Category Archives: Book News

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

Different Continents

by Gabriel Bradford Millar

On Thursday 9 March @ Star Anise in Stroud a roomful of poetry aficionados were treated to a double book launch: Jay Ramsay’s Dreams Down Under (published by Knives Forks and Spoons Press) and Will Thomas’s Soul Candy. Will’s first book came out under the Chrysalis imprint.

Dreams Down Under was prompted by a 1000-mile road trip through New South Wales in Australia. Jay’s close, almost affectionate descriptions of the flora and fauna he saw were arresting, especially his empathy with things so other.

 

 

Soul Candy deals with the end of a long-term relationship and the hazards of online dating. Basically upbeat, it ends with the joy of a new love.

Both books are the immaculately articulated responses to life of two open-hearted men.

Here is the blurb from the back of Dreams Down Under:

‘These dynamic and vivid poems explore being “turned upside down” in different ways, geographically, emotionally, spiritually—the familiar becomes strange: seen for the first time. Based on a thousand mile road trip through New South Wales, Jay Ramsay fuses his ability to write in the moment with a deep ecological perception and concern where place is also metaphor, and our capacity for relationship and celebration is the invitation of Life itself. This is poetry of the natural world suffused in Eros, in love and sexuality, but also in memory: both ancestral (his maternal grandfather tendered for the building of Sydney Harbour Bridge) and aboriginal, inviting us to connect with what it means to return to a place of primordial connection, both for ourselves and for the planet.’

Pilgrim Station

by Dominic James

I am grateful to Anthony Nanson for inviting me to contribute a few lines on my poetry collection, Pilgrim Station, recently brought out by SPM Publications. Anthony, who offered me some comfort over waiting periods on poems and stories last year, kindly re-confirmed my ecobardic credentials in a lightly worded rejection slip for some other wild project of mine only the other month. And it comes to mind that I have bumped into and worked beside several members of the Awen and Fire Springs pantheon over the last couple of years. Our sympathies overlap.

Pilgrim Station is my first collection, made up of poems I have written since taking up poetry seriously, about eight years ago. A writer of short stories with a bookish background, I always kept a watchful eye on poetry. It has been the advent of middle age, that downhill-sloping, happy time, that has brought me to concentrate on poetry, the subject at hand. The attraction is that it has the spiritual/philosophical edge that is always present but generally unobserved, or unsummoned, in our day-to-day communication. We express these things quietly to ourselves, in our thoughts – but if we could speak as nimbly, poetry would be the result. Or the aim.

For these poems I have gone back and forward through my life from my twenties to the recent tales of more contented, if occasionally troubled times. And as this is a first collection, raw in places, sometimes vulgar and sometimes, I have allowed, a shade opaque, I have tried out styles, followed and broken forms, played the sedulous ape (thank you Robert Louis Stephenson). In short, I have drawn a line under my time of life with a shaping of my past into my present and so arrived at my future direction. I think at some point we should all establish that we can say so much. Making this stop, at this station, or at this time of life, has been one of the pleasures, and the more poetry I write the deeper I go into the common journey and, I hope, the better the poetry gets. Reader, Pilgrim, I hope you treat the world so kindly yourself.

Awen.

‘James is indeed a traveller in an ancient and modern land. A true European, he risks loss of identity in his quest to establish it and in a remarkable series of anecdotes and vignettes we share his struggle in this muscular and fragile collection.’ Peter Pegnall

Pilgrim Station by Dominic James (SPM Publications, 2016) is available from Stroud Bookshop, the Yellow-Lighted Bookshop, Nailsworth, and amazon.co.uk

http://djamespoetic.blogspot.co.uk/

Alchemy with Jay Ramsay

Archive Publishing are proud to announce the re-publishing of Jay Ramsay’s luminous work on the Art of Transformation.
Alchemy is best known as the age-old science of turning base metal into gold. But it is much more: essentially, it is a path of self-knowledge, unique in the Western tradition, with vital relevance for the modern world. The symbols of Alchemy lie deep in the collective unconscious, in the world of dreams and imagery: the practices of alchemy are rooted in an understanding of the oneness of spirit and matter through which we celebrate our sexuality and spirituality.
Jay Ramsay takes us step by step through the stages of the alchemical process using a wide range of original exercises to create a memorable journey that challenges, inspires and transforms us at every stage. We too can be kings and queens: we too, once we leave our dross behind, are gold.
Buy the book here – archivepublishing.co.uk/

Jay Ramsay has two books with Awen –   Places of Truth: journeys into sacred wilderness

and    Soul of the Earth: the Awen anthology of eco-spiritual poetry (editor and contributor)

New releases from Awen

New for December 2016, A Dance with Hermes by Lindsay Clarke.

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.

You can read about the book launch here and the book can be bought from Amazon

Awen Publications is also in the process of re-releasing the back catalouge. This December saw the re-release of Kevan Manwaring’s The Long Woman.

An antiquarian’s widow discovers her husband’s lost journals and sets out on a journey of remembrance across 1920s England and France, retracing his steps in search of healing and independence. Along alignments of place and memory she meets mystic Dion Fortune, ley-line pioneer Alfred Watkins, and a Sir Arthur Conan Doyle obsessed with the Cottingley Fairies. From Glastonbury to Carnac, she visits the ancient sites that obsessed her husband and, tested by both earthly and unearthly forces, she discovers a power within herself.

This is the first in a five book series and opens the door onto a fantastic, speculative world rooted in myth and folklore.

You can buy The Long Woman on Amazon.

 

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.

 

Green Children and other English Folk Tales

With The Anthology of English Folk Tales (The History Press) released on 1 November, Kirsty Hartsiotis has been blogging about some of the stories featured in the book.

Blogging about the Green Children, Kirsty writes: “It’s an old tale, one of three in Suffolk Folk Tales recorded by the monk Ralph of Coggeshall in his Chronicon Anglicanum around the turn of the 13th century: the others being the Wildman of Orfordand Malekin. Unlike the other two, the Green Children has another source, a slightly earlier source, from the Yorkshire monk William of Newburgh. The stories vary a little, but not in their essentials – the discovery of children with green skin in the small Suffolk village of Woolpit just outside Bury St Edmunds, then a major pilgrimage site for the relics of St Edmund.”

You can read the rest of that post here – https://firespringsfolktales.wordpress.com/2016/10/29/the-green-children-of-woolpit-and-bardwell/

The story of King Raedwald of East Anglia also features in the anthology.

Kirsty writes: “A few months ago it was announced that Rædwald’s home had been found – exactly where it should be, at Rendlesham.   It is always remarkable when archaeology follows ancient sources, especially when those ancient sources postdate the actual events by a good century.”

Read the rest of that post here – https://firespringsfolktales.wordpress.com/2014/08/16/a-puff-on-wuffings/

Kirsty Hartsiotis, Anthony Nanson and Kevan Manwaring all have stories in The Anthology of English Folk Tales.