Category Archives: Ecobardic

The Gramarye of Place

We walked alone together up the steep hillside, finding our own desire paths through the boggy heathland, climbing our own mental inclines, the hidden engines of our hearts driving us forward, the mental cable of our thoughts reeling us up the slope – providing the traction of deferred gratification. We had come the wild West Brecons to make mythopoeic pilgrimage to Llyn y Fan Fach, a glacial tarn associated with the Tylwyth Teg, the ‘Good Folk’ of the Brythonic tradition, and with the legend of a lake maiden.

On the brow of the hill, catching breath, we caught a first glimpse of the llyn, a cauldron of water held by savagely beetling cliffs, which dropped precipitously to its shimmering fastness. The surface was a digital mirror, pixilating with waves of re-rendering detail. The wind, kinked into tight vortices, catspawed the gelid waters into sudden surges of serration, looking for all the world like a murmuration of otherworldly beings just beneath its reflection of the apparent reality. Here, another was co-existent. It was easy to believe this place to be a portal to Annwn, or the parlour of identical lake maidens, giddy with their doppelgänger dance – lost in their own enchantment, their hall-of-mirror beauty echoed into infinity, and laughing at the maddening effect it had on incautious wanderers who became bedizened by their alluring shimmer.

View of Llyn y Fan Fach (c) Kevan Manwaring
View of Llyn y Fan Fach (c) Kevan Manwaring

It was hard not to be drawn in, not to succumb to the spell-binding gravitational pull of Llyn y Fan Fach’s gramarye of place. We found a ledge to eat our lunch on – with a reassuring boulder acting as a buffer zone between us and oblivion, hundreds of feet below. At three thousand feet the wind was breath-taking, and it was essential to sit out of its icy slap. Hunkering down, we broke bread, offering some to the tutelary spirit, with a bit of cheese to be on the safe side – though casting it into the void from the precipice was not risk averse. Such was the custom – and it’s wisest to heed local knowledge.

We chewed over aspects of the lake maiden story, turning it in our conversation to reveal different cleavage plains. Depending on the version, the apparently fortunate farmer is granted the comely lake maiden as his wife upon stern conditions set by her otherworldly father – that if he should strike three causeless blows, he would lose her forever. This seems temptingly easy to avoid, so he agrees, thinking that he would never strike his beloved new bride. But with folkloric inevitability, like salt to meat, the three causeless blows occur – sometimes ‘provoked’ by the fairy wife behaving in, surprise surprise, a fey-like manner: laughing wildly at a funeral, or crying sorrowfully at a christening. By the time the third ‘blow’ is struck (usually a playful tap on the shoulder), the farmer’s fortunes have reached their zenith. But with the geas broken, the lake maiden withdraws her favours and leads all their fat livestock into the waters of Llyn y Fan Fach. Remarkably, the offspring of their union remain (unlike in equivalent selkie tales), each with a strange gleam in the eye, and the descendants of these become the renowned Physicians of Myddvai, gifted with uncanny powers of healing.

The gifts of the Otherworld, it seems, arise mysteriously and can vanish just as unexpectedly. But on a more human level, perhaps the tale tells us never to take for granted the ones we cherish. That love, and its cousins – affection, friendship, companionship – are blessings we should count every day. Perhaps it is a proto-feminist folk tale. The female protagonist, has, for once, agency. She chooses to manifest before the farmer, and she chooses her time and manner of withdrawal. Her graces we can no more grasp and claim as our own than the catspaw upon the waters. An essentialist reading, however, would suggest that men and women are fundamentally different, and we will never fathom each other’s depths. Whatever the truth of the tale – and its facets are many and morphean – the overwhelming mystique of the place remains. If magic still lingers in these lands, then this is one such frost-pocket.

