Art in the Geopark

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Over this summer I am participating in a project initiated by various Cavan County officers – the Arts officer, Catriona O’Reilly, Heritage officer Anne Marie Ward, and the Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark Cavan link officer, Grainne O’Connor.  The project brings artists from all mediums to various Geopark sites where the built and natural heritage will be wellsprings of inspiration. So it was that a dozen or so artists and writers gathered on Summer Solstice.

There are many types of visual artist represented – film, installation, ceramics, painting in various media. There is a musician, as well as poets and storyteller. By early autumn there will be a large body of work that has the landscape of Fermanagh and Cavan as both cornerstone and touchstone.

What is a geopark? Well, it’s a UNESCO designation and recognition of a region’s outstanding international significance for both the built and natural heritage that makes it a global treasure worth conserving and preserving. The Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark was the first international, cross border geopark in the world. It straddles much of south Fermnagh in Northern Ireland and a swathe of central and west Cavan in the Republic of Ireland.

The limestone geology defines much of the geopark. The dozen artists and writers visited Templeport’s St. Mogue’s Island, Cavan Burren Forest Park and Claddagh Glen on summer solstice. And more inspiration will follow in August.

Walking down leafy, calm Claddagh Glen I overheard two artists’ conversation. “I just love what you do with blues!” “Oh, but you have such mossy greens.” It made me wonder that artists are a kind and complimentary species of maker. I can’t imagine poets complimenting enjambement or elegant line endings!

This is an old poem of mine, but it is straight up versification inspired by a turlough in Cavan Burren, now known as Tullygubban Lough. There is a legend of a fairy horse associated with it. This is my telling.

Cautionary (Fairy) Tale

Young women, beware handsome men

with slicked back watery hair, ken

their fetching grins that show a lot of teeth.

For once in your ever young lives

defer to those older and more wise

who can read the reality beneath.

Handsome men that go wandering lough side,

all snake hipped swagger in full lust cry,

need heeding . Fleet foot yourself away!

For once in your ever young lives

defer to those older and more wise.

Head for home without further delay!

Handsome men wandering lough side

often lure with kisses and love sighs,

tempting young women to get carried away.

Yet at least once in your young lives

defer to those older and more wise.

Don’t yield and be led well astray.

Handsome men with their slicked back, watery hair

have a habit of making young women care.

Don’t be fooled – he’ll have you at his call and his beck.

Please for once in your ever young lives

defer to those older and more wise.

That devill’ll shake your life clear off its track.

That handsome man will turn to faerie beast.

That stallion will seek you for his own mortal feast.

He’ll love you. He’ll lave you but never’ll leave you.

So for  Heaven’s sake of your ever young lives

would you not defer to those older and more wise

who’d save you from riding to your doom.

For the skin turned water horse has only one true enclave.

Tullygubban Lough will always be his current consort’s grave.

© Bee Smith 2011

Finding Your Purpose

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When I began to write this blog back in 2014, the purpose was to document the progress of a creative writing program sponsered by Cavan Arts office with EU funding. A group of us spent a week at the Arvon Foundation’s Centre at Lumb Bank in Yorkshire, and a week in Manchester. Once back in Cavan it was time to give back to the community. (Thank you, taxpayers!)  Cavan’s Office of Social Inclusion asked if I would be willing to give a workshop in the nearby Open Prison, Loughan House. I said yes. And that has made all the differance.

Purpose, at least for me, is linked to a sense of vocation. After facilitating two workshops at Loughan House,  I realised I had a passion for working with beginner creative writers. They are inspiring examples of ‘first thought, best thought.’ I had facilitated a few workshops in a past lifetime when I lived in England. But I was still too uncertain of myself then. My boat was pretty rocky and the sea rolled beneath me.  Cavan living has been good ballast to my boat.

What is such a privelage in working with beginners, whether they are living ‘inside’ or out, is communing with virtual strangers on a soul level.So my passion and purpose unite when I lead these workshops. They may be called ‘poetry workshops’ or ‘creative writing’, but really they are held spaces where the participant can listen to that still, small voice inside and begin to record what their soul wishes to speak.  I have worked with women only, men only, young people, literacy challenged, Travellers, the settled and everything in between. They all shine on the page as they (metaphorically speaking) clear their throat and tell the story of their soul journey.

