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A Haiku-Shelter in Cork 

cork compassionate culture network

Even during the toughest of times, the arts can comfort people and help them make sense of loss.  As part of our Compassionate Culture Network (CCN), IHF collaborated with artist faciliators around the country to establish seven creative spaces for those struggling with loss and isolation as a result of the pandemic.  

Supported by Arts for Health artist Tess Leak and Printmaker Mary Callaghan, two CCN groups in Clonakilty and Bantry, Co Cork created ‘haiku’ inspired poems, drawings, and relief prints as part of a creative exploration around loss over the long, dark winter of 2021.  

As Tess Leak told us: 

“We took collective steps into the unknown where we wrote haiku poems – so many poems!  About listening with our eyes closed, about the hands of a loved one, about the longest night of the year. We created haiku in our heads during solitary walks: along the shoreline collecting sea-glass, stones and driftwood and through the woods, listening again. Sometimes our haiku were about goodbyes – the goodbyes that couldn’t happen and the goodbyes that were long and happened slowly.  

We created haiku in dedication to loved ones we have lost and haiku about where we still see them: in the clouds, sun, moon, stars, in the ebb and flow of the tide, in the eyes of a stranger, in our children now carrying the flag. And in developing this practice of writing haiku each week, we began to understand what poet and peace-builder J.P Lederach meant when he said that ‘haiku are all around us.’  

Together we took a leap into drawing, even when it felt beyond us. We drew with both hands, we drew with our eyes closed, we drew 30 second drawings and others listening to the sounds Mary Callaghan collected for us. We drew with inky twigs and bracken and we made a mess. And this didn’t matter because as Siobhán, one of our participants, so right said: ‘Grief is messy too and so is life’.  

Together we experimented with printmaking, using some of the objects collected on our walks. We got into the flow of it. We surprised ourselves.  

Together we created Haiku-Music with the shruti box holding it all together, the singing bowl giving us pause and the bass drum from the Clonakilty brass band as our strong, beating heart. And the robin who joined in by singing outside our window in Bantry? Who was that?  

So together we did it, we began to create a kind of network of care, a web of support. Of listening to each other’s losses, making friends and comrades.

As another participant put it:

“Normally with grief we have to hold it in. But here we can put it into whatever we are making, we don’t have to hold it in.’  And we can share it, if we want to, because: 

Stories need telling 

Close your eyes, be still 

Flowers bloom from ditches 

No one’s really gone 

Ripples in the pond 

Space to breathe and be 

Fill your lungs with air 

We are not alone 

Cork Compassionate Culture Network

CCN in Cork was also supported through the Arts for Health Partnership, managed by Uillinn West Cork Arts Centre and in conjunction with Cork Education Training Board.  

Read more about the CCN Cork. Details of all the projects taking place across the country can be found on the CCN page.