Tag Archives: Brigid Poetry Festival

Poetry, Inauguration, Land

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I’ve been sitting here watching President Obama’s second inauguration today, thinking about politics and ritual, about society and culture, and how even powerful, hard-won change can still seem, and maybe is, fragile.

Our country’s story in my lifetime has so often been written by violence. And every day that big story is not about tragedy but about the peaceful transfer of power, of a participatory democracy and civil society, I feel so moved I am riveted to the scene. So be it.

8th Annual Brigid Poetry Festival

This seems like a good time to start the ball rolling for the Brigid Poetry Festival, an outpouring of verse in honor of the Goddess Brigid, Patron Saint of Ireland. Already people are starting to post on the Poetry Festival’s Facebook Page that I have been curating for the past two years. I think this year’s silent poetry reading could be even larger and more inclusive than the last.

Here are two poems about the spirits of this land and the spirit of this country. The first is part of the ancient Navajo Mountain Chant, a nine-day ceremony of healing for individuals and blessing the whole tribe. It was witnessed and translated in 1884 by Irish immigrant Washington Matthews, who had served as a surgeon in the Civil War.

Twelfth Song of the Thunder

The voice that beautifies the land!
The voice above,
The voice of the thunder
Within the dark cloud
Again and again it sounds,
The voice that beautifies the land.

The voice that beautifies the land!
The voice below,
The voice of the grasshopper
Among the plants
Again and again it sounds,
The voice that beautifies the land.

Praise Song for the Day

The poet Elizabeth Alexander wrote this for Barack Obama’s first inaugural ceremony in January, 2009. I think it deserves to be read again today. All praise is due to love.

Each day we go about our business,
walking past each other, catching each other’s
eyes or not, about to speak or speaking.

All about us is noise. All about us is
noise and bramble, thorn and din, each
one of our ancestors on our tongues.

Someone is stitching up a hem, darning
a hole in a uniform, patching a tire,
repairing the things in need of repair.

Someone is trying to make music somewhere,
with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum,
with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.

A woman and her son wait for the bus.
A farmer considers the changing sky.
A teacher says, Take out your pencils. Begin.

We encounter each other in words, words
spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed,
words to consider, reconsider.

We cross dirt roads and highways that mark
the will of some one and then others, who said
I need to see what’s on the other side.

I know there’s something better down the road.
We need to find a place where we are safe.
We walk into that which we cannot yet see.

Say it plain: that many have died for this day.
Sing the names of the dead who brought us here,
who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges,

picked the cotton and the lettuce, built
brick by brick the glittering edifices
they would then keep clean and work inside of.

Praise song for struggle, praise song for the day.
Praise song for every hand-lettered sign,
the figuring-it-out at kitchen tables.

Some live by love thy neighbor as thyself,
others by first do no harm or take no more
than you need. What if the mightiest word is love?

Love beyond marital, filial, national,
love that casts a widening pool of light,
love with no need to pre-empt grievance.

In today’s sharp sparkle, this winter air,
any thing can be made, any sentence begun.
On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp,

praise song for walking forward in that light.

Brigid Poetry Festival, Year Seven

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How did that happen? How has it been seven years since we started doing a Silent Poetry Reading for the Goddess Brigid (patron of poets, healers and midwives) on our blogs?

The answer to this question is generally uninteresting to anyone save the questioner, so I will spare you my thoughts about the passage of time, etc. Suffice to say that it is time to celebrate the return of the light, and the Feast of St. Brigid, with offerings of poetry. For anyone just tuning in, the festival has a Facebook page where anyone can post their poem. It is a lovely way to spend the afternoon, scrolling through all the postings and immersing yourself in the beauty of language.

If you are not on Facebook, feel free to post a poem below in the comments, as I will link to this post on Facebook so people can find your poem. And to start the ball rolling, here is a poem of mine I just found this morning and can’t believe I haven’t posted before now. It is an invocation of the ancestors that I did one year at Samhain, broom in hand. Very effective! Use with caution.

Ancestor Invocation

Broom on the moor,
Broom on the floor
The ancestors wait
We open the door

Inside and out
Behind and about
Dust of the ancients,
We call you out!

Out of the past,
out of the ash
Out from the ceiling,
Floor and sash

We trace the sacred steps of old
We stand upon the year’s threshold

Now join us in this dance tonight
As darkness gives to us our sight

Of teeming life in hidden deeps
Come! Be our candle while all else sleeps.

Anne Hill
Samhain, 1999

Poems for the Return of the Light

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I have two poems to offer this year: an invocation by Leonard Cohen, and an elegy by Rumi. Both of these I read at my nephew’s funeral last Fall. Both I think deserve wider reading. So here they are, in honor of Brigid, the poet’s muse. May the light return to us all.

Holy is your name, holy is your work, holy are the days that return to you. Holy are the years that you uncover. Holy are the hands that are raised to you, and the weeping that is wept to you. Holy is the fire between your will and ours, in which we are refined. Holy is that which is unredeemed, covered with your patience. Holy are the souls lost in your unnaming. Holy, and shining with a great light, is every living thing, established in this world and covered with time, until your name is praised forever.

Leonard Cohen
Book of Mercy

Autumn Rose Elegy

You’ve gone to the secret world.
Which way is it? You broke the cage

and flew. You heard the drum that
calls you home. You left this hu-

miliating shelf, this disorienting
desert where we’re given wrong

directions. What use now a crown?
You’ve become the sun. No need for

a belt: you’ve slipped out of your
waist! I have heard that near the

end you were eyes looking at soul.
No looking now. You live inside

the soul. You’re the strange autumn
rose that led the winter wind in

by withering. You’re rain soaking
everywhere from cloud to ground. No

bother of talking. Flowing silence
and sweet sleep beside the Friend.

Rumi
The Glance

6th Annual Brigid Poetry Festival

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It is that time of year again, when bloggers around the world post a favorite poem in honor of Brigid, the Irish goddess and patron saint of smithcraft, poetry, and healing. Brigid’s feast day is February 1st, so between now and then is the perfect time to publish a poem to celebrate.

Last year many great poems were published all over the web. This year, I have set up a Community Facebook Page to help people easily view each other’s poems and to share them around as much as possible. If you post a poem on your blog, please share the link on the community page so we can all go there and read it. If you don’t have a blog or website of your own, go ahead and post your poem in its entirety to the community page.

I haven’t quite decided which poem to post, so I have a week ahead of me to wander through books of poetry. May you enjoy the same pursuit, and by February 1st may the web be overflowing with poetic offerings!

5th Annual Brigid Poetry Festival

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I had to go back to this post to find the earliest reference (Reya’s original blog post is lost in the mists) to the now Jan28moonannual Silent Poetry Reading in honor of Brigid (Saint or Goddess, as you prefer). And while the first invitation was for a single day’s blogging event, watching the misty full moon tonight got me thinking of a favorite line from a poem that I want to offer, so I will simply declare that this year’s event has begun!

Life is hard enough; why shouldn’t we take all the full moon weekend leading up to February 2nd to celebrate this patroness of the arts and healing, and read her a poem or two?

For those of you with dormant blogs (ahem, Oak and Pandora!), now would be a great time to dust them off and offer up a poem. And for those of you who are more web-savvy (I’m looking at you, Yvonne and Cat), perhaps there is a way to aggregate everyone’s contributions, so that it is easier to have a glass of wine on Brigid’s feast day and browse through all the great poems.

Update: Yvonne has set up a system: if you post a poem this weekend, go to delicious.com and enter your post url with the tag brighid2010. (Or get a geeky friend to do it for you; it’s not super intuitive.) If you just want to read all the poetry, search for the brighid2010 tag at delicious and all our posts will show up together. Magic!

This is a poem I wrote back in 1990. I remembered it because the last line came back to me tonight, and I still really like it. Here it is.

The Basket
(after John Berryman)

What should I do, evenings, cobwebs
swaying in the rafters and three finely
printed invitations nailed to the

message board? (they quote Neruda, say
Bring the Children, or Softball at the
Reception) But marriage? Why flower

the hair or slip new diamonds through ears,
when the chapels are emptying: vessels
thrown with relief into rivers, small

silver placed in the notches of trees and
bells over arms of sky? The bride’s demure
look is not modesty but ambivalence—notice

the primrose which holds her gaze as he
leads her out of the valley. The day I
ate caviar from your navel and we pulled

each other through the brush to gather
the sweetest berries, I thought you were
a finely feathered basket, serpent-coiled

and watertight. We have been each others’
alibis, laughing as the caterers filled our
plates, saying we were too young to know

better, with the happy couple making the
evil eye behind our backs. Now, three-fingered,
I sit nights mending coil, sedge soaking

in the dish pan. I will make them one with
blue feathers, tell them marriage is not bells
but the basket, and we its constant gleaners.