Category Archives: Book News

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.


‘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

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 –

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 –

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 –

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

The Story Behind the writing – The Journey to The Marsh

By Richard Selby

marsh-1How does a book fare on its journey from first idea to its final version? Well here’s the story behind a book: The Marsh. It is a volume of three of my poems illustrated by Nigel Davison in a private press edition, beautifully printed and produced.
The beginning was one afternoon, five years ago, I forget exactly what I was doing, it would be good to say I was writing but probably not. The phone rang. Ominous. Cold Caller? No!
It was a call from Nigel Davison who explained that he had bought a copy of my then current book The Fifth Quarter,  Awen, 2008. He liked the book and went on to explain that he was an illustrator and designer who had illustrated and produced a book of song lyrics by a Kentish singer called Bob Kenward. Was I interested in collaborating on a book with him? Well yes, I certainly was. He would send me a copy of The Singing Line, which duly arrived. A beautifully produced volume with wonderfully evocative prints. The journey had started.
We began to exchange emails with ideas from me, some poems I was already working on and some new ones for a possible collection based on Kent’s Pilgrims’ Way and though these struck a chord it was three long poems based on historical events on Romney Marsh that became the centre of attention.
I already had a draft of one poem for consideration, ‘Turning’, a poem focusing on the performance of Mystery Plays that took place in New Romney every year during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Romney had a seven play cycle, performed by local guilds and by groups from other small towns and parishes. The plays were performed at Crockley Green, behind Romney High Street. Nigel liked the invocation of atmosphere “The bleakness of the marsh seems to blow through these words” We were up and running.
The other two poems were completed in draft form and soon initial images were sent to me for ‘Beach’ – Nigel had chosen to illustrate just one voice from the poem – it is a multiple themed poem with different narrative lines running through it: from the present, the recent past and from the sixteenth century. The striking images of a group of actors travelling across the marsh over four hundred years ago perfectly set a scene that I was hoping to convey in the poem. The modern sections of the poem echo against this.
Interestingly, at this stage, Nigel had an exhibition in Tenterden, Kent of his recent woodcuts and linocuts and with Judith, my wife, we were able to arrange a couple of nights in Kent in order to attend the private view in the gallery.
An initial draft of the book was completed in 2014 and then the work on production began.
Nigel Davison continued the detailed work on the layout, on further illustrations, on the exact format, the cover; all aspects meticulously developed. Meanwhile arrangements were being made to print the book in Perpetua on Letterpress. I received images and a video of a Letterpress setting the type for printing. The signature printings began to arrive, a couple of pages at a time, ready for final reading and editing. All this was a part time undertaking by Nigel, fitted in around his career as a graphic designer.
Then a couple of photos arrived by email: a view of multiple copies of the book held in a book press and a photo of the book in its newly printed jacket.
The finished article!
A little more information on the book.
My family has had connections with Romney Marsh – The Marsh, since the 1930s and I spent many holidays in the 1950s and 1960s in my grandparents’ house and then my parents’ house when they moved down there from North Kent in 1969. It was a regular holiday destination for our family. I would buy any book containing references to The Marsh and have since accumulated a sizeable collection of relevant books.
The three poems in The Marsh are all based on historical incidents. ‘Lookers’ concerns the death of two shepherds, or lookers as they were known, in a particularly harsh winter in 1790. ‘Turning’, as stated earlier, harks back to when the town of New Romney was frequently host to small companies who performed Mystery Plays at significant times of the year. These were the forerunners of touring companies of players from Shakespeare’s times and it is documented that Shakespeare did tour and perform in this part of Kent. One of these companies make a fleeting appearance in the third piece ‘Beach’, which covers several time zones, focusing on the recent past and the years of the Second World War.
It’s been an intriguing journey and on 11th November there will be a launch event in St James Wine Vaults in Bath. Next spring we hope to hold an event on Romney Marsh, possibly in one of the small churches that are a distinctive feature of The Marsh.
There are themes that link the book and my earlier collection ‘The Fifth Quarter’ which contains prose, poetry and stories about The Marsh.
‘The Fifth Quarter’ Spirit of Place Volume 2. Awen Publications.  Find out more about that book here –