Poetry, PoeTree & Culture Night

A busy couple of days without the leisure to polish a lengthy poem for poetry practice. Tonight is Ireland’s Culture Night and up and down the country there will be events celebrating every kind of art form. Tonight I will perform some poems at Dowra Courthouse Creative Space, a repurposed redundant rural courthouse that is now an exhibition, performance and meeting space. It kicks off at 4:30pm with a pottery class by local ceramics teacher Jim Fee. (The courthouse even has a kiln to finish off the production!). From 7:30pm there will be a procession of performers starting with estimable Mike Absolem and his harp. My husband, Tony Cuckson and I share a storytelling and poetry slot at 8pm. Musicians and singer/songwriters will entertain until 10:30pm.

From poetry to PoeTree on Saturday with another of my outdoor writing workshops. This one is free courtesy of funding from Create Ireland and Cavan County Council. The walk and workshop will concentrate on haiku as both poetry form and a mindfulness practice. Cavan Burren Park, Blacklion is my favourite venue and never fails to offer fresh inspiration on every visit. Meet me at the Visitor Centre at 2pm for a stroll with a pen and notebook. Be prepared for some stop and stare time. If you want more information ring me on ++353-71-964-3936.

So writing practice for today demands exercising the haiku muscle. Also, it is brief. So it. An ideal form for the time famished writer. Okay, breathe in. Breathe out…and

It can be done in seventeen syllables. Or less. It can be less.

The storm stripped the willows

The gaps between trees

Lets new light in

Some Poetry Making Etudes

Mostly I have been filling the creativity well this month. Sometimes you know something is not ready. You need time to pray at holy wells. Or stare at the birds perching in the sunflowers outside your window. To ponder locked room mysteries and the people inside them. To watch and gather one’s strength for a renewal, or a beginning.

As a child I was a piano scholar, and not a terribly gifted one. Essential piano practice came in the form of a book titled Etudes. They were five finger exercises to limber up the fingers, to get you stoked for the ivory so to speak.

I welcome autumn, the nights drawing in, the soulful click of knitting needles in the evening. It heralds the richest vein for writing. Like mushrooms that have had to follow the long, underground tracks before they can emerge, finally the words begin to pop up and patterns discerned. But start the practice, as Miss Mildred instructed, with the etudes.

 

Out on our lane one September morning

 

Approaching

A humming in the distance

Coming from the south – probably

(But sound carries in odd ways in the country

The wind can play hard and fast)

 

A bee swarm

Of human speech

Rising and falling

Babel bearing down

Upon us

 

All at once

A sound not unlike

Once heard outside a Stamford Hill Hassidic synagogue

Where inside the men

Daven at their prayers

 

Then

Inexorably moving towards me

Coming down the lane

Shaded by its shaggy hedges

The trees

 

A huddle of helmets

A lycra clad choir

Bent double

Constantly chattering

As pedals creaked, gears moaned

 

An all male

Tenor Baritone Bass

Fortissimo

Words spilling

Over each other

 

Then

One broke ranks vocally

Acknowledging me

In passing

Not missing a beat

 

(Also, the day –

How it was good

For drying the washing -)

A throw away line

Fluttering to my feet

 

The peloton rolled past

Pedalling north

Uphill and not so fast

Becoming echoes

Pegged to the washing line

Copyright 2018 Bee Smith

Beauty and the Beholder

Day 21 of NaPoWriMo/GloMoWriMo and I do sometimes feel the tiredness of the marathon runner. I didn’t notice it so much in NapoWriMo2017. Perhaps I have kept more studiously to the Poem a Day prompts in NaPoWriMo2018? I certainly have felt stretched into less comfortable poetic places on more days than last year. I have been busier, not able to lavish as much time on the product as last year, too. I worry about being a bit slap dash or hackneyed.

Today’s prompt looks at the myth of Narcissus. Here goes:


Behold

Even narcissi
shall wither and die.

The mirror never really
lies.

It may be open
to interpretation,

bit wind ravages
even that flirtation.

The cold will bow shoulders,
making  you look older.

Sunshine betrays more detail.
it’s not  so easy to evade

the echo  of the beauty,
the cause for sighs.

They do say it’s in the ‘I’
of the beholder.

