Hello, and welcome to my Irish poetry blog! A little introduction, and then onto the meaty stuff –
My name is Allie. I’m a member of something called the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA), a medieval study nonprofit organization with chapters around the world. My specific chapter is called the Barony of Ponte Alto in the Kingdom of Atlantia, which roughly translates to northern Virginia. In the SCA, I’m know as Lady Lasair inghen ui h’Airt, a bard from 16th century Ireland. My hobbies in real life and the SCA tend to cross over somewhat, as I love music, poetry, fiber arts, and drawing.
This past summer, I was able to go to an event called Pennsic War. For the uninitiated, Pennsic War is a large SCA event that takes place in western Pennsylvania for two weeks mid-summer. I always love attending because there’s always a multitude of things to do! This past Pennsic, I got inspired to try bending my art in a different direction and so I created this blog! My hope is to write a new poem in a late period Irish form once a month while doing research into it. I wanted someplace to record it, so here you have it!
Now, onto the good stuff: today, I’ll talk about my resources so far.
I could tell from the get-go that researching Irish poetry in general is going to be a challenge, let alone my specific time period. I’m starting with some resources in general to see if I can start writing and narrow it down from there! I’m starting with a few resources I’ve gathered with the help of SCA Bardic Arts, a Facebook group. (If you haven’t joined, I’d recommend it! It’s very supportive and helpful.) In addition, I have a free membership to JSTOR and am beginning to learn Standard Irish Gaelic with the Duolingo app. If you can, I’d highly recommend both of these things – Duolingo in particular because when used online it explains grammar structures and both site and app let you hear native speakers to help with pronunciation. This in turn is going to help with understanding rhyme schemes and syllabic structures in poetry!
The article I’ve gotten started with is found on JSTOR, called “An Introduction to the Context of Early and Medieval Irish Poetry” by Richard J. Kelly for The Harp in 1995. It’s only ten pages, but already it’s a wealth of knowledge that I didn’t have before. It’s free to read online, so that makes it even better. In it, Kelly writes on the imagery found in early Irish poetic texts and draws comparisons to haiku in terms of referencing scenic images that listeners would know without going into detail. The source further details particular poetry forms with differences in the number of syllables and location of rhyming stresses.
Another highly interesting element that Kelly talks about in his article is the history of the poetry – in it, he discusses the oral nature of poetry prior to being recorded. In his article, he says that the Gaelic we see was already standardized thanks to oral history! Obviously over the next thousand years or so the language has changed, but knowing that what we see from that era has a history and that many people around Ireland would have understood is reassuring.
While there’s more reading and thinking to be done, finding this article on JSTOR was an exciting start. So, here is a poem in the style of the deibhide, a pair of seven syllable couplets that rhyme the last syllables of each line. This poetic style can also feature internal rhymes, but I’ll save that for future poems.
Even in bright gold sunshine
And soft green meadows so fine
My poor beating heart still sees
Your smiling face in memory.
Thanks for reading. I’ll see you again soon!
Yours in service and song,