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On Cavan by Heather Brett, Irish Poet, Writer and Editor
An Cabhán – ‘the hollow’ is a Border county, in Ulster, and surrounded by six other counties Leitrim, Fermanagh, Monaghan, Meath, Longford and Westmeath. Known as the Bréifne County, Cavan nestles amid drumlins and literally hundreds of lakes. It is a traditional town, relatively quiet with a vibrant arts agenda. Drama and music are rife, and famous literati, from Cathal Bui Mac Giolla Ghunna in the 17th century to today’s published poets, all have been writing about the Cavan Landscape for nearly 400 years.
I am no different, coming from a troubled Northern town many years ago, I found solace in Cavan, a tolerance for the poetic, and a refuge for the artist. There is something in the quiet roll and spread of the drumlins that speaks to me. A linked consciousness perhaps, with the landscape. Or maybe memory. The photographs are my way of looking deeper into the land, of connecting with the spiritual, with stone and soil and growing things. For the writer, this landscape has been caught waiting and waiting and waiting…When you walk through a forest like the Cavan burren, there is an air of the primeval …Today jostles with another time, when thin blue smoke might rise from a campfire, when men wore the skins of animals they’d killed and eaten.
This burren is all about texture… the kneaded rock…as if once it was molten and somehow instantly solidified…an abundance of softest moss; fossils, miniscule monuments to the death of ancient living cells, tiny sea creatures that gave up the ghost and fell, forged into the rock, forever caught there, aeons of time passing…this green-ness…shades of the earth…
This was the year of the flood.
Even the curious Kennypottle, alive and
running away with itself, ventured out over the road,
sandbags left slumped and dreaming
against the doors on Railway street.
And I was thinking of beginnings and
endings; how we stay this wondrous road,
the countless that walk unseen beside us
the multitude that have yet to come –
each and every one of us seeking solace,
the right to be,
This place of archaic stone splinters,
fragments the past, the here and now,
us: In a March light fog jostles the skyline
mutes the amber grass
and in the thickening air long dead echoes
rise: warm slick of salted wave,
ancient hush from a shroud of ice.
Cushion moss glows ochre green,
carpets stone and boulder, native ash
compliments the tiny purple orchid
shelters hare, wheatear and moth;
muffles the absent call of fallow deer
Green Man of the keep.
This outcropped earth cradles;
ancient field, valley and cairn combine, give
up the clearings to our dead;
a witness made of every bramble,
blade of grass an offered prayer.
Here is ceremony and peace,
a chant in every fractured rock
hum of want from the mirrored lough,
fall of vibrant light,
where portal stone, chalk hill and grave
wait out this fragile trust
in a perfect linear reach to a solstice sun.
Heather Brett was born in Newfoundland, Canada, raised in Northern Ireland and has lived in Cavan in the south of Ireland for the past 30 years. Poet and artist, she has been Writer-in- Residence & Arts facilitator for counties Cavan, Drogheda, Louth and The Midlands Collaboration of Longford, Westmeath, Laois & Offaly. Four collections to date, the first of which ‘Abigail Brown’ (Salmon Publishing) won The Brendan Behan Memorial Prize. Editor of Windows Publications since 1992, Heather has edited over 40 books of poetry and art, for both children and adults.
A recent poem ‘Testament’ about the Cavan Burren, near Blacklion was set to music by composer Sean Doherty from Derry and was performed by the Cavan County Choir on Summer Solstice, 21st June in the Cavan Burren.
Heather co-ordinates the current ‘Response to Beauty’ Project, which focuses on an artistic response to the natural beauty of the Cavan Landscape and the Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark. Her photographs are a constant source of research and stimulation that form part of her contribution to the showcase exhibition at the end of Nov until 7th December.
Her website www.windowspublicationsanddesign.com is a recent innovation, expanding on Windows to offer writers guidance, publishing information and how to raise their literary profile.
© Heather Brett