Soul Of The Earth

Soul Of The Earth is an anthology of Eco-spiritual poetry edited by Jay Ramsay and with an afterword by Anthony Nanson. A number of Awen authors were involved in this project, links to their individual poetry titles are included blow.

The following poets contributed one or more pieces to the collection:

Roselle Angwin

Aidan Andrew Dunn

Diana Durham

Karen Eberhardt-Shelton

Rose Flint

Dawn Gorman

Alyson Hallett

Jeremy Hooker

Adam Horovitz

Charlotte Hussey (Glossing the Spoils)

Irina Kuzminsky (Dancing with Dark Goddesses)

Kevan Manwaring (The Immanent Moment)

Paul Matthews

Jehanne Mehta (poem published here on the blog)

Margie McCallum

Gabriel Bradford Millar (Crackle of Almonds)

Helen Moore

Paul Nelson

Jennie Powell

Jay Ramsay (Places of Truth)

Lynne Wycherley

Find out more about Soul of the Earth here –

Writing The Knowing

Insights into the use of experience in fiction writing, from Kevan Manwaring…

The Bardic Academic

Practice-based r

esearch in the creation of a novel

WP_20160906_09_36_20_Pro.jpg A writer’s retreat. View across Gairloch Bay, Wester Ross. K. Manwaring 2016

In the creation of my contemporary fantasy novel, The Knowing, the main focus of my Creative Writing PhD at the University of Leicester, I have undertaken extensive experiential research as part of the practice-based research of writing the novel itself. It has to be emphasised that the writing of the novel is the research, for it is as much a scrutinization of the creative process as a dramatisation of that process through the characters, setting and plot.  The PhD began as an examination of the ‘Longing, Liminality and Transgression in the Folk Traditions of the Scottish Lowlands and Southern Appalachians’ (as my initial research question framed), at least when it became ‘conscious’ – in September 2014  when I began my part-time research degree – yet creative aquifers had been…

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A Dream of Metamorphic Writing

by Anthony Nanson

I dreamt last night that the university made me teach a module on ‘Metamorphic Writing’. It meant a bit of bluffery with the students because I’d no idea what metamorphic writing was. Then came the follow-up the next semester – ‘Metamorphic Project’ – the only module they were offering me to teach. I was a tad shirty with the management for expecting me to teach a topic without giving any guidance what it was. But suddenly I realised: ‘metamorphic writing’ is writing with a mission, writing that seeks to facilitate some kind transformation in the reader. It was exactly the kind of thing my co-editors and I sought to accomplish via storytelling in Storytelling for a Greener World, whose insights I’ve longed to apply in the academy. Now I was all keen to teach ‘Metamorphic Project’ and gearing up to write a email to my boss to make sure I hadn’t blown my chances of doing so —

And then I woke up – and realised that this metamorphic mission is not so very different from Awen’s ecobardic mission. It concerns writing that has commitment. It’s a bit more muscular, though, in its intentions towards the reader. Alarm bells ring. Are we talking here about propaganda, about manipulation, about the kind of language games that an inhuman state – or nexus of state and big business – can use to mould the unthinking worker-consumers it desires? No. We thrashed this all out in writing Storytelling for a Greener World. The name of the game is not to manipulate people to believe or to do what you want. It is to open up spaces in people’s hearts where they discover for themselves the emergent pathways of transformation that they need and that will make them a blessing to the world.

One of the things that may have fed into my dream was reading the biography of Nikos Kazantzakis by his wife Helen. Kazantzakis was on a mission all his life, a mission that was political and spiritual as well as literary. The right hated him because they thought he was a communist. The communists distrusted him because he kept speaking of the spiritual. He believed there has to be a political struggle, and he contributed to that, he even served in government, but he became convinced that the political struggle is always doomed unless it’s accompanied by the transformation of the human heart. The Greek word for a transformation of being is ‘metamorphosis’; that’s the word translated as ‘transfiguration’ in the New Testament. Kazantzakis poured his life’s energy into literature not to make money – he was always broke – but to facilitate metamorphosis. He was a metamorphic writer.

