Today I want to introduce you to a remarkable woman named Laura Murphy. I was first drawn to Laura’s work through doing some research around the history of the Mother and Baby story in Ireland. I started following her on Instagram and realized she is a poet and a storyteller, and a welcome presence in my life.
Laura is an Irish poet, healer and activist. Laura’s work has been featured in the critically acclaimed production ‘Home: Part One’ by the Abbey Theatre, RTÉ’s documentary ‘Finding Brigid’, Herstory Light Shows and in the campaign to make Brigid’s Day a national holiday in Ireland. Laura’s work is centered around the ancient Irish poetic practice of ‘Imbas Forosnai’. Imbas Forosnai means ‘inspiration that illuminates’. It was used by the filí (Ireland’s seer-poets) to bring truth to power and healing to society. Laura is Herstory’s inaugural poet in residence.
I invited Laura to join me in the constellation of people who will be reciting the lyrics of each song from Cianalas/Tãsknota. Not even knowing (I am not a calendar gal) that the day I invited her, was the anniversary of W.B. Yeats’ death!
Laura went above and beyond to participate in this. She and her beloved traveled to Fourknocks Passage Tomb, where they recorded her recitation. And in the photo of her, her shadow took the shape of Mary. We mark this together, as an integrative friendship that dialogues and touches the wound, of the Pagan and Christian story. Her work to achieve recompense for the Mother and Baby Homes is connected to this painful story.
Here she is, reciting Song of Wandering Aengus, one of her favourite poems:
My version of Song of Wandering Aengus releases on all streaming platforms on May 5th. (Audiophiles: this album was recorded with hi-res sampling and if you stream on hi-res platforms, rest assured, it is at Master quality!)
The album also becomes available for pre-purchase on May 5th.
A small reflection on the poem:
When I first began to conceived of composing a folk opera named after and inspired by the haunting homesickness we seem to be plagued by, I knew it would have to begin with longing. And not just any longing, but the heart of hearts longing. The marrow of marrow longing.
I could have penned a lyric that might have gotten us there, but I had been rolling William Butler Yeats’ exquisite poem over my tongue for months, to the point where, looking back, it may have even partly inspired the album.
So I composed music for it, and knew it would open the “opera”.
Here is the poem:
Song of Wandering Aengus
by W.B. Yeats
I went out to the hazel wood
because a fire was in my head
and cut and peeled a hazel wand
and hooked a berry to a thread
and when white moths were on the wing
an moth-like stars were flickering out
I dropped a berry in a stream
and caught a little silver trout
When I had laid it on the floor
I went to blow the fire aflame
but something rustled on the floor
and someone called me by my name
it had become a glimmering girl
with apple blossom in her hair
who called me by my name and ran
and faded through the brightening air
Though I am old with wandering
through hollow lands and hilly lands
I will find out where she has gone
and kiss her lips and take her hands
and walk among long dappled grass
and pluck till time and times are done
the silver apples of the moon
the golden apples of the sun
I have mulled and turned these lines over in my mouth so many times now. And like a deep lectio divina, it reveals and reveals, and continues to reveal itself.
Today, I have been especially drawn to the lines “and when white moths were on the wing, and moth-like stars were flickering out” … and what comes to me are thoughts about the end of an age. Entropy. Amnesia.
I won’t say much more about what the poem has become for me, in all its many layers, but I will say that the next song you can expect to hear is entitled Maidens of the Wells, and is one of the stories that offers a glimpse into how the Wasteland was made.
What I have discovered along the way of making this folk opera (that will be unveiled one song at a time), is that you can’t go about naming longing, or homesickness, or working to integrate your ancestral and spiritual past, without being confronted with the wound… the profound, breathtaking ache, for the exiled feminine lunar principal. And the Eros of Creator’s longing and sorrow.
Lady wisdom that silver trout, will have to make her way through our wounded hearts that smart from denying her… we’ve kept her in the shadows for so long… so I shakily but assuredly stand in her authority, resting in her wisdom, not my own.
We have some growing up to do, every one of us.
This marks the beginning of a journey I invite you to walk with me.
Here is the cover for the single Song of Wandering Aengus. The man in the picture is John Kenny, who I’ll be introducing you to later. He is a world renowned Celtic carnyx horn player from Edinburgh who plays that horn on the track as though he were Aengus himself!
Life-sized moon made by my beloved match, Ian Porteous.
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I reading this at the airport in Florida as we begin our week-long pilgrimage to Vancouver to see my mom’s sister who is the last of my Agnew family left. So many memories of Vancouver... thank you for touching my heart, dear Alana 💖