All posts by Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things.

Writing on the Wall: Poetry and Saving the Planet

By Irina Kuzminsky

June 3, Waterloo Festival, St John’s Waterloo

On a spectacularly sunny English summer day some of Britain’s best poets gathered at St John’s Church Waterloo to send out their own call for awareness of the ecological crisis threatening our planet and therefore us. Sponsored, most appropriately, by the World Wildlife Fund and ARC (http://arcworld.org) and curated by poet, author and psychotherapist Jay Ramsay, Writing on the Wall was an ambitious part of the Waterloo Festival – a day of eco-spiritual poetry with speakers, poets, musicians and singers. The day also offered the opportunity for audience involvement through a rich selection of options: a guided walk through the Waterloo and Lambeth of Blake and Rimbaud with Irish poet Niall McDevitt, a poetry writing workshop with Sian Thomas, or a singing experience with Caroline McCausland and Anam Cora.

The focus of the day was eco-spirituality and a wake-up call for us to see the state of the planet we are a part of, a state brought about largely by our own role as exploiters rather than guardians of the natural world and of each other. Artists, in the deep sense, are called to truth-seeing and truth-telling and this was what all the contributors to the day sought in their individual ways to accomplish. It is no indictment of them that most of them are not mainstream household names. As Jay Ramsay pointed out, if they, and their views, had been mainstream, the state of our ecology – and spirituality – would have been different to what it is now. In any case, it has always been the voices from the periphery, those who come from outside the establishment, who make a difference, and who are responsible for revolutions in ways of thinking and of perceiving, and this is no different today. Those who bring in the truly new, regardless of how the established appropriate to themselves sobriquets and buzz words such as ‘ground-breaking’, ‘modern’, ‘challenging’, ‘innovative’, are still outsiders today. Anthony Nanson of Awen Publications, an eco-spiritual publisher, made an impassioned plea for the support of independent presses making the point that they have always been the ones to publish the important truly new non-mainstream books of their time.

The day got off to an inspired and inspiring start with contributions by poets Jay Ramsay and Jeni Couzyn, business thought leader Giles Hutchins, who spoke unforgettably on the Illusion of Separation, and vicar and BBC broadcaster Peter Owen Jones. All spoke with eloquence and from the heart, as did the afternoon speakers, Dr Glyn Davies, Executive Director of Global Programmes at WWF, international activist Jane Samuels, writer and poet Sarah Connor who proposed a new Bill of Truth, and Awen publisher Anthony Nanson.

It was particularly heartening to hear from speakers such as Giles Hutchins and Jane Samuels on the role of poetry. Not poets themselves, they were a clear illustration of how poetry can and does make a difference in people’s lives, inspiring them to look at the world in a different way, and to make a soul connection with it as it were.

The poets themselves, all of them included in the spiritual poetry anthology Diamond Cutters, edited by Jay Ramsay and Andrew Harvey (Tayen Lane), presented their work in the concluding concert. Jeni Couzyn, Helen Moore, Paul Matthews, Jehanne Mehta, Jay Ramsay, Victoria Field, Sian Thomas, Irina Kuzminsky, Aidan Andrew Dun (with pianist Lucie Rechjrtova), Niall McDevitt – each was memorable in their own way. Jehanne Mehta and Aidan Andrew Dun collaborated with musicians to enhance their readings, a beautiful illustration of how effectively music can combine with the spoken word. The final poem of the day was a reworking of Rudyard Kipling’s famous poem If by Jojo Mehta, striking in its simplicity and truth. The concert concluded with hauntingly beautiful musical presentations by Anam Cora, an all-women vocal ensemble led by Caroline McCausland, and flautist Nigel Shaw, who makes his own flutes, including a replica of a bone flute, one of the earliest ever found.

The amount of thought-provoking material and presentations packed into one day was incredible and more than enough for an entire immersive weekend. Part conference, part roundtable, part poetry readings, part workshops, part concert, the day left the audience well and truly sated and filled to overbrimming. All in all it was a Herculean effort by Jay Ramsay who enabled and organized the event and all credit goes to him.

The accompanying booklet, besides acting as a programme, provided examples of the individual poets’ work, as well as including poetry chosen by the participants, making it a fine poetry pamphlet in its own right.