That’s my dream of what I want to do too. That’s my dream for Awen. The world has got very scary this past year. Some people are thinking what do I need to do to prosper in conditions of right-wing supremacy. Some people are thinking what do we need to do to fight it. What, then, are writers going to do? Write violent power fantasies that make lots of money? Write something ironic that makes them feel smug? How about a ‘metamorphic turn’ in literature? And while we’re at it, how about a university module in Metamorphic Writing instead of just teaching the students how to be winners in a competitive world? But the foundation, of course, must be the writer’s own commitment to their own ongoing transformation of being.

Become an Ecobard

“The world is in crisis. It’s been in crisis before. Individual regions have suffered environmental collapse. The planet has undergone global ecological crises in the deep geological past. But in our time we’ve become aware that for the first time during the history of civilisation the world faces such a global ecological crisis – one caused not by asteroid impact or the slow cycles of plate tectonics or celestial oscillation, but by the accelerating exploitation of the earth’s resources by an ever growing human population. In such a crisis what place is there for the arts?”

So begins The Ecobardic Manifesto, published by Awen – you can read the entire version here –

We all need creativity in our lives and we all have the capacity to be creative.

We are all capable of being inspired, and of inspiring others.

It’s not just about singing songs and telling stories – although that can and will be part of the solution, because we need to change our culture to something more sustainable.

Become an Ecobard. Become a voice for the land, for the past and the future, a voice for life and for hope.

Reviews for Mary Palmer

Poet Mary Palmer has two collections published by Awen – Tidal Shift,  and Iona.

Reviewing Tidal Shift, Helen Moore said “Throughout we experience the communications of a compassionate heart – sometimes burning with fierce irony, elsewhere disarmingly tender – yet steadily maintaining a courageous gaze in the face of others’ suffering.”

It’s a long and detailed review for Caduceus which can be read in full here – and concludes “At the end of her life, Christian faith and love have become Palmer’s main source of nourishment. However, her concern remains predominantly with others – the poet’s often fragmentary utterances are epitomised by her desire to extend a ‘Lifeline’ to those she’s leaving behind: “I believe in going/ the oyster way/ in weaving meaning/ around the grit/ in leaving you/ a rope of pearls.” But ultimately, I feel her courageous surrendering to death is the greatest gift she offers her readers – “give yourself/ to the surgeon’s knife/ let go/ an outpouring of love/ your miracle.” ”

Geoff Hall says the following of her work “Her poetry eroded the boundaries we allocate to things like spiritual and physical, sacred and secular. She knew there were no such divisions; no duality in her understanding of the world.”


“Mary’s Celtic spirituality meant that she was connected to the earth as well as transcending it. Her word images are metaphors which point beyond our experience of the world around us, to capture a moment, a brief moment of bliss. They are pointedly sensual and I’ve noticed that mystic poets (St John of the Cross comes to mind) always seem to stir the most sensual images and translate their meaning from the here and now, to an eternity of bliss.”

You can read his blog post here –

Find out more about Iona here –

find out more about Tidal Shift here –


Deep Time, Exotic Excursions

Exotic Excursions is published by Awen – author Anthony Nanson is a keen traveller and reflects on a recent journey in this blog post.

Anthony Nanson's Deep Time

dsc07701This year’s visit to New Caledonia got me musing whether I should change the name of my blog – to signal a broadening of scope that would justify my writing here about my travels. ‘Deep Time, Exotic Excursions’ is what I came up with.

My preoccupations as a writer do seem to revolve around those two themes. The novel Deep Time could be considered the ultimate in exotic excursions; three of the stories in my collection Exotic Excursions involve prehistoric creatures; while my work in progress is certainly – from the perspective of two major characters – an experience of the exotic but also involves prehistoric life, albeit on a more modest scale than in Deep Time.

I’m well aware that the word ‘exotic’ is like a red rag to a bull when it comes into the sights of postcolonialist critics. It’s a concept symbolic of obsolete colonialist attitudes that…

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Storytelling with Kirsty Hartsiotis

Kirsty Hartsiotis is one of the people working behind the scenes at  Awen. She was, recently, responsible for the wonderful cover design for A Dance With Hermes. Kirsty is a writer and storyteller, here are some examples of her work:

John Smith the Dragon Slayer of Deerhurst

The Woman’s Wraith’ at Stroud Short Stories

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