Light on Llyn y Fan Fach (c) Kevan Manwaring
Light on Llyn y Fan Fach (c) Kevan Manwaring

And it is in such places that I have found inspiration over the years – fountains of awen that I bathe in through my efforts of making pilgrimage. Innumerable times I have experienced their numinous power, their landscape-medicine, and felt compelled to articulate and honour the genius loci in, most of all, poetry, which I have found captures such little epiphanies more concisely, more holistically, than any other form. A photograph captures two dimensions, a poem, four, if not more. One’s body is the camera, and the experience is ‘recorded’ in an intensely visceral way. This embodied knowledge is poured into the poem, which distils it, one hopes, into memorable wisdom – though only time will tell. To be fully in the moment is all. Often the act of taking a photograph can take us away from the actuality of the encounter; whileas a poem (or drawing) can take us more deeply into the moment. A photo can act as a handy aide-mémoire, but notes – or a sketch – done in situ are far better. They retain the tang of the wild.

We traversed the perilous ridge of the Black Mountain and descended quickly as body temperature plummeted – this was not a place to dally, but for a brief while it felt like we had walked amongst the gods, imbibing the rarefied atmosphere of myth.

Copyright © Kevan Manwaring 3 May 2018

 

Silver Branch: bardic poems by Kevan Manwaring is published by Awen this summer:

https://www.awenpublications.co.uk/

With thanks to Anthony for an epic day, another ramble-sublime!

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The Tree Charter – calling all ecobards

Here’s an opportunity for action that we think will inspire ecobards…

The Charter for trees, woods and people is a project involving 70 organisations and led by the Woodland Trust. It’s about building a future in which trees and people stand stronger together. When the finished Charter is launched in November it will be used to guide policy and practice in the UK. For government to listen the Charter will need support from as many people across the UK as possible to show that there is a real recognition of the importance of woods and trees. The numbers of support behind it is what will give the Charter strength.

So, here’s what you can do to help.

Have a look at the Tree Charter principles here – https://treecharter.uk/tree-charter-principles/ – and then talk about them. Stories, blogs, poems, songs, whatever you do, if some aspect of this speaks to you, take it somewhere and share it.

Pledge your support for The Tree Charter here – http://bit.ly/TreeCharter

As we alluded to in the recent blog about Eco-linguistics, the stories we tell shape our culture. We need to tell stories about trees, landscapes and ecosystems that help inspire people to take care of these things. If you haven’t already read it, do check out our Ecobardic Manifesto for further ideas and inspiration – https://www.awenpublications.co.uk/manifesto

The Stories We Live By

We’re delighted to share this new, free, online learning opportunity from The University of Gloucestershire and the International Ecolinguistics Association  with you. As an Ecobardic publishing house we’re enthused about this opportunity for people to develop their ecological language and ideas and the encouragement to challenge conventional thinking and cultural narratives.

The Stories We Live by: is an online course in ecolinguistics, Everything in the course is free, including accessing the materials, registering, tuition, and a certificate of completion. And you are free to reuse materials in any way (e.g., in teaching).

Simply go to http://storiesweliveby.org.uk to access all the main materials. You can work through the course at your own pace.

The social and ecological issues that humanity currently faces are so severe that they call into question the fundamental stories that we live by: stories of consumerism, infinite economic growth, progress and human separation from nature. This course provides linguistic tools for revealing the stories we live by, questioning them from an ecological perspective, and contributing to the search for new stories to live by.

The course examines a great variety of texts from advertisements, lifestyle magazines and economics textbooks to surfing guides, Native American sayings and Japanese haiku. In each case, the question is whether the underlying stories encourage us to care about other people and the ecosystems that life depends on. Each section covers a type story (ideologies, framings, metaphors, evaluations, identities, convictions, erasure and salience) with notes, exercises, videos and (for those who register) discussion groups, tuition and additional materials.

Register to access additional materials, take part in discussion groups, contact a tutor or apply for a completion certificate.

Tuition is offered by International Ecolinguistics Association volunteer tutors. They are experts in ecolinguistics, each with their own research specialism, and can offer help and advice in 12 different languages.

Who produced the course? Arran Stibbe, Reader in Ecological Linguistics at the University of Gloucestershire, working with a team of volunteers. Arran has a PhD in linguistics and MSc in human ecology. He is the founder of the International Ecolinguistics Association and author of Animals Erased: discourse, ecology and reconnection with nature and Ecolinguistics: language, ecology and the stories we live by (Routledge). He was awarded a National Teaching Fellowship by the Higher Education Academy for teaching excellence and has published widely on ecolinguistics.

