Category Archives: Author Reflections

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.

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.

 

Word Temple

The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.

Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made

is star-stuff too?


– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –

dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.

Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.

Roselle Angwin

Roselle Angwin has blogged about poetry and Iona here – as it’s on blospot this is the closest we can get to a re-blog!

 

Awen’s new Intern

By Morgan Blanks

My name is Morgan Blanks and I have recently become an intern for Awen, for whom I will be managing a project involving the authors published by the company. I’ve recently set about sending questionnaires to each of the authors as a start to finding reviewers for their books.

As I am currently in my first year of studying Creative Writing at Bath Spa University, I thought what better way to gain a bit of experience than by doing an internship. So, when the opportunity arose I grabbed it with both hands and threw myself into the deep end by attempting something that I hadn’t done before. In other words, I wanted to get my hands dirty with a project that was unfamiliar to me, and one that I could learn from for the future.

Creative writing has always been a big part of my life and has been an ambition that I have never wavered from. At the age of nine years old I started writing a children’s book called ‘The Desert Island’, which was self-published by AuthorHouse and can be found on Amazon. Currently, on my course, I have been trying out new forms of creative writing that I’d never even heard of before, including Nature Writing and Experimental Writing, all of which have really helped me to home in on the type of writing that I want to succeed with. I am most enthusiastic about writing more novels, which will hopefully be publishable; as a writer I know that the process is long, but that it is also never too early to try and get published. My increased interest in poetry has also been thanks to the Creative Writing course; but I have truly enjoyed reading some of the poetry published by Awen, which, I have no doubt, will inspire me to write some of my own.

Hermes with Lindsay Clarke

by Lindsay Clarke

It was a true delight to participate in the event at the Chapel Arts Cafe in Bath on the evening of 10th March. The cafe, which provides a friendly and comfortable ambience already has a strong literary reputation locally, having hosted readings by a number of distinguished writers, so it was perhaps unsurprising that the event sold out quickly. An audience of fifty lively and responsive people were drawn by the excellent tapas meal that was on offer as well as by the programme of poetry readings and music.

My own presence along with Richard Selby, who is a good friend of Anthony (and proofread the text of A Dance With Hermes), gave a strong Awen feel to the occasion. Richard acted as a jovial MC for the programme which alternated the readings with music from Paul Darby, a well-known singer in the folk tradition, and from the Bookshop Band, which consists of the very talented duo Beth Porter and Ben Please (and Beth’s passenger, currently known as Bumpy). Paul sang songs of his own composition and from a wider repertoire to guitar accompaniment, while Beth and Ben accompanied on their stringed instruments a number of songs they have written around themes inspired by books they have loved.

Crysse Morrison got the evening off to a witty start with some recently written, characteristically feisty poems and later reading from her recent collection Crumbs from a Spinning World. Peter Please also read some new work, both in verse and prose, inspired by his love for and careful observation of the natural world. I talked briefly about my great, and now sadly late friend, John Moat (co-creator of the Arvon Foundation) and how his vision of Hermes as tutelary deity of the Imagination and the poetic basis of mind had provided the inspiration for a poem which, to my astonishment, proved to be the precursor of 48 others, from which I read a representative selection.

All the performances were warmly received and applauded, and the whole evening was a highly enjoyable mix of delicious food, good humour, beautiful music and vivacious language. A genuine treat for the senses.

Poetry, place, pilgrimage

Roselle Angwin is a contributor to the poetry anthology Soul of The Earth. Today we’re sharing a post previously published on her blog.

The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.
Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made
is star-stuff too?

– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –
dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.

Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.

Roselle Angwin

We all gather in sunshine. The sea yesterday was doing her best to look innocent and benign, lolling blue and lovely off Cape Cornwall. When we actually go to walk the Cape, however, on our first silent walk, a few clouds have slid in from the Atlantic, and there’s a wind. Unusually for this area, we have quite a few grey days, which do nothing to change the magic; if anything, it’s more atmospheric.

You can read the post in full here – https://roselle-angwin.blogspot.co.uk/2016/06/poetry-place-pilgrimage-pagans-saints.html

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.