Throughout it all St John’s Waterloo provided an excellent example of how a church can extend its reach into the community and bring people to an engagement with the spiritual through the arts. We all owe a big debt of gratitude to the Canon of St John’s, Giles Goddard who also led the opening and closing meditations, and to the members of the church for opening up their space to us, poets, artists, singers, musicians, photographers, sculptors, who see their art and creativity as a gateway into the spiritual and a way of engaging with the Supreme Creator of all.

Can poetry save the planet? It can bring about a groundswell of awareness and it can ignite minds, hearts and souls through words which reach beyond the illusion of separation and find an echo in an other.

The Awen authors are:

Back row: Paul Matthews (2nd from left), Aidan Andrew Dun (10th from left), Anthony Nanson (12th from left), Helen Moore (extreme right).
Front row: Irina Kuzminsky (6th from left), Jay Ramsay (9th from left), Jehanne Mehta (11th from left).

 

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Event: Living a Writer’s Life

LIVING A WRITER’S LIFE an evening with Devon poet & author Roselle Angwin


BookStop event
at The Bedford Hotel, Tavistock, Devon, Friday July 7th  2017, 7.30pm

Westcountry poet and novelist Roselle Angwin began her published career here in Tavistock, where she also started the first of her 26 years of popular holistic creative writing courses.

Roselle’s deep interests are in how creativity and the imagination can help to transform the way we live in the world, especially in relation to the other-than-human. As a writer on place and deep ecology, she’s impassioned by our relationship to the rest of the natural world. All her work, whether novels, poetry or essays, includes a strong sense of place and the natural world (her most recent novel, The Burning Ground, is set partly on Dartmoor during the foot-and-mouth crisis, which she documented as it happened). She;s a contributor to Awen’s Soul of the Earth anthology.

The evening will involve some readings from Roselle’s books, and also a discussion of some of the ideas raised, as well as her journey to being a published writer via a rather crooked path.

She’ll also speak of the ‘nuts and bolts’ of making one’s way in an uncertain and precarious field, and will be very happy to discuss general questions in relation to why writing matters; the writing process; how to submit work, and other related topics.

Tickets (£8) can be purchased from Book Stop (01822 617244) or on the door.

 

Charlotte Hussey’s Glossing the Spoils

by Anthony Nanson

Charlotte Hussey’s Glossing the Spoils is rather more than a collection of poems. It will have a particular interest, not only to admirers of edgy and crisply constructed verse, but to anyone engaged with medieval romance, legend, and epic, especially in Celtic, Old English, and Arthurian traditions.

Awen have now published a new edition of this book, first published in 2012, with an expanded introduction by the author in which she goes into more detail about her fascinating method. The ‘Glossing’ in the title refers to the ‘glosa’, a poetic form that functions as a gloss, or commentary, upon a pre-existing text. Each of the poems in Glossing the Spoils takes a short extract selected from a medieval source – such as Beowulf, Mabinogion, Geoffrey of Monmouth, Parzival, and many others – and expands this into an expertly metred poem that imaginatively both unpacks that moment in the source story and evokes resonances with the modern world. This nuanced relationship between ancient and modern is then neatly reinforced by concluding each stanza with one line from the source extract.

Let me show you what I mean with an example. Charlotte’s poem ‘Tree’ is based on this extract from the Arthurian tale ‘Peredur Son Evrawg’ from Mabinogion:

 

On the bank of the river,

he sees a tall tree:

from roots to crown one half is aflame

and the other green with leaves.

 

The first stanza of ‘Tree’ goes like this:

 

She passes through a skeletal wall,

door blown off, its skeletal

frame leaning inwards. The drone

of the bombing squad begins to fade

as an eerie music like wind through the ribs

of something large grows louder,

rising over the rubble, stirring her

to cry and laugh and wish to sleep,

not knowing whether, like a dreamer

on the bank of the river,

 

— and so the narrative continues into the next stanza …

An encyclopaedic knowledge of medieval literature lies behind these poems. Charlotte Hussey is a scholar in this field and teaches courses on Breton, Irish, and Arthurian literature at Dawson College in Montreal. The poet Lorna Smithers has described Glossing the Spoils ‘as exemplary in re-envisioning the oldest myths of Western European tradition with formal mastery’. This is truly bardic poetry and I hope you will enjoy it.

