Rose Avenue, Linen Street, likely outcomes, leap of the gods, and to what end this road might, maybe, lead.

“Every city in the world has an “avenue of roses”: a place depicting the multi-layered relationships humans have with their constructed environments and urban landscapes. A place reflecting the socioeconomic strata of the broader city, and a place that speaks not only to isolation and disenfranchisement, but also speaks to how communities come together within these complex spaces. Welcome to the Avenue of Roses”. Cinematographer and photographer Kevin Fletcher ‘Avenue of Roses’ series project info

Much appreciation to Abridged for featuring ‘Linen Divinination: 9 Riddles’ in their current Trivia (0-70) edition. This joint poem – created in a joint process with textile artist Emma Whitehead – is a reworking of the poem elements of ‘The Present’ portion of a textile/poetry project which is intended to provoke an interest and creative thinking on the ‘whither goest thou’ of linen – industry and/or material – depending on the perspective of the querent.

The overall project ‘Linenmancy: Playing with the Fates’ was to have been featured in Linen Biennale 2020. And it has been interesting to sit with the present for longer than originally planned.

In the context of the project, the poetic element is not standalone and has, in the making, a visual/textile element that travels with it. I think that may be best way of describing the relationship. But in the Abridged submission, the poetic elements – reconfigured – travelled alone, confident that good company would be found on the road. In this case, Portland’s 82nd Avenue, also called ‘Avenue of Roses’.

The basis of leaps in creative thinking, I have often observed, is often found at impasses, stones in the road, a confusion of how things fit together, and frustration that things are not as the querent expects/wishes them to be.

Emma Whitehead’s connection and track record with linen and its road forward is self – evident.

But mine is, I think, more suspect. Particularly as I don’t believe I owned anything linen until very recently. Nonetheless, I am fascinated by the onward journey, in this geographical context, of a material with such an ancient history, and my fascination is a car crash at a three way junction.

The town I grew up in was, when I was a child, very much dependent on the textile industry – mostly cottons and carpets in that world, rather than linen. But the decline in linen is/was a subset of changes in textile production generally. I know, far beyond the academic, what it means when an industry which spans lives, communities and built environment goes under.

My own academic interests of many years ago were, for what it’s worth, in business strategy development – individual firm and industry wide – a dark art which spans practical/scientific observation of the here and now, with ‘deux ex machina’ observations of how progress in the socio-economic heartlands do not always progress through logic but via intuitive leaps (or a dance with the unknowable beyond the observed what is proceeding forth from what was in an orderly fashion) and yet, for all that, learning from experience remains both useful and significant.

And then I had a gift of a contract to facilitate a series of workshops designed to get people in communities close to the Lagan river to write down and share their stories, (handed-down) memories and understanding of linen/industry in Northern Ireland. Individually, the stories had deep resonance but as I moved along the route of the river from urban to rural and, as and between, communities and social strata, I, as first received and an outsider of sorts, began to assemble a story, as much of fragmentation as material creation. You can find a reflection of that work in the Waterways Storymaking Festival‘s second anthology. But, for me, who had in another part of my life a kind of tangential connection with people very interested in the past and invested in the potential of linen, it left me asking – with so much lost – how to make creative moves forward and how could I contribute.

The overall project employs the trope of the Greek Fates – the Moirai – best known, I expect, of the mythical-threesome-creators of fate and fortune in individual lives – with the unknowable/unturnable/inevitable death (and what that might represent in a less literal reading) in the outcome position.

The Norns (or Nornir) are a newer acquiantance. But in the practical application of ‘as one action leads to another’, I am very interested in, irrespective of the fate alloters, the nuanced difference from unknowable/unpredictable to expected outcomes, ie what should happen based on what has gone before and observed understandings of one thing follows another (Skuld – scold).

I love how that ‘crossroads’ seem to be echoed in the Kevin Fletcher series , not only the one accompanying our poem, (note: there are, in fact, a range of them in this Abridged issue) but across the series generally. And, of course, the pandemic has transected both – in a very physical embodiment of the unknowable in all its manifestations (putting the kaibosh on a+b=c outcomes). Still, just for now, and in a creative sense, 82nd Avenue seems to run a line of latitude parallel to the past, present and future of linen – and I note that a generous documentation of what is, just by accepting and attempting to communicate what is experienced as it is – given that that can only ever be virtual – also becomes an impactful part of the journey, which is on, and yet not part of, the road.


Poems on a Sunday Afternoon, Zoom, 21 Mar, 2.30-4.30pm

Hope this finds you safe, well and in as good spirits as possible as we face into the first anniversary of this most strange of lockdown times.

You are invited to an overdue Poems on a Sunday Afternoon (via Zoom, 2.30pm-4.30pm Sun 21st March).  With featured readers who were originally scheduled for POSA sessions last year, as below, and as always you are invited to read / sing / perform a piece of your own or a favourite (or two).

All are welcome. Just drop a line to this email to say you’ll be there and I’ll send you the link to join on the afternoon!

Presenting Featured Readers:

Tony Bailie is a novelist, poet, environmentalist and journalist. His novels, ecopunks and The Lost Chord were both published in paperback by Lagan Press. A Verse to Murder and Paws in TIme are both available as ebooks.

He has also written three collections of poems. Mountain Under Heaven won the James Tate International Poetry Prize 2019. Coill and Tranquillity of Stone (2010) are both published by Lapwing Publication. He was originally invited as featured reader in 2020 to launch ‘Mountain Under Heaven’ available to order from

Linda McKenna is originally from Kinsealy in north County Dublin but has lived in Downpatrick for over 20 years. She was educated at Trinity College Dublin and the University of Leicester. She began writing poetry in 2015 and has had poems published in a number of publications including, Poetry Ireland Review, the North, the Honest Ulsterman, Crannog. In 2018 she won the Seamus Heaney Award for New Writing and the Red Line Festival poetry award. Her debut collection, In the Museum of Misremembered Things, (Doire Press) was published by Doire Press in 2020. The title poem was selected as AnPost Poem of the Year 2020. She works as Community Education Manager at Down County Museum.  She was originally invited as featured reader in 2020 to launch her new collection, available to order via

‘Turnabout’ @MaidenVoyageNI at #BCF21 and family workshops


Maiden Voyage Dance

Performance times

Available On Demand (free) from Sat 6 March @ 12pm until Sun 14 March Online via QFT Player

Turnabout is a new Maiden Voyage dance and music performance commissioned from choreographer Jennifer Rooney and composer Elaine Agnew.

Turnabout is an expression of all aspects of hope; holding on to hope, losing hope, shared hope, keeping hopeful hearts and all our stories being stories of hope.

Text in the sound score is based on a piece compiled by poet Olive Broderick, drawn from stories of hope created by St Joseph’s PS P7, St Kieran’s PS P6 and Rathcoole PS P7 during workshops facilitated in late 2020.

The text has been brought to life in Elaine Agnew’s score which is performed by pianist Gail Evans and is sung by 80+ young voices from the Belfast Philharmonic Youth and Chamber Choirs directed by Lynsey Callaghan. Turnabout has been created socially distanced, so the performers stay 2 metres apart throughout.

Due to the ongoing pandemic, instead of live performance in public space Turnabout will be presented free online during Belfast Children’s Festival in March 2021.

Take a look at the free workshops here: Movement and Writing

Writing Workshops

Inspired by Maiden Voyage Dance’s production Turnabout (see more here) families are invited to write their own stories of finding hope again when it seems to have disappeared.

Workshops are facilitated live online via Zoom by creative writing practitioner Olive Broderick who developed the text for Turnabout. You’ll need a pen and paper at the ready!

Sat 6, Sun 7, Sat 13, Sun 14 March: 10am & 11:30am

Workshops are free but need to be booked in advance. Find further info and booking link HERE.

The Magic of This Season. #SeasonsGreetings #Christmas #Winter2020

The Magic of this Season
Without the carnival-
without the alchemical lights of Winter pageants,  
the glowing wings of stilt-walking angels and
clowns on unicycles calling out to those on the sidelines  
to come closer, to get involved, to lift our chins up-
       A novel contagion has found a path
       of low resistance within the 'come-all-ye' 
       nature of the holiday message.
       Now, there's only town-tannoy Christmas muzak;
       and a thin crescent moon, calling out to the faithful
       self-isolated, a strange season's diaspora, to look up  
       - come follow this year's solstice kiss of distant planets – 
       though we can't be together same-time-same-place,
       to unite across time in wonder.
       New light- True light- Herald
       of a new dispensation-  Tears wiped away, but not
       by individual gifting or belief systems,  
       by something quite miraculous. Inspired, 
       genii in laboratories working tirelessly; 
       heroic human experimental subjects.

  The magic of this season- I'd like to call it 'vaccine'

Season’s Greetings

With every good wish to all I have connected with this year in any avenue of life for peace, health and wealth, however you define it, in the coming year. Go mbeirimid beo ar an am seo arís, mar a dearfá – and all the more resonant this strange year. Stay safe and well, you and all, and that we may have clear road to be together in the not-too-distant future.

Olive x

Recently published #Poetry #iamwriting

Dec 2020: Delighted to have a poem in the Abridged Nyx edition (forthcoming). First of a sequence kindly supported by #IERP, Arts Council of Northern Ireland.

Oct 2020: Read ‘The Mystic and I’ in the current edition of the Honest Ulsterman. With a note of support for live performers and all involved in making them who have been badly hit in the current Covid crises. I think the loss of live performance is a more fundamental blow to our health and wellbeing than we may realise ‘on the surface’.

Mar 2020: Delicate, but for me significant, piece ‘Charcoal‘* in ‘ Her Other Language: Women Writers from the North of Ireland Address Abuse and Domestic Violence in association with Arlen House, the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Allstate. Books are £10.00 and are available from No Alibis Bookshop, Botanic Avenue, Belfast or, £10 plus postage. Proceeds go to Belfast & Lisburn Women’s Aid.

Jan 2020: FourXFour, Poetry NI Summer 20 ed. Featured poet alongside Ray Givans, Nathanael O’Reilly and Kavita Thanki. Poems included are ‘Half Turn’*, ‘First Shoots‘*, ‘I make you a fertility figure that you don’t want’* and ‘Round Dance‘* (dance~poem of the ‘Knowing the Dance’ dance-poetry-music performance created with Paula Guzzanti and Martin Devek). Find the other three dance~poems in the Honest Ulsterman here)

See also

Abridged 0-54: Control – ‘The Cat & The Fox’*:

Abridged 0-56: Alt – Reimagining Ugliness Disorder (me, myself, macalla)*

Abridged 0-404: Delete – ‘Five of Coins’*

And a word of acknowledgement to all poetry publishers – books, magazines etc – and outlets, who have had to adapt in this strange year, and yet have continued on at strength! Very much appreciated.

*denotes poems part of the ‘Knowing the Dance’ collection (currently unpublished) which was part of Arts Council NI ACES project.

Find more information about previous publications including collection and pamphlet HERE.

Words for Castle Ward: ‘Poems on a Saturday Morning’ Invite (12 Dec, 11am-1pm, ZOOM)

‘You must go on. I can’t go on. I’ll go on.’ Samuel Beckett, Watiing for Godot

Here we are facing the final month of what has been one of the strangest, and most difficult years – collectively – in recent history. After our early year meeting, Castle Ward Education Suite hasn’t been open for business despite coming close a couple of times, and the facilitator and quite a few of the members, between one thing or another, haven’t been great fans, or users of, the online alternatives.

Still, to honour the work of the year (however you wish to understand that) and the lack of our sister ‘Poems on a Sunday Afternoon’ event, (ordinarily organised jointly with Down Arts Centre), I am inviting all who wish to attend to a ‘Poems on a Saturday Afternoon Event’ via Zoom on Saturday, 12 December -11am to 1pm. Please bring about 5mins of reading material (or song) – your own, or a favourite or a mix – to share with the enwindowed company.  All are welcome, but, just to say, if we have less than five participants it won’t run.

In the meantime and onwards into the coming New Year and decade, I wish you health, wealth and hope for the future.

Venue: Zoom. Please let me know if you are planning to attend at (or if you require further information).

#Covid19 and obeying the rules

Home thoughts

This weekend I’ve been catching up on episodes of ‘Jack Taylor’. It’s my kind of thing anyway but I must admit that I’m really watching it for Galway City, and people moving freely through each others’ homes, shopping centres, restaurants, pubs, club and – funerals. I’m watching it thinking will I ever get to visit Galway again and I’m sad and confused to be thinking that way. But the truth is that I haven’t been in Galway in years – so the upset isn’t about that at all. It’s a displacement activity. At Christmas, I travelled via packed-to-bursting public transport from County Down to my parents in County Cork without a second thought. I’m really worried about the road I took so easily five months ago and I’m afraid to even take that line of thinking so I allow myself to be lonely for the once-lively, bustling atmosphere of Eyre Square instead. I am very grateful to those who have been looking out for the ‘cocooners’ in my home town. I am very grateful to all who have stayed at home, to all who have endured losing a loved one whom they bewilderingly couldn’t visit, nor properly take leave of – and still thinking beyond their immediate circumstances, made the most unthinkable sacrifices to halt the spread of this highly contagious disease. I’m taking the guide from governmment and ‘obeying the rules’ but, to be fair, mostly because the rules I follow align with my wish for those most vulnerable to be protected, and for all to be safe and well. There are no right answers, or failproof strategies, but I am grateful for any kind of good direction that takes into account all citizens. I hope very much that the Oxford Vaccine will work, or for a better solution to be found and quickly.

Rule and Misrule

This post is prompted by the Cummings debacle. Not so much what he did, but reading tweet after tweet, on the back of this news story breaking, written by those who had stayed away from the final hours of their loved ones, who have, in these past weeks, endured the awfulness of no proper rite of parting, as they followed the rules set out. Thousands upon thousands, in this same position. I can’t even find a way to take in the sheer extent of it. The only right response from DC is to apologize and resign. That is all. However, I want to propose a theory that Cummings was obeying his preferred rules – herd immunity, people die anyway, the NHS are grand sure (despite years of underfunding), if there’s a problem, it’s people’s own fault. It can’t be a surprise that he displayed an integrous (I use the word ironically) lack of human care for his own parents – no matter what the reason was for the visiting. I think many of the senior members of our communities would be all too glad to don the heroic cape to muck in and mind their sick or overwhelmed children and grandchildren – or welcome an unsanctioned hug – but until a vaccine or something is found, it’s risky to be close – and adult children have had to hold the line of distance, against all normal family instinct. As one who comes from a culture known for its gregariousness, community/family orientation and well-attended funerals – the whole set of rules behind trying to keep people Covid19-safe fly in the face in any kind of natural human instinct. So why obey them?

I’ve always been interested in the medieval concept of misrule – rather than the dictionary definition. The link with the quotation below is an article summarising various theories regarding the reason for the existence of misrule festivies as part of the prevailing circumstance of government – with their masques and music, and subversion of the normal order of things. Covid19 is very clearly neither laughing matter nor any kind of occasion for festival – so to be clear the parallel I am drawing is simply that the will of the British people created the protective regulations around lockdown, not the current administration – and the field of vision of the people looks further, in this instance, than individual or consituency interest. A compassionate and generous unwillingness to participate in the original strategy, moved the situation from the terror of ‘herd immunity’ to a properly organised strategy that offered at least some measure of response to the crisis. This is above and beyond political agenda and divisions. This is the stuff of the hell realms no matter what the response. What I wanted to point out rather is the power of the quiet insistence on ‘Ar scath a chéile a mhaireann na daoine’ ( ‘There’s more foreby yourself.’). It has saved lives. But that has to be cold comfort for so many. My heart is with those who have lost loved ones in these awful times. I do not know how or what comfort could be offered.

Victor Turner proposes another theory. The order we are mocking is important but not ultimate; what is ultimate is the community it serves; and this community is fundamentally egalitarian; it includes everyone. Yet we cannot do away with the order. So we periodically renew it, rededicate it, return it to its original meaning, by suspending it in the name of the community, which is fundamentally, ultimately of equals, and which underlies it.


Like dolmens round my childhood

The poem below is dedicated to the senior members of our communities – particularly those most vulnerable to the Coronavirus, and those who care for them – whether at home or in healthcare settings.

Words for Castle Ward: Session: ‘For the Foreseeable’ @NTCastleWard #iamwriting

As you can imagine the Words for Castle Ward sessions have been postponed for the forsessable… My wish is for health, safety and peace of mind for all in these disturbing days.

I am aware our coming meeting is a feedback meeting and so I’m sending a portable workshop, if you like, that you can do at anytime or as many times as is useful in a world of imposed and necessary physical distance.

Continued Acts of Creativity

I notice that many are doing writing at the moment. The whole of life, and a good many online writing facilitators, are offering prompts if you are stuck for inspiration. Indeed, if you happen to be blocked in that aspect this workshop might well work for you. Everyone is welcome.


It may not be your experience, but I find that I can do a first write pretty easily and anywhere if the humour is on me. The next phase, however, does thrive on an abundance of ‘set-aside’ time and solitude. Hence my thinking that this might work well in the prevailing circumstances.

You will have worked out now that I am talking about one of my favourite parts of the writing process (poetry for me, of course) – editing. But here in an experimental, and hopefully fun, fashion.

Suggested Process

  1. Select a piece – poem, or, for prose writers, a not too long piece, whether extract or short form. Preferably a piece you have written a while ago to which you are not overly attached.
  2. Read the piece out loud as many times as is feasible. Lose yourself in the reading of it. ‘Hear’ every word if you can. If you happen to have anybody about, ask them to read it back too (but not at all necessary).
  3. Read it a little bit more.
  4. Then make a list of all the things you like about it (don’t spare the horses, there is nobody here to contradict you, and we both know you rock); the things you have a little bit of a doubt about (like you understand a line or a plot device but you have a horrible feeling somebody else mightn’t.. and it wouldn’t be a want of intelligence on their part, if you know what I mean, that they don’t); and, finally, the things you know wouldn’t pass muster with the group…
  5. Then ask yourself, what are you really writing about? You are completely in control here. You decide.
  6. Now set all but no. 5 aside. (Note: if you love the piece as it is you can come back and work through your lists of poem/prose potential improvements generated in no. 4 as per normal editing protocol).
  7. So you have the core of the piece at the front of your imagination…
  8. Now transpose it into a completely different setting. For example, if your piece is about regeneration and is currently speaking through a strong Spring situation, then choose something radically different, for example, outer space or, as my eye falls as I’m typing, an angle-poise lamp. For another example, if your story is about family dynamics and is currently set in Japan, take the dynamic and set it (casting my eyes around the room) in a factory that makes Venetian glass vases (okay the vase is reminiscent of Venetian). These are just random examples but I hope you get the general idea.
  9. This may feel a bit artificial but stick with it. This workshop exists in the world of experimention. It would be really difficult to do at an actual workshop unless you had a good bit of time. The gift of it is a bit of imagination exercising – and a radical consideration of what is essential to a piece. There are, of course, no right answers. While my attitude here is one of playfulness. I mean light touch here – the piece itself can be dark, heavy or otherwise etc as is authentic to the piece (however you judge it).
  10. For those, who are thinking of joining in but haven’t attended a workshop with me, you are very welcome. Please do be aware that you, through absolutely no fault of your own, may be feeling that you only have a vague idea of what’s involved.. and then inspiration on an excellent,creative way forward will arise through the vagueness. I would like to reassure you this is normal and that will be the perfect direction. I also admire renegade creative behaviour. So if the angle-poise lamp has taken you off the path of the original but you are moving forward do continue. Finally, this is a situation where you can take more than one constitutional in any given day. (Please do move around a bit when doing any kind of editing so that body is in the same place of tiredness as the mind afterwards – without leaving your patch of social distance, it goes without saying).
  11. When finished, and at a time that suits you, do take both pieces and do the normal spit-n-polish editing for both (spelling, grammar, making sure that you have the most elegant choice of words, the best title, lines that scan, names and dates that tally, rhythm that is regular as fits both pieces and your genre).
  12. For WfCW face-to-face members, at the next IRL (in real time!) meeting bring both pieces for sharing.

Editing in a time of Illness

All of this comes with an important caveat. Do this only if you feel you would like to or that it would benefit your writing. A weird thing I discovered over an extended period of illness was that editing is actually quite exhausting. Who knew? While hopefully you are in spendid isolation or solitary confinement, however you experience lockdown, and very well – as the weeks go on, there is the possibility that there may be a fair amount of disease and unease around you (hopefully not at all, or mild) of one type or another. Covid19 may be the novel kid in town – and it’s rode in with an ugly gang of anxieties and stresses – but it’s not the only one. If you find yourself in this position, give yourself permission to take time out from writing – and focus on healing and recuperation.

May we all be well through this strange journey.

Much love

Olive x


0202-2020 #Herstory ‘World of Equals’ Poems on a Sunday Afternoon @down_arts, feat: @WomenAloudNI & Creative Writing Workshops #IamWriting #Womenwriting

0202-2020 Herstory Light Festival ‘World of Equals Day theme: A celebration of egalitarian personal and professional partnerships throughout history and today. Join us for a special extended Poems on a Sunday Afternoon, with a warm invitation to join us for the usual shared space, and featuring a celebration of women writers and those who inspired them to make their voices equally heard from members of the Women Aloud NI collective.

And an invitation to make your own voice heard, with two dedicated creative writing workshops (11am-1pm) with experienced creative writing facilitators – playwright Dr Catherine Kelly, and poet Gráinne Tobin. All is free – register your attendance at your preferred workshop with Down Arts Centre on 028 4461 0747.

More info:

From 2.30-3.45pm – shared space. The usual warm Invitation to those in the workshops* and the general public to share a piece as normal for Poems on a Sunday Afternoon

From 4-5pm ‘Herstory: Luminescence & Legacy – celebrating those women who inspired courage’. Showcase by Women Aloud NI members – a collective of writers who work to raise the profile of and represent women’s writing in Northern Ireland, and who create an exciting programme of events drawing from the membership of women writers – emerging and established – which celebrate our burgeoning local female writing talent.

From 11am-1pm: * ‘World of Equals’ Workshops. Choice of two. FREE, registration required, contact 028 4461 0747.

(1) ‘Voices of the Future’ Creative Writing Workshop
Facilitator: Gráinne Tobin

About the workshop
You are welcome to come just as you are to this one-off workshop, whether you are a very experienced writer or a total beginner.
Your writing belongs to you. You will be encouraged to share it, but you have the choice to keep it to yourself if you prefer.
Nobody is going to know or care whether you can spell perfectly.
The future and the past seem to be part of the present – what do you think? Could your past self and your present self learn from each other? Could your future self tell you a thing or two? Are all these selves each other’s equals? And what about the people who come after us?

About the facilitator
Gráinne Tobin grew up in Armagh, and lives in Newcastle, where she taught English in Shimna Integrated College after working for many years in further and adult education in Lurgan. Her books are Banjaxed and The Nervous Flyer’s Companion from Summer Palace Press and The Uses of Silk from Arlen House. She has won some poetry prizes and has contributed to magazines and anthologies, including Word of Mouth (Blackstaff) When the Neva Rushes Backwards (Lagan Press) On the Grass When I Arrive (Liberties Press) Washing Windows (Arlen House) Metamorphic( Recent Work Press) and Something About Home (Geographies Publications). Her work is online in Poethead, Poetry Ireland’s archive and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland’s online Troubles Archive, and one of her poems is on a sculpture in the stairwell of Down Arts Centre.
(2) ‘World of Equals’ Creative Writing Workshop
Facilitator: Dr Catherine Kelly

About the workshop
All are welcome to attend this workshop – whether beginner or more experienced writer – all genres. Inspired by her own experience as a writer, and by the idea of equality in regard to the lives of Hannah and Francis Sheehy Skeffington, you can expect lively discussion on the theme, and the situation of women writers, and to create new writing of your own.

About the facilitator
Catherine graduated from Exeter University with a doctorate in Drama. She works as a teacher and a writer. Plays produced include two for radio and a student performance for Creative Learning at the Lyric Theatre, Belfast. She completed a script for Greenshoot Productions as part of a project dealing with the experiences refugees. Most recently Kabosh Theatre performed her monologues about the Sheehy Skeffingtons. She enjoys working as a tutor in a range of places that includes schools, Down Arts and Open Learning at Queen’s University Belfast.

More info about Herstory Light Festival here:

More info about Down Arts Centre here:

‘Where does it hurt?’ – #lettersfromladyn #Herodotus

One Eyewitness

Where does it hurt?

Not here in Eygpt

where, with an enthusiastic mind,

our son of Mnemosyne

is blown away by Nile boats.

“Their boats with which they carry cargoes” he reports “are made of the thorny acacia, of which the form is very like that of the Kyrenian lotos, and that which exudes from it is gum. From this tree they cut pieces of wood about two cubits in length and arrange them like bricks, fastening the boat together by running a great number of long bolts through the two-cubit pieces; and when they have thus fastened the boat together, they lay cross-pieces[81] over the top, using no ribs for the sides; and within they caulk the seams with papyrus. They make one steering-oar for it, which is passed through the bottom of the boat; and they have a mast of acacia and sails of papyrus. These boats cannot sail up the river unless there be a very fresh wind blowing, but are towed from the shore: down-stream however they travel as follows: they have a door-shaped crate made of tamarisk wood and reed mats sewn together, and also a stone of about two talents weight bored with a hole; and of these the boatman lets the crate float on in front of the boat, fastened with a rope, and the stone drag behind by another rope. The crate then, as the force of the stream presses upon it, goes on swiftly and draws on the “baris” (for so these boats are called), while the stone dragging after it behind and sunk deep in the water keeps its course straight. These boats they have in great numbers and some of them carry many thousands of talents’ burden”. (Herodotus: Histories Book 11: Euterpe)

But here where time has travelled far

beyond the reach of memory.

They haven’t seen so don’t believe.

‘No ribs’ what did that even mean?

And here – 2,469 years hence –

where a ‘shipwreck’ breaches

the Nile’s surface, and fits the description,

as set down, of the mythical ‘Baris’.

Not here, stranger

but no fiction, Herodotus

dead, his credibility long defeated,

sings with Arion, the renowned harpist –

and one recounts to the other that fabled journey

on the back of a dolphin to safety at Taenarum.

Note: I wrote this earlier in the year – inpsired by a tweet or an article ‘exonerating’ Herodotus following the refloating of the shipwreck of what is very likely a Baris in the Nile. I’m not sure why I had a fancy to share it here today.