Copyright 2018 Bee Smith

The World Outside My Window

NaPoWriMo2018 Day 19

NaPoWriMo Day 19 and today’s prompt is on a topic that I have addressed many other times, although not addressing it in the crafty way they suggest. ‘Erasure’ basically starts with prose and erases words back to some kind of poetry.  Although I am not sure that my own offering has achieved the intended repetitive effect.

I have been avidly watching what goes on outside my window now for nearly sixteen years. Only last week I was setting the table for supper when I spotted a stray sheep munching on the primrose flowers in the pots set outside the front door.  I ran out in my pinny doing my best imitation of one of those Dowra mart fellows to chase them down the lane. Except I didn’t have a stick. Only my hands.

To quote today’s prompt:

Our (optional) prompt for the day takes it cue from Brady’s suggestion that erasure/word banks can allow for compelling repetitive effects. Today we challenge you to write a paragraph that briefly recounts a story, describes the scene outside your window, or even gives directions from your house to the grocery store. Now try erasing words from this paragraph to create a poem or, alternatively, use the words of your paragraph to build a new poem.

Early Morning

 

The world outside my window

silent

except for birdsong

 

Overcast

but no mist to obscure

the wind turbines on Corry Mountain

 

I can see three counties

a streak of sunshine

lights up the willow and ash

 

Turning everything

Crayola crayon

spring green

 

Except the sky

a watered down ink

There shall probably be rain

 

But back to the now

the streak of sunlight

jewelling

 

tits and robins flit

a solitary blackbird

perches on the apple tree

 

that slants at

a forty-fve degree

from the wind blowing in through the gap

 

Copyright © 2018 Bee Smith

Revisions

Shannon Pot GloPoWriMo

While April, as NaPoWriMo or GloPoWriMo, is the poetry writing month, May is often called the poetry revision month. All those drafts in the drawer need more work! But the prompt for today looks at revision slant.  I shall quote the prompt from Day 18 of NaPoWriMo as it best explains.

Our prompt for the day (optional as always) isn’t exactly based in revision, but it’s not exactly not based in revision, either. It also sounds a bit more complicated than it is, so bear with me! First, find a poem in a book or magazine (ideally one you are not familiar with). Use a piece of paper to cover over everything but the last line. Now write a line of your own that completes the thought of that single line you can see, or otherwise responds to it. Now move your piece of paper up to uncover the second-to-last line of your source poem, and write the second line of your new poem to complete/respond to this second-to-last line. Keep going, uncovering and writing, until you get to the first line of your source poem, which you will complete/respond to as the last line of your new poem. It might not be a finished draft, but hopefully it at least contains the seeds of one.

My own critieria for today was that the poem be short as I am a bit time famished. I grabbed Bloodaxe’s anthology Staying Alive and kept flipping until a really short poem appeared.  A micro-poem was really what my schedule wanted. And then I lit on a Michael Longley.

My version:

At Legnashinna

Easter 1998 2018

 

Aconite putting on a brave face

Bright in the uncertain climate

Show me that crop of primrose in moss

To forget the threat of upland snow

 

Copyright © 2018 Bee Smith

 

I would not normally comment on process but this small poem could do with a bit of context that makes the micro more macro.  If you are not familiar with more recent Irish history the Easter 1998  might seem unimportant. But Irish poems that have dates often point to political landmarks. Easter 1998 will forever mean the Good Friday Agreement. This is Longley’s Good Friday Agreement poem, which I later found had been published the following day in The Irish Times.

The recent 20th anniversary  of the Good Friday Agreement has been overshadowed by the uncertainty of what havoc Brexit may wreck on the lives on those of us who live in the porous border counties with Northern Ireland. There is no international border frontier since the Good Friday Agreement, no check points or Customs Posts.

Longley titles his poem At Poll Salach. I am not an Irish scholar, but Google informs me that a poll translates as a pool, hole or tidal stream. Given my own border location this suggested to me Shannon Pot. My title uses the Irish townland name for Shannon Pot, albeit in its more Hiberno-English rendering rather than as Gaelige.

Motherlines Remembered

Day 17 NaPoWriMo and I am feeling a bit more serene. I am taking my time to walk around my poem a day today. And the prompt is more congenial, too.