Buy directly from Awen – awenpublications.co.uk/

Buy from Amazon – https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1906900523

Walled Garden, Hawkwood

A beautiful, seasonal poem from Awen author Kevan Manwaring. Do click through and read the whole thing.

The Bardic Academic

Image result for garden in the sun

So soon now the midsummer
builds like a migraine,
a pressure in the head.
The sun rucks the sky,
stuns us into submission.

Drunken bees tumble
dark poppy heads ~
with their forgetful secrets.
Under the nets the strawberries
quietly bloom to fullness.

How sweet the seed
that from the bitter earth
erupts, clamouring for
the spell of light and
the kiss of rain.

Each thorn snags
a bud of dew,
sap swims up
the hidden rivers
of roots and stream.

Green blood pulses
and pushes life up
and out with a broken
cry of yes. And the trees
nurse us asleepwake

with their beards of birds.

Kevan Manwaring

14 June 2017

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Places of truth – a Pilgrimage

We’d like to draw your attention to a future event organised by poet Jay Ramsay – a day pilgrimage to Culbone  with meditation, writing
& convivial company. 10am for 10.30am, 7th October 2017
Meet at Culbone Inn car park (on A39 past Minehead).

A Gatekeeper Trust day with Jay Ramsay, poet,  following in the footsteps of Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

‘But oh ! that deep romantic chasm which slanted
Down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover!
A savage place ! as holy and enchanted
As e’er beneath a waning moon was haunted
By woman wailing for her demon lover !
—Kubla Khan

A walk to the magical hanging valley of Culbone with its diminutive church and a further wooded descent on down to the sea at Porlock Weir.  There will be opportunities to capture the moment in poetry in the company of the highly acclaimed poet Jay Ramsay, author of many books of poetry.  We will pause at the church for the nourishment of soul and body.

Price £15 for the day  (does not include lunch or other expenses such as transport)  Accommodation is available at Pepperhill Barn, Over Stowey, TA5 1HL  including supper on Friday and transport to Culbone.

Bring good footwear for walking in, and a picnic lunch to share. Be aware that the walks are fairly lengthy, will require medium fitness and can be steep in places.

Please contact: Lucy Wyatt (LucyWyatt 57 @gmail. com – minus the gaps) if you would like to come to this special day and if you would like to stay at Pepperhill Barn

Jay’s latest collections are “Diamond Cutters–Visionary Poets in America, Britain & Oceania” (co-edited with Andrew Harvey, Tayen Lane, San Francisco, 2016) and “Dreams Down Under—celebrating Australia” (knives forks & spoons, 2017). His Places of Truth, which includes the sequence about Culbone, is available from www.awenpublications.co.uk

Poem: Migratory Roots

By Robin Collins

 

Britain,

this great mnemonic,

land of the English, Celt and flint knappers of another age.

The seas wrap around her cliffs,

never letting the kingdom sleep,

haunting her people

with the foam capped thud of waves,

telling us to remember, remember.

The seas carried our distant ancestors,

unrecorded faces and names,

making the way across,

that ancient pollination of migration.

 

Britain in the becoming,

the great life stream of cultures.

Without the crossing over,

this island would be unnamed;

for all the towns and rivers

we speak were names

on a tongue that came

over the waves.

This is who we have,

swirling in the coda of our blood:

Migrants.

The sea reminds us we all go back

to some long forgotten family in a boat,

making the journey to stay,

to home make.

This island in the midst of moving peoples.

Awen blog roundup

For a while now, we’ve taken the opportunity each Monday to re-blog something that relates to Awen and/or its wider community of writers, artists, performers and fellow travellers.

This week, there are too many good posts that we want to share on to pick just the one, so here’s a selection of recommended reading.

Roselle Angwin features two prose poems from Chris Vermeijden http://roselle-angwin.blogspot.co.uk/2017/06/100-word-prose-poems-from-chris.html

Kevan Manwaring has two blogs about the recent Ballad tales project – It Takes a Village to Raise a Story reflects on the process of making the book happen while Wetting the Baby’s Head reflects on the first book launch party.

Anthony Nanson has a review for Alexandra Claire’s Random Walk on the Deep Time Blog.

Nimue Brown has an uplifting post about how modern politics crosses borders.