Trees of Ballydermot Bogs

Follow this project, by artist and author Lynn Buckle, recording the journey of change on one small part of Ireland’s largest peat bog; the Bog of Allen. Once made-up entirely of natural raised bogs, this vast area has long been farmed for turf on an industrial scale, leaving barren landscapes and a scorched ecology. It holds its own particular beauty. The artist captures snippets of this land as commercial extraction comes to an end and is soon to be re-purposed with wind turbines. Partake in this process of change by sharing and exploring these written and drawn vignettes of the re-wilding and of the building process, as seen through small slices of bog life.




Featured post

#TreesOfBallydermotBogs Week 5

Her Name Was Not On The Timesheet When The Watering Began

These are not lands in limbo, as the re-wilding suggests, they are lands under control. They may slip and slide to evade capture but with ‘re-purposing’ stamped upon their mapped lines, they are marked terrain. A windfarm and 126 million euro, to be exact, which makes controllers edgy, creates new controls and who said what why and when

Ms King says Bord na Mona and the Midlands will serve as a litmus test for Ireland’s transition into a low carbon economy. What about us women?

Some to be re-watered she is told

ditches to be burst

Ms King and other women should know that their place is not on bogs or intersections

this is Midlands Business, Queens County and beyond

suck back to nineteen hundred.

Suck and see

she goes to Pale, swoons, and fades,

gets awarded grant aid to sell cream teas

on Greenways, Blueways, Browns and frowns as Curlews wait for Middling Men to finish and just fuck off

#TreesOfBallydermotBogs Week 2

There are No Trees to Draw at 53.266185, -7.019236

To reach a thumbprint of dried blood you must walk for thirty minutes at right-angles to the road. Horizontals and parallels dissect and define this flat landscape. Bare turf stretches in every direction, hung with steely skies reflecting on dead water. The wind has little to create noise with if you are the only vertical to beat against. You head towards a smudgy distance, hoping for trees, shrubbery, anything at all to break the monotony of this long track. You may not reach anything. You may not be able to walk back. You may not have enough breath as the air sucks all life away. There are no mountainous dramas, crashing seas, hidden valleys with lush ravines, or green peaks to reach. Just slow straight lines where nature has been cut out. Farming of peat has ceased. People have left. Finally, the smudge you have been aiming for grows larger. You discern a scraped-together pyramid of scrap-metal, girders, and cranes. Turns out to be a pyre of bone-white wood, dragged from the bogs and bleached by the sun. Beside it sit three shipping containers, marooned some seventy-nine kilometres from ports or shores. Up close, they appear to have been converted into makeshift offices and stores. A metal teapot shines on the ground in front of them. A second one gleams on rusty steps. A sheet of paper lifts in a breeze, settles in a gaping doorway. A timesheet, dated 2015. You read the workers’ names, families known and unknown, their shifts, and how much land they stripped in Week 17. An uncle or two on the list blow away with the brown dust, nothing to make them stick. The dark cavern smells of Swarfega, grease, and blood. Another metal teapot. Stains and chains on walls and an opened first aid box. This is Midlands’ Business. This is what is left.

Books with Rural Settings, Written by Women

Everything UnderThe VegetarianPondCasting Deep ShadePrimeval and Other Times

The River CaptureHandiworkSwansongA Quiet Tide

In no particular order, and simply because I enjoyed them, here are ten contemporary books written by women – all of which are set in the countryside. There are many more which I refer to in my talks and classes but this broad selection should please nature writers and readers alike.

  1. A Quiet Tide by Marianne Lee
  2. Casting Deep Shade by C.D. Wright
  3. The River Capture by Mary Costello
  4. Everything Under by Daisy Johnson
  5. The Vegetarian by Han Kang – trust me, it gets rural
  6. Swansong by Kerry Andrew
  7. Handiwork by Sara Baume
  8. Pond by Claire Louise Bennett
  9. Primeval & Other Times by Olga Tokarczuk
  10. Fen by Daisy Johnson

A New Way of Living

As I recover in this eerie silence, locked down in my rural village, I am reminded of Edwin Muir’s 1950s poem The Horses, which looks to the past for a positive new way of living,

The Horses  by Edwin Muir

Barely a twelvemonth after

The seven days war that put the world to sleep,

Late in the evening the strange horses came.

