"On the Ring of Beara," and other poems

We are so pleased to share some of the poems that Maggie Jackson wrote during the Vignettes & Verses workshop this past June.



On the Ring of Beara


Looking west to the shining ocean,
the wind bathing my face,
sheep and lambs eyeing me,
islands hover on the horizon.

Scattered on the heather blanket,
gleaming studs of sunshine petals,
the healing flower of St John.

Against an azure skyscape,
Summer is painted here:
amethyst thyme,
coppery bracken,
curlews’ wings.

A place to stand
and sing.





On Visiting the ‘Hag of Beara’


I came close once before,
three years past, being
called by the rock,
and holding back.
Others told of visiting ‘her’,
animating the granite,
feeling her presence,
and I dare not draw near.

But now, with friends,
I approach the Hag,
unable to turn away
from her haunting gaze.

She guides my steps through the bracken,
easy to stumble here, and so, not greet her.
Easy to deny her power, to shield my ears
from the word she offers: ‘Release’.

A thickened carapace around my heart
cracks, crumbles and is dissolved by tears.
‘Release! – let go! – be healed!’
Now I can leave, having first come home.






(Dedicated to the ‘Hag of Beara'

The weight of prayers, heavy on my head,
centuries of hopes and worries laid upon me.
Shells, stones, flowers and coins,
the dragnet of loss, unspoken fears,
longings for endings or beginnings,
I carry them all on my lichen-crusted crown.

Ten thousand thousand years of footsteps
circling me, of arms embracing me,
soft tears falling daily on my brow.
I look and silently wait,
for as many years as it takes to
turn a heart of flesh to stone.
But sometimes, in my waiting,

there is laughter and dancing children,
wine-full lovers, reflections of
dragon-fly wings. There is music too,

fiddle, flute and harp, a woman singing,
a lark heralding sunrise and nightfall.

 I am eased by them all.

My smile is released to shine on the strand,
to sparkle on sea and mountain-side.

Ten thousand thousand years and tides,
the ebb and flow of lifetimes,
eternity decreased by the certainty

of my beloved’s return.


Maggie Jackson

June 25th 2016

Land and sea of the Ring of Beara

Land and sea of the Ring of Beara

Placard at the Hag of Beara, or An Chailleach Bhéarra in Irish

Placard at the Hag of Beara, or An Chailleach Bhéarra in Irish

Offerings left for the Hag of Beara   

Offerings left for the Hag of Beara



















Gail Simmons on painting: our Glengarriff meal



We welcome Gail Simmons as our guest writer as she recounts memories from her participation in our Ireland Workshop. This is part II.


by Gail Simmons


Over time, let’s say, forty years, I’ve discovered that I’m an artist, hands down, there’s no other way to describe me.  I dance, I write, I paint, I play guitar, I love to observe nature.  I’m curious, but flee from deadly routines without meaning. Creativity is a practice, but makes sense to the spirit. Sprint, slow down, sprint, slow down, not run, run, run. I need time to turn around, to see where I came from.  I need fallow time like a field. Images help me do that because they’re still.


When I paint, it’s usually from a live model, man or woman.  Paintings don’t always turn out, but the subjects imbue the paintings with an enlivened energy.  The visual/physical communication is electric.


The four photographs I took in Ireland at that last meal were the reason I set forth on the journey to begin with—the people.  I paint people that we say become figures. And one image in particular spoke to me.  From the flips of Kaia’s hand in lively conversation, to Neal’s punctuated stare, to Manuela and Joanne’s elegant profiles; it all seemed to fit on a picture plane and began to percolate as a painting.


Painting is an illusion like the photograph.  It tricks us and lures us.

Back home, I had the time I needed to work on the painting. No one in the photo would move or depart.  Yet something moved me past the photographic image.  At my studio in Southeast Portland, I worked rapidly with my brush strokes standing before the easel, the painting clipped on, as if indeed there were a model.  In between mixing the salmon pink of Neal’s shirt and the flesh tones using red iron oxide and white, a touch of opera rose, yellow or cad red, I interpreted the perspective of the room in Glengarriff.  I remember the waitress passing through, delivering our meals, that the table was long and we couldn’t all talk together, but we carried the same sentiment. Enjoy!  How to place the abstract painting behind the people - black with streaks of purple, yellow ochre, white.  Joanne’s shirt, in the foreground, but not too bright, or it will dominate.  Her nose against Manuela’s black hair.  Fingers, hands, touching mouths, touching air, all compacted into the vertical rectangle of the picture plane, each definition of shape in context. 


It’s one of the few pictures of people I’ve done recently from a photograph.  It’s a reminder of how present those at the table actually were in my life and still are. 

Thank you Meg and Kaia