the sacred flame was relit in a pit as large as a footbal field. And as soon as those not present saw Uisneach’s flame, they ignited their own mountain top pyres in a unique ceremony of call and response involving and uniting four kingdoms at the central place of the High King. Last May at Bealtaine, President Higgins took the place of the High King and lit the Bealtaine fire.
What is remarkable is that Uisneach’s mythology and cosmology is united in celebrating both the sacred masculine and sacred feminine. Lugh is the primal sacred masculine presence at Uisneach, a solar god upon which the agricultural calendar relied. The souterain beneath the High King’s Palace, may have been practically used for food storage. But it also symbolised the womb of the earth as life giver. With the invention of agriculture there was a secure food supply and that was symbolised in the fecunditty of Mother Earth. What is now called the Cat Stone is also known as Hiberniae Umbilicus, the umbilical cord of Eriu, Ireland.
And so now to the poem about Uisneach from the so kindly named ‘the Poet.’ The Poetry Daily:
The Sacred Centre
If you follow the sun and stars you will have plenty and peace. The earth's belly is full so feast.
Our King Lugh and Queen Eriu are the royal road to the sacred centre. Just follow the sun and stars and keep walking towards the centre. And do not make of it a mere altarpiece. You know that you owe this peace to the plenty.
You must follow the sun and stars sow in time, and hoe, reap and feast - an unmarred life follows sun, stars, royal code. Our King Lugh relies upon Queen Eriu. If you follow the sun and stars, give back to the earth as Eriu gives all fruit for the feast under sun, stars, you shall have great peace following the plenty
Thanks goes to Marty Mulligan, our guide and storyteller, who brought Uisneach’s ancient landscape alive. He pointed out that the original inhabitants were not a war like people. It was only with the incursion of the people we now call the Celts around 500BCE that warfare became the stuff of bardic lore. Uisneach was the seat of abiding peace and mediation of disputes at a time when under Brehon law men and women had equal rights.
Thanks also to Nuala McCann, the Cavan County Council employee for Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark programmes. She is an excellent event organiser! It was great to get an insight into how other Hidden Gems in Ireland are allowing sustainable tourism to evolve. Uisneach is a shining example.
I felt like I needed a day off from my weekend this morning. I slept long and woke groggy and have obliquely crept into the day. I feel satisfied with the poetry workshop I delivered yesterday, despite my little wobble in the morning. Meanwhile, I am still processing what I saw and heard at Uisneach; no poems have cooked up yet there. It was sunny and warm this morning and, miracle of miracles, completely dry! So I thought I would take myself, notebook and pen outdoors to sit on the terrace that overlooks our acre. Sometimes, I find, I need to go and sit with a different view, mix up the times of day slightly. Also, with teaching two to three workshops a week over the next three weeks, I need to find a variation on my formula to fit in writing the Poem a Day for the #PoetryDaily during April’s NaPoWriMo.
What overwhelmed me was the birdsong, so varied in note, pitch, rhythm and melody. It was like a Babel at the birdfeeders and surrounding trees and hedges. I actually videoed a clip of the birdsong that you can view on my Word Alchemy Facebook page. Please do visit, like and comment. It’s public, so you may share,but please do reference my page as a courtesy.
The #PoetryDaily then.
"Could you? Could you?" Bird speak... "ChirpChirpChirrUP!"
How do they figure out the lyrics in bird's melodies? I can't hear those calls as transcribed in bird guides.
But there is certainly a lot of conversation, a Babel at the bird table.
There! I did just get the pheasant's harsh squawk, the wood pidgeon's breathy coo. The rest are 'as Gaelige' to me.
It's a diverse bird republic out there chattering away along with the solitary bee's hum,
all in concert and counterpoint. Is it all improvised? Is all this bird jazz just a prelude to nest and mate?
It never fails to surprise the process as I keep this daily poetry practice to create the published Poetry Daily. I arrived home from a more than twelve hour long day trip with my fellow Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark guides at 9:30 last night. Meanwhile, I am due to begin teaching a poetry workshop in just over an hour and a half. (Cue my routine anxiety thinking “whatever can I teach about poetry except to just keep at it?!”) When I began my morning writing I was sure I was going to write about THIS, but what emerged on the blank page was THAT. THIS will probably come along over the next week as the trip to Uisneach was rich in inspiration and imagery. Uisneach is the the mythic and mystical centre of Ireland from the Neolithic age. We are talking pre-history here, when the oral tradition ruled and the ogham alphabet would not emerge until the early medieval period.
For those unfamiliar with the concept of Tir na nÓg, this was the land of the forever young of the mythic race of early Irish inhabitants, the Tuatha dé Danaan. Some said it was beyond the ninth wave of the ocean.
Beyond the Ninth Wave
I am always the foreignor on the bus, no matter what country, rolling around the sound of the syllables I am hearing from snatched conversations, handling them like a found pebble on the ocean's strand, or the shell put to hear sing the ninth wave's eternal echo.
I am up with an alarm call to write before catching a bus for a Geopark Local Guide Training Day that is also, as they say in the tour trade, a ‘fam trip.’ A familiarisation trip. Today’s destination is Uisneach, the sacred centre of Ireland,and Belvedere House and Gardens. And I wake with the same sweaty palmed, fluttery tummy excitement of my ten year old self about to embark on a Girl Scout trip.
Of which there were many in my youth – often to places like Gettysburg, New Hope and Washington, DC. As we headed towards our teens there were overnights to Niagara Falls and Colonial Williamsburg. Those memories of my mother waking me for 4AM starts flooded back this morning.
The spike of excitement on journeying out, the day pack filled night before, alarm set over early, clothes set ready. Good Scout!
Fifty years and more flown past. Then my mother shakes me gently awake at four to board the bus full of sleepy tweens, Scout leaders
bound for away from the now familiar – to monuments, battlefields, museums, the past our charabanc holiday
We are away and then home in a day. A very big adventure when you’re ten or eleven to practice the patterns of leaving and return.
Good Scout! The sh/hero hears the call to adventure. Deal with your demons on board and on foot. Return home, quest done. Well done on your practice run!