Category Archives: Author Reflections

Transparency in Action

by Jay Ramsay

Jay Ramsay Pembroke College cropped (2).jpgIt occurs to me again today that the task for poetry couldn’t be clearer where poets are choosing to bring their work into the field of social justice and (as Andrew Harvey would say, with utmost relevance) ‘sacred activism’.

The real story, which is surely the environment now, is being masked by a puppet show diverting our attention from what urgently matters in our collective consciousness. However, every effort is being made through the best of social media to keep that story at the frontline of our awareness.

Of course, our human story matters as well: we live at a time when all the world’s wrongs are being exposed in a time of transparency. This great transparency, in my view, has the absolute backing of the spiritual world where that transparent light originates. When that light informs a poet’s eye, we also have poetry that matters.

You must have asked yourself, as I have many times, what does the spiritual world make of the state we are in? With a new century so quickly mired in sourness that is at the same time an unavoidable process towards our awakening, the dark before the dawn, the End Time, Revelation … and now with two important films released recently on both sides of the Atlantic: The Post, with Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep, recalling the great Vietnam cover-up through a series of White House administrations, and the Washington Post’s brave decision to publish leaked documents; and on this side of the pond Darkest Hour, where Churchill stood firm in 1940 against all the forces of appeasement to take Hitler seriously as the very real threat that could have (would have) changed our island history.

As a dear friend and local poetry lover, Sally Whitman, said who saw it (and I paraphrase): ‘I mean, what kind of Britain do we want ? A trivial nation, or what?’

This is transparency in action, through the Self, through intuition; and of course this is fire in the heart which is the passion that knows how much it matters: this is where we will recover our moral compass, and not only that, but our own authentic orientation as people living now who want to make an empowered contribution.

As Robert Bly, 92 this year, put it in ‘Advice from the Geese’:

Every seed spends many nights in the earth.

Give up the idea the world will get better by itself.

You will not be forgiven if you refuse to study.

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(Reproduced in Diamond Cutters: contemporary visionary poets in America and Britain, ed. Andrew Harvey & Jay Ramsay, Tayen Lane, San Francisco, 2016)

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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