Mapping a Geopark poem by poem

Published: 16 March 2021

How do you engage the public when you need to stay in your own 5km or 10 mile zone? Technology, once again, is creating innovative ways to reach out and involve the public.

In the case of the Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark, COVID-19 restrictions have created conditions for an inventive outreach strategy by embracing a project that combines literature, landscape, and digital technology. On UNESCO World Poetry Day this 21 March, the Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark is excited to announce the creation of a digital Geological Survey Ireland funded Geopark Poetry Map, inspired by the geoheritage sites across the Geopark, will be mapped poem by poem.

Martina O’Neill, Development Officer, Partnership and Engagement with the Global Geopark, was approached by Dowra based poet and Geopark Ambassador Bee Smith last autumn with an idea of creating a Geopark Poetry Map on their website.  Bee Smith says, “The idea got very positive feedback from the Geopark office staff. I had been awarded an Artist Development award from Cavan County Council Arts Office, but because of lockdown had to abandon my original project. Catriona O’Reilly, Cavan County Arts Office, was very supportive of the idea and let me run with it. And it just grew and grew”. Smith will be curating the project with the support of the Cavan Arts Office.

Catriona O’Reilly comments, “The moment of inspiration for the Geopark Poetry Map was described by curator Bee Smith as a ‘lightbulb moment’. This landscape so rich in cultural history is a fitting home for an interactive poetic map. From Cathal Buí Mac Ghiolla Gunna writing in the 1700’s up to the present day writing of Bee Smith and Seamus O hÚltacháin this landscape has woven its poetic spell and the time is right to share the magic, the draíocht with the world”.

The Geopark Officers and Bee Smith produced a funding proposal to Geological Survey Ireland’s Geoheritage Fund that was successful in late 2020. The project is commissioning five established poets and writers to create poems focussing on individual geopark sites across Fermanagh and Cavan, as well as seeking contributions from new and emerging poets and involving local schools.

The Geopark’s Poetry Map will include recordings of the poems by professional actors. This addition to the project is being made possible from support from Cavan’s Ramor Theatre and provides some employment for actors while theatres have been dark because of lockdown restrictions.

Martina O’Neill, Development Officer – Partnership and Engagement with the Global Geopark states, “Our Geopark contains some of the finest landscapes on the island of Ireland all which have been shaped by natural and cultural influences over thousands of years. We are truly delighted to work with our Geopark Ambassadors, like Bee, and our local schools and wider communities to help showcase our wonderful landscapes and bring their fascinating stories to life in unique and creative ways”.

The poems will celebrate Geoheritage of each site, which encompasses features of geology that have had a direct impact on these heritage sites. It combines the interaction and interplay between history, science, and humans in a living and continuously evolving landscape.

Fermanagh and Omagh District Council’s Arts Manager, Bryony May, said, “We are delighted to be involved with this project which celebrates both the arts and our beautiful landscape. In particular, we are excited to see the new work commissioned. We know that the pupils of primary schools will thoroughly enjoy visiting and writing about various sites in the Geopark, and we look forward to seeing their work on the map”.

The Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark has over seventy sites of significance spread over west Fermanagh and west Cavan. It celebrates twenty years as a European Global Geopark this year and in 2008 became the first cross-border Geopark in the world and being jointly managed by Fermanagh and Omagh District Council and Cavan County Council. In 2015 the Geopark was awarded UNESCO status when Global Geoparks became an official programme in UNESCO and consequently is equal to World Heritage Sites and Man and Biosphere Reserves.

Do you write poetry? Have you visited any of the Geopark sites?

Do you have a poem inspired by any of the Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark sites? If you would like to submit a poem to appear on the Geopark’s Poetry Map, please contact Bee Smith at GeoparkPoetryMap@gmail.com to receive full guidelines.

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