Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Following a Different Piper

It’s been a busy and productive three weeks. After researching mythology associated with Irish neolithic sites, particularly Brewel Hill and Killeen Cormac in County Kildare, Loughcrew in County Meath, I have written 12 new poems to accompany a forthcoming exhibition of paintings by Elaine Leigh, a colleague of mine. Elaine’s images draw on stories related to these sites: the piper and dancers turned to stone on Brewel Hill; the Cailleach, goddess of winter, who scattered the stones that gave rise the cairns at Loughcrew; the Púca, (related to Puck), shape shifter and mischief-maker in Celtic lore.

The paintings are abstract: suggestions of human visages in stone, orbs of energy like flowers on stalks that are threads through time, ballerina-like trees, skeletal heads of horses, hounds, goats: the various incarnations of the Púca. They are richly coloured in gold, crimson and azure blue, beautifully rendered, highly original, full of energy, absorbing and evocative.

For me, it has been a change in direction. Not altogether my comfort zone: getting the balance between the modern and ancient proved difficult. Should there be constant reference to oak woods and hazel copses, should I use November or Samhain; keeping the “faery” element without becoming 19th century presents problems.

It has been instructive; the difficulty of writing poems that are not merely retelling what is already in the images, that provide information on the images while retaining artistic merit in themselves; poems that complement the spirit and mood of the paintings. Has it worked? I have no doubt about Elaine Leigh’s work, and I’m looking forward to your judgements on mine.

On a different tack but, coincidently, related, this Thursday there will be two sessions of story-telling in Rathmines Library at 2pm and 5pm. A fantastic opportunity to hear wonderful tellers weave their magic.

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