By then we had made our covenant with silence,

But in the first few days it was so still

We listened to our breathing and were afraid

On the second day

The radio failed; we turned the knobs; no answer

On the third day a warship passed us, heading north,

Dead bodies piled on the deck. On the sixth day

A plane plunged over us into the sea. Thereafter nothing. The radios dumb.

And still they stand in corners of our kitchens,

And stand, perhaps, turned on, in a million rooms

All over the world. But now if they should speak,

If on a sudden they should speak again,

If on the stroke of noon a voice should speak,

We would not listen, we would not let it bring

That bad old world that swallowed its children quick

At one great gulp. We would not have it again.

Sometimes we think of the nations lying asleep,

Curled blindly in impenetrable sorrow,

And then the thought confounds us with its strangeness.

The tractors lie about our fields; at evening

They look like dank sea-monsters couched and waiting.

We leave them where they are and let them rust;

‘They’ll molder away and be like other loam.’

We make our oxen drag our rusty ploughs,

Long laid aside. We have gone back

Far past our fathers’ land.

And then, that evening

Late in the summer the strange horses came.

We heard a distant tapping on the road,

A deepening drumming; it stopped, went on again

And at the corner changed to hollow thunder.

We saw the heads

Like a wild wave charging and were afraid.

We had sold our horses in our fathers’ time

To buy new tractors. Now they were strange to us

As fabulous steeds set on an ancient shield.

Or illustrations in a book of knights.

We did not dare go near them. Yet they waited,

Stubborn and shy, as if they had been sent

By an old command to find our whereabouts

And that long-lost archaic companionship.

In the first moment we had never a thought

That they were creatures to be owned and used.

Among them were some half a dozen colts

Dropped in some wilderness of the broken world,

Yet new as if they had come from their own Eden.
Since then they have pulled our plows and borne our loads

But that free servitude still can pierce our hearts.

Our life is changed; their coming our beginning.

by Edwin Muir




Keltic Radio

A huge thanks to Sharon Thompson for interviewing me on Canada’s Keltic Radio station today as part of her author slot on her weekly programme This & That. We spoke of artistic influences in my novel The Groundsmen, Greek mythology, and the support to be found in writers’ groups and indie bookstores. Oh and we played some good old romantic songs to get you in the mood for some epic Greek love affairs. Listen back here


Writers Need Writers

To find our tribe, to hone our craft, to learn the business, and to network – these are all reasons why writers tend to club together into writing groups. It is after all a lonely job. I have the pleasure of belonging to two such groups – one in my local library and one online – both of which serve these needs in different ways. I have written plenty about the benefits of my library-based group Wordsmiths and the springboard which it came to be for myself and other writers. Similarly, I belong to which is a platform run by best-selling crime writer Sharon Thompson. It is far from just a meeting of like-minded creatives though. There are frequent interactive sessions with writing industry experts – specialists who share their skills and experience with an online audience, giving personalised advice and feedback. This knowledge has been invaluable as I launched my writing career and improved my craft. So too was the encouragement and support of fellow members, and the social capital gained from networking with published and aspiring authors, publishers, editors, agents, literary scouts, writing tutors, PR specialists, the movers and shakers of the book world. The advantage of all of this is it’s accessibility – distance and time being no object as everything is conducted online and can be re-viewed at a later date.  For all of this and more, I would say that Indulge in Writing is no indulgence, it is a necessity.

Lynn Buckle will be appearing as guest speaker on Indulge in Writing, via CrowdCast, on Tuesday 23rd July to talk about teaching skills for writers who give masterclasses, creative writing classes and workshops to adults. To register for this free one hour event, click here

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