Christine Broe’s bog body of art: poems, paintings and sculptures

The poet, painter and sculptor, whose latest work is an attempt to weave the three strands together, says all are dredged from the same pool

Since the publication of my first book Solas Sólás in 2003 I have been producing bog sculptures, paintings and poems but I did not know how to share the work. An art exhibition with texts? The sculptures alone? The poems alone? So this resulting hybrid, Lifting Light, is the result of weaving the three strands together. I suppose it is a little unusual that the illustrations and the text are by the same person.

The bog woman on the cover is a sculpture I made especially for the cover. I took her up to the Feather Beds in the Dublin Mountains to take her picture. The two of us got into a bog pool for the photo shoot. She has since shrunken to one third her size as happens to all the bog pieces. She is now on loan to the Rathgar Bookshop, sitting among the books on the poetry shelf.

For someone from the Liberties of Dublin it would seem an unlikely obsession, but I became fascinated with bog as a sculpture medium while training as an art therapist.

It is fascinating to work with a material, which came into being because of light, but has not seen the light of day for thousands and thousands of years. The creatures created seem to have an independent existence, shrinking, ageing, changing and in some cases composing their own poems.


As Mágún in A Dark Matter says:

“She dredged me / from the bottom of the bog / my dark wet matter lifted / carried to a place of light.”

While in another poem an unnamed bog presence proclaims:

“ But see my sunken spirit rises / one shoulder has come up into the light, / and the long loud silence is eroded / eroded by the sound of hope.”

I spent the month of June 2013 hiding away in a cottage in Killmacnella, Co Mayo, painting and making bog people. Much of the work in the middle section of the book was as a result of that, a totally unique experience for me, an escape from my large and ever expanding family. A self-induced and directed artist’s retreat.

Many of the paintings in the book come from a resolution I made, and kept, to do a painting a day in 2009, so I had a huge resource of 365-plus paintings. The paintings were twinned with the poems retrospectively. The whole process of creating the book became an organic experience. It was not unexpected to find common themes as the material for both was coming from my own bog pool of unconsciousness. I have a more than passing interest in the work of Carl Jung and the collective unconscious, and his exploration into the connections between mind and matter, of everything being one.

The poems not directly connected to the artwork mostly came unbidden. I am not a disciplined writer and write only when I feel I have something to say. In the first section they seem to explore and search for meaning, while many of the poems in the third section of the book deal with family and friendship – difficult themes of births and deaths, emigration and loss – and lighter themes – weddings, dreams and plans for my reincarnation.

I have a long association with the Rathmines Writers’ Workshop, now celebrating 25 years, and published the book under their imprint Swan Press. It would be true to call this self-publishing as one does all the work, typesetting, bar coding, launching, distributing etc, with no funding or grants. While it would be amazing to have someone else to do all that, as it stands I have total artistic freedom.

I would like to thank all, and there were many, who helped me in this endeavour. They are all acknowledged in the book. All that remains now is to get the books out to as many people as possible. One of my sons has set up a website for me where you can hear some of the poems, see more of the bog people and buy the book.