‘Treasure’ is a short film commissioned by Offaly Arts for Culture Night, 2021 which features a selection of bog poetry by Eileen Casey set against the backdrop of Irish peatlands. Watch the film below and read more about the work.
Poet Eileen Casey writes: "The poems are an evocation of the imaginative, creative elements boglands create. For a writer, the vastness of the bog, its historical and ecological significance is immense. Deep preserving layers allow for quiet contemplation yet apparent ‘stillness’ is a paradox. Bog flora and fauna thrive; birds come and go with the seasons. Rain rinses, sun warms and dries.
I wanted to create a world of possibility while also recognising the past. Men have spent their entire working lives engaging with peatlands. I try to paint images through language as visual artists use their colour palette on canvas.
‘Treasure’ formed part of a larger collaborative exhibition ‘The Strange Case of the Irish Elk’, which, together with Eileen's poetry, features the sculpture of Canadian artist, curator, academic and anthropologist, Dr Jeanne Cannizzo. ‘The Strange Case of the Irish Elk’ was awarded a project development award by the Arts Council.
Produced by HelloCamera (Birr), the artistry of Caroline Conway features, together with the exquisite photography of Peatlands Gathering 2021 speaker Tina Claffey. ‘The Strange Case of the Irish Elk’ opened in Errant Art Space, BC, Vancouver early September 2021.
Read some of Eileen's work below:
Dappled light pleats lilac shadings.
Blue meshes with pink; bog weathered
morning enters its stride. Colour
sharpens as light deepens. Spider webs
drape lacy antimacassars across purple
heathers, yellow flowered asphodel.
Early frost begins to thaw, burgeons
sphagnum’s already swollen hoard.
Dew glistens pearly frogspawn,
dragonflies hover close-by. Skylarks
rise with meadow pipits and willow
warblers or stall over a bog-bean pool.
Man and beast leave traces in their wake.
A thumbprint traced in buried bog butter.
A psalter creased by righteous devotion.
Elk bone fragments. Bodies. Stabs of bog
shadow struggle with bog memory;
sacrificial wounds. We glimpse survival
in russet-edged leaves, mauve bruises
ruffled onto moss.
Bog is like a treasure filled galleon,
centuries deep. Imperial measure in peat.
We lose sight how, even inconsequential
elements become more than their sum of parts.
Faithful to its seasons, bog keeps track.
Sirocco winds sieve fine Sahara drifts onto
windscreens. Nature’s exotic gift. Blood
thicker than water. Bog dust thicker than sand
shed from peaty pyramids. Summer after summer,
under fingernails, lodged into crevices. Back
breaking graft. Cold tea slaked thirst. Butter
melted on bread. Lapwing or plover overhead.
Bog dust smells of wet winters. Even in heat.
Fathers, lone cowboys with donkeys. Head
Honchos. Their tower blocks rising sod by sod;
nearest thing to skyscrapers on bog prairie.
Mothers complained. Bog dust hidden in new
washed linen. Powdery clots crushed into seams,
rolled up sleeves. Shaken out on washboard ribs.
Flat bog prairie sometimes yielded secret bounty.
Discarded metal, old buttons. Bodies. Bog spirits
invisible, freed through trepanned skulls. A Spitfire
sunk in a Donegal bog, lifted out, all guns blazing.
If we’d only known how deep elk sleeps, deaf
to our vibrations. Thorny, like holly, antlers
prized. Sold at auction to the highest bidder.
What rituals we’d perform to raise this Lazarus!
Dervish dances. Passion stirred in a storm of dust.
The Mesolithic Loop
(Lough Boora Parklands)
A tarred pathway in Boora, opposite
the birdhide. Beyond the partridge farm,
coniferous forest. Remnants of a storm
shoreline exist, when River Shannon
and its lakes, Lough Ree and Lough Derg,
covered much of the midlands. Proof of
colonies, earlier lives marked in charcoal,
V shaped axes. Made from hard stone.
Age to age, Mesolithic hunters transitioned,
survived by foraging. Sat by roasting fires
outside long timber houses. Eating fresh kill.
A Mesolithic barbeque of sorts. Or chewing
gum, made from birch bark. Hazel nuts
found in hazel woods. Children suckled
then slept, sung to rest by Mesolithic
lullabies. Flame flickered across rosy skin,
star lanterns studded dark, Mesolithic skies.
Whatever time or place, we leave traces.
Folds, creases, pinch-points. Our comings
and goings mapped out like scent drifted
from history’s open windows.
The Mesolithic hazel trees, so like those
circled around the legend’s sacred pool;
salmon feeding on leaves. Hazel wisdom
gifted to Fionn MacCumhaill. Heartache
also navigates its own trail, generation upon
generation. Desecrated forests. Ravaged
landscape. Birdsong silenced. There’s joy
in preservation. Our future in safe-keeping.
Eileen has a small press Fiery Arrow which she published Circle & Square and The Lea-Green Down. Bog Treasure, upcoming from Arlen House, will feature her bog poetry while you can purchase Berries for Singing Birds (2019, Arlen House) at the link below: