For Catriona Crowe
I read that every polar bear alive has mitochondrial DNA
from a common mother, an Irish brown bear who once
roved out across the last ice age, and I am comforted.
It has been a long hot morning with the children of the machine,
their talk of memory, of buying it, of buying it cheap, but I,
memory keeper by trade, scan time coded in the golden hive mind
of eternity. I burn my books, I burn my whole archive:
a blaze that sears, synapses flaring cell to cell where
memory sleeps in the wax hexagonals of my doomed and melting comb.
I see him loping towards me across the vast ice field
to where I wait in the cave mouth, dreaming my cubs about the den,
my honied ones, smelling of snow and sweet oblivion.
Paula Meehan, Source: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/may/13/the-solace-of-artemis
Philosophy, community, self-identity
Paula Meehan is an Irish poet, playwright, and professor. Over decades of dedication to the written word, Meehan has published nine poetry collections and several plays for both children and adults. Her plays have been performed widely on stage as well as radio, and her poetry collections have won numerous awards. In 2015, Meehan was inducted into the Hennessy Writing Awards Hall of Fame.
Also back in 2015, Carol Ann Duffy who was UK Poet Laureate at the time curated a series of 20 poems addressing the theme of climate change.
Among this curation was Meehan’s The Solace of Artemis alongside works from poets including Alice Oswald and current UK Poet Laureate: Simon Armitage. Check out the project and read all the poems here: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/series/keep-it-in-the-ground-a-poem-a-day.
‘Across the vast ice field’
The Solace of Artemis is a steady-paced poem which takes us on a journey of genetic discovery. We meet a vastness and magnificence in the bear, as Meehan helps us build a history around the figure. The use of a first speaker brings the icy history and contemporary crisis into reality. Her words create a feeling of loneliness in the face of change. However, the collective nature of warmth as we wait, with the speaker, ‘in the cave mouth’ evokes a sense of solidarity and oneness. In the context of climate change, The Solace of Artemis helps us reflect on our place on the planet and the deep connection with our past as well as our future.
What do you think of this poem? Have you read any of Paula Meehan’s works? Let us know in the comments below.