• Ali Isaac

MAPPING THE LANDSCAPE WITH POETRY


I don't know about you, but I get quite emotional watching that! It's where I live, my adopted homeland, a landscape comfortably sharing space with the present and its ancient past. It's a fragment of Ireland you are probably not familiar with unless you're local, and if so, then you're missing out.


The Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark is the first Cross Border Geopark in the world, and comprises a varied and and complex landscape with a history stretching back over 650 million years.


A Global Geopark is a region with geological heritage of international significance where that heritage is being used to support local communities through sustainable tourism.

Marble Arch Caves Geopark website


But it's not just about geology; they also protect and promote sites of archaeological and historical interest, locations associated with folklore, and habitats which support unique flora and fauna.


You may remember my post last summer about the Cavan Burren, which is a part of this fantastic geopark.

click here to read my post, the mighty cavan burren

the calf house, the cavan burren, marble arch cave unesco geopark

the shannon pot, source of the river shannon, which rises in co cavan, is also part of the geopark

However, much of this past pandemic-blighted year has seen us all ball-and-chained to within 5kms of our homes, and government rules have temporarily prevented access to public amenities.


As a result, staff at the geopark decided to do something about this to re-engage us with our landscape, and believe me when I say it is pretty special! The geopark has come up with an inventive outreach strategy by embracing a project that combines literature, landscape, and digital technology. They will be developing a poetry map inspired by sites from the geopark, and you are invited to submit your poems.


Martina O’Neill, Development Officer, Partnership and Engagement with the Global Geopark, was approached by Dowra based poet and Geopark Ambassador Bee Smith last autumn with an idea of creating a Geopark Poetry Map on their website. Bee Smith says, “The idea got very positive feedback from the Geopark office staff. I had been awarded an Artist Development award from Cavan County Council Arts Office, but because of lockdown had to abandon my original project. Catriona O’Reilly, Cavan County Arts Office, was very supportive of the idea and let me run with it. And it just grew and grew”. Smith will be curating the project with the support of the Cavan Arts Office.

Marble Arch Caves Geopark website


I have been following Bee Smith, on Facebook for a while now, and she emailed me to tell me more about the project after she saw last week's blog post about the poetry at the Hill of Mullagh. Bee is the Geopark Ambassador and Geopark Poetry Map Curator; she also facilitates Word Alchemy Creative Writing Workshops in West Cavan and is on the Irish Art Council's Writers in Prisons panel. Her articles can be found widely across the blogosphere. She is the author of "Brigid's Way: Celtic Reflections on the Divine Feminine" available as an ebook on Amazon.


"We have commissioned new work from five established writers. But we are also seeking work from new and emerging poets who have an interest in geoheritage," she tells me. Bee has a list of over fifty sites the Geopark would love to see poetry inspired by, but Geoheritage must be the primary inspiration for the poems.


The competition is open until 31st May 2021, so you have plenty of time to craft your entry. The poems selected will appear on the digital poetry map in October this year, and will also be reproduced in audio and print. Additionally, they will be recited by professional actors, and the poet will also be paid.


If you would like to submit a poem to this exciting initiative, please email Bee at GeoparkPoetryMap@gmail.com to receive the information pack you will need to get your creative juices flowing. And best of luck!

poetry at mullagh hill

Before I go, I just want to draw your attention to a short film, which I first saw yesterday, and which has me totally mesmerised! The name of this piece is The Cailleach Awakes, so it is fitting that I include it here when discussing the connection between landscape and poetry; here we have the connection of landscape and dance, and it is beautiful, compelling and emotional.


It was conceived by Stephanie Keane, a professional Sean Nós dancer, who is also the star. This film does everything I love about art; it gives thanks to past traditions whilst transforming them in new, exciting, contemporary ways in the present, at the same time as it points powerfully to changes we must make for a better future. You can find Stephanie at The Fairy Council.