I recently posted about a workshop I facilitated at the Wise Woman Ireland Weekend last month.  Last week the feedback sheet comments popped up in my email Inbox. Here’s a sampling:

  • A wonderful workshop given by an amazing women. Got over my anxieties and learned some great tools Thank You Bee.
  • Bee is very patient and caring,her workshop inspiring. I can write a poem.
  • Fabulous got so much out of it.
  • I actually ended up in the wrong workshop, but it was the right one for me. I got a lot from the writing exercise and finding my omen Thank You Bee.
  • I wrote 3 poems fantastic energy!
  • Really lovely! A lot of thought and energy had gone in to creating it. Facilitator very responsive and able to handle what came up with gentleness and attentiveness.
  • Nice structure for us newbies.
  • I really needed this workshop it was the reason I came I know this now. Thank you so much.

In 2015 I was accepted on to the Irish Arts Council’s Writers in Prison panel. Prison work isn’t for everyone, but I have witnessed a great deal of soul getting a buffing up in a workshop. I love these guys even though I am aware that they have done harm. They are often vulnerable in their writing, so doubly brave given their circumstances.

This poem appears in my collection “Brigid’s Way: Reflections on the Celtic Divine Feminine.” (The Celtic goddess Brigid presided over justice.)

For the Lads at Loughan House

The poems always start outside.

The lough is a wind rippled plain,

Open expanse with nowhere to hide.

 

Matt blue sky forms another side,

Slant of October’s light a golden vein.

The poems always start outside.

 

Starlings scythe the sky then abruptly divide.

Loneliness could drive a soul insane.

Open expanse with nowhere to hide.

 

A way to be free. A place to abide.

The dock stops here. With that I have no complaint.

The poems always start outside.

 

Freedom is a grace, just as the swan pair glides.

Time well spent is eternity’s gain.

Open expanse with nowhere to hide.

 

Behind and beyond no escaping  inside;

A way to be free, the words are that golden vein.

The poems always start outside.

Open expanse with nowhere to hide.

 

© Bee Smith 2015

Writing isn’t about fame or fortune. It’s about these precious moments of being. Also, those precious moments of being shared with others as they break through into that state of excitement when the words and emotions meet on a page, the elation of finding voice.

It’s a Wise Woman That Knows Omens

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“Go forth and make poetry,” I proclaimed at the end of my creative writing workship at the 2017 Wise Woman Ireland Weekend.  This year’s gathering of wise women was at Newgrange where we were able to view both the Brú and Dowth from the field beside our accommodation.  The Boyne meandered on the opposite side of the road. The theme for this Bealtaine Wise Woman Weekend was Passion, Purpose and Purity. All very timely and seasonal for the Celtic wheel of the year.

On Sunday morning ten women from around Ireland joined me on a hunt for omens and auguries using symbol and metaphor.  By the end of the two and a half-hour workshop several women had completed their very first poem.

I set us the task of creating a Treble Elevenie  using the themes Passion, Purpose and Purity as either the beginning or concluding line of the elevenie.

Nightdress

Black lace

Starlight and moondust

With body I worship

Passion

***

Connect

The points

Let magic begin

Tricking around with words

Purpose

***

Being

An urn

Complete in itself

Scenes from a life

Purity

***

Over the course of the weekend I attended two other ‘word’ workshops. In one there was a collective poem created using the ‘cut up’ method.  In the other we looked at lines of poetry in a deeply spiritual context and how it resonated within.

And did I get an omen? Yes, of a sort. But I won’t say exactly what it was, but it is summed up in this quotation from Rumi

May the beauty of what you love be what you do.

I love this writing life. I love living in Ireland. I love the deep nurture of nature and living deep in the silence and solitude of wildish West Cavan. I love how the land speaks. It makes me a wise woman and a very grateful one, too.

Day 4 NaPoWriMo

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Today’s challenge; “write a poem with a secret – in other words, a poem with a word or idea or line that it isn’t expressing directly.” As usual, the titling was a bear!

Taking Tea in Liberty

 

Taking Tea in Liberty

 

 Let’s lay the tea things

On the tray, shall we?

Speak of this, but never that

Keep our cards tucked in Daddy’s drawer

 

Let’s talk of granny’s silver sugar prongs

But not the rise and fall

Of all our futures

Speak of this, but never that

 

How was your journey? Shall I be mother?

You still take sugar?

Speak of this, but never that

How was your weather?

 

See this hallmark stamped

On the saucer’s bottom?

A wedding gift from my Uncle Tom

Speak the speech, but just not yet

 

Leaving so soon? What a shame.

My dear, Your taxi’s here.

Speak soon. We’re on the phone

Safe journey. Safe home.

Day 3 NatPoWriMo

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Today’s set task is elegy, but with the added challenge of including some very personal tick or characteristic of that person.

My Mother’s Face

 

At her funeral

Much was said of

Her faith

Her frugality

 

Lesser known

Was her fierceness-

The Depression kid

With a Roman nose and overbite

 

Becoming a young lady

When the gloves, the hat

The heels and matching bag

Mattered oh so very much

 

Sealed your status

Was your Fate.

But without kismet

Best to be discreet

 

Another most ladylike

Attribute. Decked out

In concaving girdle

The metal garters

 

Carving into pale

Very slim flesh

Suspending her, engineering

her identity

 

But the teeth!

That was Mother Nature’s

Bad fairy godmother gift

Beyond any dental intervention

 

 

The world and women

Moved on.

The gloves came off

Somewhere around 1968

 

 

Only a very few women bothered

Wearing a hat to Mass

(In defiance of St. Paul)

Much beyond ‘72

 

Nuns raised their hemlines

Wimples were bygone

Sister Celestine dyed her fringe

Peeking from a postulant style veil

 

But that was all fashion

Not faith. For it was, after all

About the principle

Which is immortal, like the soul

 

 

Only in her sleep

Dozing on the couch during the 11 o’clock news

Would you notice it

Her jaw gone slack

 

So relaxed at day’s end

The reprieve from the practiced

Thrusting forward of her teeth

Into self-imposed alignment

 

A discipline, like daily mass

Grace and night prayers

A fierce sculpting that

Was her original face

 

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April 2017 NatProWriMo

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Day 1 saw me facilitating a poetry workshop at the Benwisken Centre in Sligo with a few other fools for poetry. Gathered by a fire we had some creative sparks, we fed the flames with shared techniques and thoughts.

My own thoughts were echoed by Poetry Ireland’s logo that arrived in an email on 31st March – Poetry Connects. The older I get the more I find that connection is a kind of cure all for what ails the world. More, poetry has a way of being both. It weds what Eavan Boland calls the ‘I’ and the ‘We.’ Or, another way, the personal and universal.

So after three hours and a shared lunch we set off for landscape, some of which fed W. B. Yeats’ own poetry. Some, which we hoped, would inspire our own poems.  We walked the glen around the mill ruins of Gleniff. We drove passed Diarmuid and Grainne’s Cave on the Horseshoe Drive; the fairy door was open.  The poets went to the ocean at Streedagh as the tide went out and we picked up fossils and held eons in our hands. We stopped for tea and coffee at Glencar and then walked up to the waterfall that figures in the imaginings of Yeat’s poem Stolen Child.

I found that ‘the line’, the hook, eluded me yesterday. I did write a verse, completely off workshop topic.

There is no shame

in imperfection

Even when the tutor blames herself

for lack of application.

 

For it is not for want

of inspiration.

Perhaps the brain’s gone lame?

Or am I just a poet dilletante

 

dabbling in literary shallows.

For many may toil, but

few may be hallowed

scribbling across this blank page floor.

Day 2 NatProWriMo

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The theme today is recipe…

Cooking on Gas

To love

and be loved in return.

Not always easy.

But worth it.

Indubitably.

 

First, let go of control.

Let go of perfection.

Not always easy

I know,

but they will flatten

a cake faster than

an intemperate oven.

 

While you’re at it,

cast out fear.

It plays no part here.

Whisk it out

of the laboratory of love

because this kitchen is

one of everyday

and earthly delight.

 

Inevitably,

you will scorch.

you will drop items.

You will break,

possibly even injure yourself

and the beloved in the process

(amateurs that you are),

substitute ingredients,

twitch your nose and

magic up a meal in a twinkle

(improvisers that you are.)

 

When you are down

to your last pot

you still have the fire.

For nothing is lost

until that last

whoosh of air

is expelled.

And even then

there is still the savour

on the tongue of memory

speaking all the ways

we made it new,

still do,

even after we thought

the pot was empty.

 

Cake from top