All posts by jananson

‘A Dance with Hermes’: an evening with Lindsay Clarke in Bath on 6 September

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Hermes, the messenger god, will be celebrated in a ‘power-poem’ presentation at the Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution (BRLSI) on Wednesday 6 September 2017 by Whitbread Prize winning novelist Lindsay Clarke. He will read from his 2016 book A Dance with Hermes, examining how the messenger god of the imagination is as relevant to us in the digital age as he was in antiquity.

Lindsay will be looking at how creativity can flourish in a world that constantly bombards us with stimulus of all kinds. Mixing contemporary wit with ancient wisdom, he will explore how language, dreams, travel, tweets, and trading floors are all aspects of Hermes, the archetype of the imagination and the poetic mind. Rather than the modern world being a threat to our creativity, by harnessing our knowledge of these ancient mythical figures, we may in fact enhance it.

Lindsay Clarke is a writer and educator now based in Somerset. He won the Whitbread Prize for his novel The Chymical Wedding in 1989. His novels, poems, plays, and non-fiction have often featured myth, legend, and alchemy.

The presentation will begin at 7.30 p.m. Tickets will be sold on the door: £4 non-members and £2 for BRLSI members and students.

The Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution is an educational charity based in the centre of Bath. The Institution runs a programme of more than 150 public lectures each year, on topics including science, philosophy, art, and literature. It also maintains collections of minerals, fossils, and other items, as well as a library of rare books. BRLSI’s Jenyns Room is one of Bath’s leading gallery spaces with a year-round programme of art and museum exhibitions.

BRLSI, 16–18 Queen Square, Bath, BA1 2HN. 01225 312084. www.brlsi.org

On the Cover: Glossing the Spoils

 

by Kirsty Hartsiotis

b694b1_08f653f8784c44929d43a376cccf6604mv2I’ve always been fascinated by hoards. To me they are deeply poignant and offer a glimpse into a moment in another person’s life. It’s easy to imagine a scenario from the thin thread of evidence – the coins tucked away in a bag or pot – and see a desperate person hastily digging a hole, stuffing in their only treasure, covering it over, staring at it to try to drum the place into their memory, then snatching up a child, the rest of their belongings, tugging away a horse, and running from the chaos they’ve left behind, a raid, a battle, perhaps, but with one thought in mind – I will come back. Implicit in there is the thought, I will come home again, and pick up the reins of my old life, and all will be as it was. But we know that that didn’t happen. For whatever reason, the person who buried the hoard didn’t return, and the little bag of coins remains there until a metal detectorist or archaeologist strays on it one day and the ancient metal is brought to light.

When I first saw the cover image for Charlotte Hussey’s Glossing the Spoils, that’s exactly what I thought we had. The coins on the cover are from the Hallaton Hoard, a massive collection of Iron Age and Roman coins found near Market Harborough in the East Midlands. How fitting, thought I, a coin hoard is the perfect cover for this collection of poems expanding out, glossing, inspired by medieval texts from all over Western Europe. So often, in early medieval writing at least, all we have are the remains, the scraps, and our understanding of the complex meanings behind the poems in the Anglo-Saxon corpus, say, or the Mabinogion, and the lost tales they reference is like our understanding of coin hoards – we can imagine a bigger picture, we can gloss and explain all we like, but to capture that moment of writing, the societal context of the poet, the writer, and their world view, that’s all but impossible.

However. Some coin hoards are not like the one imagined above. Sometimes there’s a whole lot more going on. The coins on this cover are just a few of the 5296 coins found in no less than fourteen coin hoards on the site. They were deposited at some point just before or soon after the Romans came to Britain, but not because people were running away from invaders or civil war; rather, as part of a collective, community ritual. The people who deposited these coins came to the place, feasted, and held a ritual that resulted in the burial of these coins and the bones of the pigs they ate. And a Roman helmet. And, sadly to us today, it seems that the site was important enough to need to be guarded at all times – three dog skeletons have been found, psychopompic guards protecting against all spiritual comers. The coins show the exuberant horses, dots, and symbols of Iron Age coins, mixed in with the artistic inspiration – coins from the Empire across the Channel. What relationship did these people have with Rome? Who were they beyond the name Corieltavi? How did they get the helmet? Why did they stop coming?

Always there are more questions than answers. A quick glance won’t do. That’s what I take from the cover – and from the poems inside the book. There is everything to be gained from looking under the surface. In those deeper places lie discoveries – not just the materially obvious hidden treasure, but an elucidation of hidden lives and, perhaps, a glimpse into ourselves and a chance to have a deeper connection with both ourselves and the the myriad lost lives of the past.

You can find out more about the Hallaton Treasure here, and if you’d like to dig deeper into Hussey’s book, it’s available here.

On the Cover: A Drink with Hermes?

By Kirsty Hartsiotis

dwh-front-coverLindsay Clarke’s new book, A Dance with Hermes, which launches this Thursday 1 December at Black Book Café, Stroud, is all about ‘Hermes, the messenger god of imagination, language, dreams, travel, theft, tweets, and trading floors’ and on the cover is an image showing Hermes flying, dancing, running across the page.

Fittingly, this image is from a kylix, an ancient Greek wine cup, the kind used at Greek symposia, parties where like-minded men would gather to drink and talk, share poetry and enjoy entertainments. Symposia feature in Plato’s writing as places where learned men talk about the nature of life (and where other, drunker men gate-crash the party, sparking more chat!). In real life they may have been a bit more ‘lively’, with games such as kottabos, where the wine lees were flicked across the room to a target that would ring like a bell if it were it in the right way, and dancing and boys provided all kinds of entertainment.

Kylixes were made to be fun objects as well. They are usually decorated around the outside. The one from which the image on the cover of A Dance with Hermes is taken has athletes and trainers running around it. But with the wine brimming in the cup, you wouldn’t be able to see that there was an image on the bottom – a surprise when you had finished your drink! The surprise image was often of someone dancing or running, and our Hermes is no exception. He dances over the sea, clasping his lyre (complete with plectrum in red) and his caduceus – his staff with two intertwined snakes – as he goes.

The kylix is part of the British Museum’s collection, and dates from the 5th century BC – the cup type is much older, though, going back at least to Mycenaean times, decorated then with boggle-eyed octopuses. You can find out more about the cup here.

Join us for our very own symposium to share a drink and hear Lindsay Clarke talk about his book and share poems from it alongside Stroud’s own Jay Ramsay at 7.30pm (for 8pm) on Thursday 1 December at Black Book Café, Stroud. Tickets £5 on the door, redeemable against the cost of a book.

 

Lindsay Clarke reading in Stroud

By Jay Ramsay

lindsay-picLindsay Clarke is the foremost novelist of the imagination and the spirit alive today in Britain. He was the winner of the Whitbread Prize for Fiction for The Chymical Wedding (1989), and his most recent novel The Water Theatre (2010) continues his preoccupation with modern psychological initiation and personal transformation. He is a gripping storyteller as well.

Lindsay has always been a poet in essence. His last collection, Stoker, which recalls his upbringing in Halifax, is now followed by a return to alchemical themes in the figure of Hermes (aka Mercurius), traditionally the winged messenger of the gods. A Dance with Hermes (Awen, 2016) is the result.

He will be launching this book with a 40 min. presentation on Thursday 1 December at Black Book Cafe, Nelson Street, Stroud. I will be reading from Places of Truth now re-set in its 3rd edition. The evening will include Q&A and is also a celebration of Awen Publications, founded in Bath by Kevan Manwaring and recently taken over by novelist and ecologist Anthony Nanson (Deep Time, 2015). Doors open 7.30 for 8.00 p.m. start. Entry £5 (redeemable against the cost of a book). Please visit wwww.awenpublications.co.uk.

Those of you who saw Lindsay present at the Awen Forum Subscription Rooms series in 2012-13 will remember how enjoyable he is to listen to, and I hope you will join us for this rich evening.

Lindsay Clarke book launch

DWH front cover.jpgAwen are delighted to announce the publication of Lindsay Clarke’s new book A Dance with Hermes. Lindsay will be reading from the book, alongside Jay Ramsay reading from Places of Truth: Journeys into Sacred Wilderness, at a launch event in Black Books Cafe, Stroud, GL5 2HL, on Thursday 1 December, 8.00pm. Entrance £5 on the door (redeemable against the cost of a book). Contact: 01453 840887.

Here’s some info about the book:

In a verse sequence that swoops between wit and ancient wisdom, between the mystical and the mischievous, award-winning novelist Lindsay Clarke elucidates the trickster nature of Hermes, the messenger god of imagination, language, dreams, travel, theft, tweets, and trading floors, who is also the presiding deity of alchemy and the guide of souls into the otherworld. Taking a fresh look at some classical myths, this vivacious dance with Hermes choreographs ways in which, as an archetype of the poetic basis of mind, the sometimes disreputable god remains as provocative as ever in a world that worries – among other things – about losing its iPhone, what happens after death, online scams, and the perplexing condition of its soul.

‘Clarke brings his considerable erudition and love of language to allow the intellectual and the poetic mind to come together, imagining where and how Hermes might be concealed in everyday life – the whisper in the inner ear, the sudden silence when “the air hangs watchful”, or “the fitful flare that lights our way”.’ Jules Cashford

‘This is an impressive collection, with an ancient and perennial wisdom, and language that is modern, even “street-wise” without being cheap. I admire the range of contemporary reference; the “voice” of these poems suggests a real freedom of mind, and expresses a live imagination.’ Jeremy Hooker

‘Deft, witty, wing-footed – Lindsay Clarke’s poems wonderfully embody what they describe: the god Hermes, who is comprehensively shown to be just as revelatory and double-dealing in the digital age as he ever was in antiquity.’ Patrick Harpur