April 12, 2016

Thursday, July 23, 2015

World Poetry: Ireland

Greetings, Poetry Friday friends. We're crossing the Atlantic again this week to visit my good friend, Irish poet Siobhan Mac Mahon.

The lovely and talented
Margaret Gibson Simon
is hosting Poetry Friday today
at Reflections on the Teche.
Siobhan is Irish Performance Poet, Playwright and Poetry Activist living in England. She performs widely in England, Ireland and Europe. Her poems, powerful and often funny, celebrate our sacred connection to the Earth and the return of the Divine Feminine. She pokes fun at rigid, patriarchal religions and structures, giving voice to the outrageous, the silenced and the banished (and that’s just before she has her breakfast!)

I met Siobhan in Salerno, Italy, during the 100 Thousand Poet for Change World Conference last month. Her poems had us howling with laughter, especially the one about Rita, who goes on a quest to find herself and causes quit an internal tsunami.

Siobhan reading a poem
about Adam's first wife, Lilith.

Siobhan has been writing and performing her poetry, collaborating with other artists and creating mayhem/Spoken word projects for over 20 years. She has combined Spoken Word with music, with dance and with film, working with poets and artists from many different backgrounds and cultures.

Siobhan organizes poetry events, including a yearly event for the 100 Thousand Poets for Change Movement and a large gathering of poets for International Women’s Day. She Co-founded Wicked Words  - a long running Spoken Word evening in Leeds and is currently co-hosting a monthly poetry night in Leeds – Transforming With Poetry.

Siobhan’s poetry has been published  both online and in print including: Margutte,  Tadeeb, Leeds Guide, Print Radio and in a Bloodaxe/ Raving beauties Anthology – Hallelujah for 50 Foot Women.

Her workshops focus on writing poetry as a tool for self- expression, healing and creative growth, often working with marginalized, vulnerable or dis-advantaged groups, including:  homeless people, Those suffering with mental health, bereaved families, Immigrants, carers, long term unemployed, youth groups,  young mothers, stroke survivors, survivors of domestic abuse.

She has also worked in schools and with young people teaching creative writing and performance poetry.

Of the poem she is sharing with us today, Siobhan says, "The Poet is suitable for all ages and talks about the Poet's connection to a deeper reality/the other worlds and especially our connection to the earth as living, sacred and alive. It can be useful for encouraging pupils to get in touch with their  sense of a ‘magical reality’ and to write from that place as poets themselves. In Ireland the poet, in the past, was considered someone who could travel between the worlds."

by Siobhan Mac Mahon 

People often ask me what I do.
Well, I say, last week
 I decorated the downstairs loo’

‘No, no, they say
What is it that you really do?

‘Well, I say
I make a dam fine stew,
lamb and onions, carrots too’.

‘No, no, they say
what is it that you do all day?

‘Well, I say
I’ve been known to pray
and every day I take a walk
and I love to talk’

‘No, no, they say
what is it that you do for money?

‘Oh right, says I
I’ve got you now.
Well, sometimes I make a little honey.

‘Oh right, says they
(Pleased at last)
where is it that you keep the bees?

‘Oh no, says I, I don’t keep bees
I gather nectar from the wild,
distill it all in little jars
and call them verses
one two and three.

I sit upon the quiet shore,
stroke the sun warmed rocks
and sometimes they whisper songs to me,
hidden mysteries of the dark blue sea.

I watch the world unfold
I hear the lonely crying
of the lost souls
come keening down the winds.

I listen to the stories told
by the gurgling of the brazen stream
flowing wildly down the hill
in a rhapsody of ecstasy.

I glimpse
a holy rosary
of blue bells
ringing in the woods.

And I try to remember
all of this to thee,
In verses, one, two and three.

But mostly it’s
nothing much that I do.

Though as I say
I make a dam fine stew.

Literary girl power.
(L to R) Ann Bracken, Debby Kevin,
Siobhan Mac Mahon, Carla Bertola.
This poem makes a nice companion to Mary Oliver's poem "The Summer Day." If you work with high schoolers, pairing the two might prompt a good discussion about how two different poets address a similar theme.

Before she leaves us, I asked Siobhan to recommend an Irish poet whose work we might not be familiar with in the U.S. Her choices are:

Performance poet Maighread Medbh and quiet "radical" Rita Ann Higgins. Click on their names to check out each poet's website.

In the World Poetry Series:

World Poetry: India, featuring Menka Shivdasani

World Poetry:Poland, featuring Danuta Kosk-Kosicka and Lidia Kosk

World Poetry: Israel, featuring Michael Dickel


Margaret Simon said...

What a wonderful conversational poem! No one really understands the life of a poet. Reminds me of a Billy Collins poem with a similar theme. Thanks for sharing.

Linda B said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Linda B said...

And so, for me, now retired, when people ask what it is I "do", this poem will be in my mind, Laura. Siobhan seems like someone that has touched so many with her work in all those different groups. A friend of mine shared a packet of poems that a counselor was sharing with those people in hospice, said it was like giving them their final "treasures" to take with them. I thought that was so beautiful. Thank you and thank Siobhan for this lovely poem. "stroke the sun warmed rocks and sometimes they whisper songs to me".

Mary Lee said...

This poem goes nicely with Catherine's quote from Mary Oliver that explains "The Red Wheelbarrow" and what poetry is.

Irene Latham said...

a holy rosary of blue bells. LOVE! Thank you for sharing this, Laura. xo

Doraine said...

Delightful! I'll bet the stew is good, too!

Joy said...

Thanks for the education and the resources. Siobhan's poem is a great example of a performance poem. What fun.

Tabatha said...

I enjoyed this poem/post when I read it on Friday but didn't have time to comment, so I'm back. "I gather nectar from the wild, distill it all in little jars and call them verses" -- marvelous description of poetic beekeeping. I'm saving this poem to re-read. Thanks, Laura and Siobhan.