A Poem A Day April

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.

Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.

Featured Photo by Toby Stodart on Unsplash

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Look Out

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.

Look Out

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.


Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.


The Jealousy  Wall

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.


The Jealousy Wall


Such Palladian mansion’s grace

Disguises an evil misplaced.

No Jealousy Wall will exclude

The bitterness a heart exudes.

A mean will set out to destroy

Any trace of a wife’s small joys.

For jealousy is great folly

Landmarked with faux ruined abbey.

Especially so. Damaged souls

Not saved by wealth, unholy

Monument to misery.

A wall of less sense, more money.

Copyright 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.

The Sacred Centre

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.

The south processional road to the King's Palace at UIsneach
The southern processional route to the King’s Palace at Uisneach. The mountains in the background are those of the southern kingdom of Munster

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.

The Sun God Lugh, a sculpture at Uisneach

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.

THe Cat Stone, or Hiberniae Umbilicus at Uisneach is the presence of the sacred feminine Eriu
Eriu is the sacred feminine presence at Uisneach and this is the Hiberniae Umbilicus

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

Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.

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.

Marty Mulligan tour guide and storyteller at Uisneach
Marty Mulligan, tour guide at Uisneach

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.

Bird Jazz

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.

Bird Jazz

"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?


Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.



Featured Photo by dfkt on Unsplash

Off to Tir na nÓg

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.


Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.

Daytripping

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.

Daytripping

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!


Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved