Episode 13

How to Heal a Poet’s Heart, or The Invention of the Irish Harp, with Maureen Buscareno | Ep 13

Our Story

Cana Cludhmor was a banfhile, an Irish woman poet of great renown. We know her story from only a few lines in Imtheacht na Tromdháimhe or The Proceedings of the Great Bardic Institution, found in the fourteenth century Book of Lismore. Only mentioned briefly in the manuscript, we know that Cana Cludmor walks away from a dissatisfying marriage, and finds herself at a beach where the wind is playing in the sinews of a whale skeleton. She falls asleep to this otherworldly music, and when her husband discovers her and hears the lovely sound, he is inspired to construct the first harp.  This retelling by Marisa Goudy stays true to the original, but imagines the characters’ motivation (and adds the bit about the poet’s curse, the bloodied hands, and the healing at the end). 

Our Guest

Maureen Buscareno is a harper, a music educator, a podcaster, and the founder of Moon Over the Trees Music & Theater Productions.  Maureen received her master’s degree in Ethnomusicology from Ireland’s University of Limerick. Passionate about bringing music to schools and to the community, Maureen received her master’s in music education from Columbia University. You can hear more from Maureen on her podcasts: HarpSong, Beat Your Heart Out, and Theatre Aesthetics.

Our Conversation

Marisa and Maureen connect as two American women with Irish heritage who both received master’s degrees in Ireland at about the the same time (though it took a Hudson Valley Women In Business gathering in 2021 to get them together!). In their discussion, they explore: 

  • The work of world-renowned composer and multi-instrumentalist Mícheal Ó Súilleabhain has been a profound influence on Maureen. He was her thesis advisor at UCL and reveled in the campus’s location on the River Shannon, likening students and faculty to ancient Druids becoming one with the land, landscape, sounds and sights of nature.
  • “Fill Arís,” a poem by Seán Ó Ríordán that invites us back to the Irish language (even if it was a language spoken by distant ancestors)
  • Marisa is dedicated to honoring the source of the story, which appears in an 1860 publication from the Ossianic Society. Modern versions of the story have turned the Cana Cludhmor, the banfhile (woman poet), into a “Celtic goddess of inspiration” and credited her with being the inventor of the harp. This article by Morgan Daimler traces the potential causes for the modern revisions of the story.
  • The Celtic music revival in 1960s
  • Three kinds of traditional Irish music: celebration, lullabies, laments
  • The sean-nós tradition, unaccompanied Irish language singing
  • For further information about the Irish harp and its centuries of tradition, seek out Anne Heymann and Nancy Hurrell
  • The Trailblazery, which offers the online Scoil Scairte Irish language and culture program

Our Music

Music at the start of the show is by the wonderful Beth Sweeney and Billy Hardy, a Celtic Fiddle and multi-instrumental Duo based on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The traditional Irish reel we play at the start of the show is called The College Groves. Find out about their music and shows at: billyandbeth.com

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About the Podcast

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KnotWork Storytelling
Myths Retold, from Ireland and Beyond

About your host

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Marisa Goudy

Marisa Goudy is a story healer, a writing coach, and a word witch. Her book, The Sovereignty Knot: A Woman’s Way to Freedom, Power, Love, and Magic, was released in 2020.
Marisa nurtures writers and storytellers in her long-running online writing community, the Sovereign Writers’ Knot.
On this show, Marisa combines her passion for story with her love of Irish literature, culture, and folklore and her fascination with the Celtic world. She has a particular love of stories of heroines, goddess, and women whose tales were forgotten by history.

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