In an inspiring combination of tangible and intangible aspects of history and heritage, landscape, plants and humans, local and global, folklore and beliefs, Déirdre Carr expresses life in words that move swiftly between the landscapes of Ireland, Sweden and Israel. Her poems and paintings in ‘Sacchidānanda Sacred Heart of the Burren’ connect places and people across the world and is reminiscent of Anna Rydstedt.
This is a beautiful fascinating book of poems.
Sacchidānanda, Sacred Heart of the Burren by Déirdre Carr, 226 pages, published 2021.
View the whole book Sacchidānanda in Issuu.com
Enchanted landscapes of Öland and the Burren
By Bodil Petersson
In an inspiring combination of tangible and intangible aspects of history and heritage, landscape, plants and humans, local and global, folklore and beliefs, Déirdre Carr expresses life in words that move swiftly between the landscapes of Ireland, Sweden and Israel. Her poems and paintings in “Sacchidānanda Sacred Heart of the Burren” connect places and people across the world.
In recent years, beginning in 2018 and still ongoing and developing, I’ve had research collaborations with Déirdre Carr in the setting of a group of Irish and Swedish artists and archaeologists working together to find ways to combine art, archaeology and heritage in new and experimental ways. I am myself an archaeologist and heritage researcher, and when I read Déirdre Carr’s poems and look at her paintings, I find several fascinating connective points throughout these poetic expressions where I recognize inspiration from our collaborative efforts as well as from places we have visited together and talked about.
These places I have visited in both Ireland and Sweden come to life again as I experience them in new and unexpected ways. Expression through poetry and painting is different from an archaeologist’s way of expressing things. I’ve always tried to linger at the intersection of the more dry and exact interpretation of scientific practice and the more alive and sensual, inspiring expressions of artistic practice and interpretation. In the case of heritage and art, both have a study of life forms, traditions, and the unexpected findings at their core. Thereby they are united.
It is fascinating how encounters across time and space are coming to life in the poems. Places and monuments of the karstic limestone landscapes of the Burren in Clare and Stora Alvaret on the island of Öland are connected through geology, nature, and culture, and woven into one whole via personal experience. The former division into nature and culture becomes more and more obsolete though, and that is also one important message I read from Carr’s work of Sacchidānanda.
From my own point of departure in Swedish nature, culture and heritage, it is interesting to see how the character and appearance of Öland has come to poetic expression resting in Irish tradition and language, and how encounters between these similar but different Swedish and Irish landscapes, heritages and languages are voiced through poetry and painting, making it possible for the artists and archaeologists in the processes of both the Swedish Karum group of artists and archaeologists (named after an Öland alvar landscape scattered with ancient remains and traditions), and Creevagh group (named after an Irish landscape of similar character), to recognize ourselves and our different parts of both local and global heritage and life forms. The personal is combined with group experience, the local relevance is stretched out into something eternally coherent and globally meaningful.
As I come from an area of Sweden that bears the traditions, and in addition from a university that bears the name of the botanist Carl von Linné, I am familiar with several both Latin and vernacular names of flowers. The texts of “Sacchidānanda” contain flowing expressions of sensualism and sexuality, mixed with heritage and tradition in an inspiring experience. I am almost carrying in my DNA the Linnaean tradition of collecting flowers, press them flat, dry them and examine their petals, stamens and pistils. The poetic expression here moves from classification of the sexual life of plants to the flowing and expressive sensuality of sexual life in general. Sensualism and sexuality are part of heritage and come to life here, something that happens more rarely in a purely scientific context.
These poems show how aspects of heritage natural and cultural are all around us in different disguises and they are expressed through poems and paintings in very personal yet accessible ways through an intensive stream of words and colours. I come from a part of the world, Scandinavia, that is known for a minimalistic tradition in design and expression, often described as sval (cool), and I am completely captured and swept away by these words that differ much to what I am used to. It is a persuading encounter.
The Öland landscape is worshipped for its way of connecting land with sky via the shimmering sea and creates a special light that is so desired by painters. The Öland solmålaren (sun painter) Per Ekström (1844–1935) is famous for capturing this special light. It is as if in parts the poet captures and connects with Ekström’s Öland sceneries through her words and paintings.
The rhythmic and repetitive way of expression forms a fascinating story. As I’ve heard Déirdre Carr perform orally, I can hear her voice as I read her poetic texts. The unique character of the Burren and the Irish are discernible but not fully understandable for a foreigner like me. I am though very grateful for these recent years of collaboration with a possibility to approach an understanding.
Catholic saints and sacred flowers of the Burren, Gentian blue and the silvery Burren landscape are threads that follow the reader throughout the texts and paintings. A sensuous, visually enchanting experience, it is like a heritage shock that evokes a need to reflect upon details like names of flowers, people, insects, colours, places and realize that behind the use of each word is a profound world of mystery and excitement, a jungle of experiencing the otherwise and the elsewhere.
The poetry and paintings present a richness of the local, probing into landscapes and people and their different ways through movement and a rhythm of alliteration. There is a fascinating translocal recognition and connection of landscapes in the Burren and on Öland with their similar limestone ground and vegetation, though not similar in general appearance. The Öland poet Anna Rydstedt (1928–1994) who has expressed the specific Öland nature in her poems can in parts be seen parallel to Déirdre Carr’s poetry of the Burren.
The reading enriches my understanding of both English and Irish nuances sprinkled with Latin, Hebrew and fragments also of other languages. I am captivated by how the Öland and Ireland landscapes and experiences are intermingled in language joy and playfulness; Öland and the Burren, similar but different. I finish with a quote from one of the poems that captures these enchanted landscapes of mystery and witchery, aspects of the heritage we carry with us:
“Imagine when water collects in Stora Alvaret old roads reappear fairylike
Just like magic as waymarks on route between Resmo & Gösslunda in the Alvar
Much the same as Turloughs or Old Lakes appearing & disappearing dream like
On road between Corofin & Kinvara in the Burren.”
“Making Öland & Burren a sister act of magic
Commonly mysterious supernatural & full of witchery
With swiftly changing light & scudding clouds
With old roads & lakes appearing & disappearing
In their unique captivating enchanting spellbinding landscapes.”
Bodil Petersson is a heritage researcher and professor of archaeology at Linnaeus University, Sweden.