Our prompt for the day (optional as always) follows Gowrishankar’s suggestion that we write a poem re-telling a family anecdote that has stuck with you over time. It could be the story of the time your Uncle Louis caught a home run ball, the time your Cousin May accidentally brought home a coyote and gave it a bath, thinking it was a stray dog, or something darker (or even sillier).

The featured photo is one of my mother and Grandmother Russell, who both feature as characters in today’s offering. It was taken when my mother was about the age she was in the tale recounted.

The last time I saw my mother alive

 

My brother was driving us so I could catch

The Chinatown Philly-NYC jitney.

She was recounting a memory

of another bus trip maybe seventy-five

years or more ago

to the disbelieving ears of her grandson.

 

I was catching my first connection

back to my life that was many stops and changes

away from the USA.

She told her memory like beads on a rosary,

the pink crystal ones she kept at her bedside.

She began with her sister, oceanside

in New Jersey waving her off on her journey.

 

How Mamma met her at the station

in Philly to pack her off onto the correct bus

on the leg to Washington, D.C.

An unknown  friend  or some kind of cousin of Mamma’s

met her there since it was growing dark

to usher her into some midnight caravanserai

before setting off through the night

sitting bolt upright through Maryland and Virginia.

 

Morning light and North Carolina. Gertrude’s brother

was there in his pride and joy jalopy.

Her cumbersome suitcase filled the whole rumble seat.

The front seat was full of meet and greeters

so she clung onto the door handle

surfing into Winston-Salem on the running board,

grinning at  being  back, wind speed making her florid,

feeling a bit desperado, like Bonnie and Clyde

 

At this point in the narrative

her grandson  looked like his head was beginning to hurt

jaw dropped,

configuring an impossible Venn diagram from

this rather staid, devout, stalwart

ancient relative and that girl who was only

just turned fifteen.

 

Which was probably the age when I first heard

this tale, when I learned that my mother

was someone not solely concerned about

my health , and could actually be quite

devil may care about personal safety.

 

She was off with her childhood adventurers

hanging by  a speeding  Model T’s handle

with kids with whom she had climbed trees and

smoked corn silk behind the outdoor privy.

She was the before to her after.

And then, just then, I knew how

I wanted to be that woman’s daughter.

how that Her had been able to make me.

 

Copyright © 2018 Bee Smith

 

Play? Aren’t there Rules?

Day 16 of NaPoWriMo wants us to play. Play? On a Monday? Do they even imagine how much stuff needs to happen on a Monday even for people with the most flexible schedules?  So here I am two hours from day’s end and nary a moment to have had to consider writing a poem. Yes! It has been that kind of busy, mission-filled day.

And what can someone who is pathologically unable (maybe even congenitally?) to understand the rules of most team sports got to go on that topic? (It might even be genetic. My sister and I have discussed our complete puzzlement/ brain freeze with most rules of sports.) We were driving back home from a Mindfulness Meditation session past 9pm and I was beginning to sweat. Or consider just giving it a miss. But my own rules for April are to write a poem – even something that resembles the second draft of a poem – each day. And to post it. Those are the only rules that I seem capable of understanding this April. I may know nothing of GAA or chess or only vaguely grasp the principles of any card game not Authors, but I do get that there are rules. You have to know rules to play a game. And the only game I seem to be able to play is NaPoWriMo! At least by my own definition of those rules. 1) check the prompt daily, 2) write a poem, 3) post the poem on the blog.

But one thing I rarely do is versify. And I never have attempted a limerick. So with the clock ticking this is what is on offer for today.  I haven’t a clue if my anapests are in order (too tired), but I did stick to AABBA rhyme schemata.

 

There was once a woman blew in to Dowra

Who learned to talk Leitrim and say “How ye!”

She’s auditioning to be Corrogue’s next crone

Now she’s past sixty and fully all grown

Having found home and her own Hallelujah!

Copyright © 2018 Bee Smith

And to all a good night!

Bee Smith facilitates creative writing workshops, with experience with all age groups and in men-only and women-only groups. She leads haiku walks in Northwest Ireland. If you would like to information about workshops and events and would like to be added to the mailing list please fill in the contact form.