 

 

Tongues in Trees

Here’s news of a wonderful bardic adventure…

Tales from the Forest
Monday 16 (11am) – (Saturday 12 noon) 21 October 2017
(time is French time)
Outdoor writing, bardic tales, tree lore and expressive arts retreat week
with Roselle Angwin & Michael Fairfax

Find all the details here – https://thewildways.co.uk/week-long-retreats/tongues-in-trees/

Irresistible Resistance

By Robin Collins

 

Let our resistance

be an irresistible,

bringing together

of the Stars and the Earth in our lives.

 

Let our resistance

be insistence on beauty and wonder,

let us be beyond

the deadening repetition of machines.

 

In all ways

we are evolving towards

the spiralling of creation.

 

Spirals in the resistance

will take us like starlings,

murmuring through

the shattering pieces

of where

we have come to,

arrived for the first time

in the middle of ourselves.

 

Spinning in the

time we create,

let our resistance,

weave worlds into our words,

adorn our paths,

through day and night,

with friendship,

 

Let this be our resistance,

sound as a well built house,

we can stand,

and belong in the place we are now,

taking,

sun,

wind,

rain,

and frost.

 

We become,

irresistible

in our resistance,

to the webbing

of life’s fullness.

 

Of all we

lock away

now the walls and chains

are blown away.

 

Today,

we have found

child’s play,

is irresistible in our resistance.

 

Writing on the Wall: How can Poetry Can Save the Planet?

Poets, thinkers, writers and people who care for the natural world will gather in Waterloo on Saturday, June 3, 2017 for a unique interactive day of exploring and learning how poetry can help us protect the environment.

We’re delighted to announce that a number of Awen authors will be participating in this event.

Writing on the Wall is:

  • A day of poetic action and reflection for the planet. The first in a series.
  • A chance for new and established poets, budding writers, fans of poetry and anyone stirred by the environment message and crisis to build a vision of what the world might be, using poetry as a catalyst.
  • A new collaboration between poets and the wider world of faiths, ecologists and governments
  • Supported by The Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC), WWF-UK and the Southbank Festival’s Belief and Beyond Belief, of which Writing on the Wall is part.

The conservation movement’s language is so often of fear, anger and despair. But poetry can take us down different paths, and find wonder there. Our invitation to the audience during this interactive day is to help build a vision, through words, of what the world might be. To go beyond the boundaries of despair and think again about the way we live in this world. And to explore a way of being together, being part of the world and not apart from it.

“Poetry, at its best, speaks directly to both heart and mind,” said poet Jay Ramsay who has put the programme together for the Southbank Festival. “It can do what little else can do. It can speak a language that moves beyond the data of climate change, beyond the tragedy of habitat loss and species extinction, into a place of truth, where we can find a vision of a different kind of ending. Effective poetry stirs us, evoking reactions and provoking thought and, hopefully, action and commitment.

Writing on the Wall is an invitation to everyone to step “beyond a world of eco-deliverables and eco-miserables” and to delight in the wonder of the world around us.

The full day programme includes a writing workshop on how to incorporate a true and authentic vision of nature into your writing. Throughout the day there are talks, discussions, meditations and performances featuring poets, musicians, conservationists, writers and representatives from faith, spirituality and publishing groups.

The poets, speakers and musicians include: Jeni Couzyn, Glyn Davies (WWF), Aidan Andrew Dun, Irina Kuzminsky, Paul Matthews, Caroline McCausland, Niall McDevitt, Jehanne Mehta, Gabriel Bradford Millar, Helen Moore, Anthony Nanson, Peter Owen Jones, Jay Ramsay, Nigel Shaw and others.

 

Next steps

This is just the beginning. There are plans for an event at Dartington College in April 2018 and the project encourages anyone who is interested to take this further, using poetry – their own poems or other people’s – to provoke discussion, encourage debate and give hearts and minds a good shake.

 

Details:

Venue: St John’s Waterloo

Date: Saturday June 3, 2017

Times: 10.00 to 17.30, activities throughout the day. Tickets: £20

Further details and bookings: https://www.waterloofestival.com/poetry