A visit to the Burren

October 19, 2022

Last month I spent a while cat-sitting for friends in the Burren in the west of Ireland. The Burren is one of my favourite places, a thinly populated area in County Clare renowned for its botanical, geological, and archaeological richness.

The late cartographer Tim Robinson described it as ‘a vast memorial to bygone cultures’; I would extend that beyond human cultures for reasons that will become clear. Robinson’s meticulous map of the Burren was among those I took exploring from my base in Corofin village.

This post is more of a photo/geography/archaeology post than a language one, but it does include notes on place names.

The name Corofin comes from Irish Cora Finne ‘white ford’, or ‘weir of the white (water)’ as translated by Deirdre and Laurence Flanagan in their book Irish Place Names. The same root may be familiar from the fair-haired Fionn Mac Cumhaill of Irish legend.

Photo of the main street in Corofin, taken in bright sunlight from near the bridge at its southern end. A mature tree overhangs the street on the left, while on the right is a terrace of colourful one-, two- and three-storey houses with flower beds and a few cars outside.

The white water is the River Fergus, which flows past Corofin and links the two lakes that bracket the village. Its riverbank enjoys constant activity from herons, swans, and other wildlife. This arched stone bridge across it was built in 1790 and is a protected structure:

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Book spine poem: Hidden Symptoms

December 19, 2021

A new book spine poem with a medical theme, to see the year out:

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A stack of books against a white background, their spines forming a found poem, transcribed below.

Hidden Symptoms

Hidden symptoms
Under the skin:
A disaffection,
A ghost in the throat –
Patient or pretender
Waiting for the healer.
Can you tolerate
This parasite?

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Book spine poem: Touching the Precipice

August 9, 2021

For the day that’s in it, a new book spine poem. Bit gloomy, this one.

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Touching the Precipice

Zero, zero, zero wild flowers,
The insect societies
Collapse on your doorstep –
Mind and nature
Touching the precipice.

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A stack of books before a white background, with the spines of the books facing out and forming a colourful visual poem.

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Book spine poem: Listening to the Wind

November 17, 2020

It’s been a while since I made a book spine poem (aka bookmash). This one is overdue, but thanks to Edna O’Brien it’s also a month early:

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Listening to the Wind

Connemara –
listening to the wind,
the songs of trees, wild
December’s nocturnes
on your doorstep,
Going home one by one
in the darkness.

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A stack of horizontal books, their spines facing out to form the poem quoted. The books are more or less centred, and the colours of their spines (orange, black, white and green, a few blues) creates a contrast with the blank white background.

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Book spine poem: All the Pieces Matter

April 1, 2020

If you’re lucky enough to have books and time at hand, here’s something fun you can do in lockdown: book spine poetry.

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All the Pieces Matter

I choose to live
a life in parts –
insects’ flight
from dream to dream,
through the woods
beyond the sea.
I only say this
because I love you:
All the pieces
matter.

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Against a white background stands a stack of books, their spines facing the viewer and creating a found poem as quoted in the post.

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Book spine poem: Secret Place

August 15, 2019

Here’s a new book spine poem (aka bookmash). For the uninitiated: This is a game where you make a visual poem from the spines of books on your shelf.

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Secret Place

Wild flowers, the wild places,
The birds of the innocent wood –
The secret place on the black hill,
Half a life still life,
The living mountain
Changing my mind.

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A mystery letter among the leaves

November 3, 2018

Walking clears my head. Especially here, on the eastern lip of the Atlantic, the fresh winds gusting in over Galway Bay clear the cobwebs of editing and writing from my mind. When I need a break from work – from books, paragraphs, sentences, words, letters – I walk.

Sometimes, though, the letters follow me. This one gave me a proper surprise, almost glowing in the wet autumn ground:

Photo of about 1 square metre of wet footpath, with a white letter Q stencilled on the ground, surrounded by a dozen or so colourful autumn leaves.

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