Category Archives: Events

Writing on the Wall: Poetry and Saving the Planet

By Irina Kuzminsky

June 3, Waterloo Festival, St John’s Waterloo

On a spectacularly sunny English summer day some of Britain’s best poets gathered at St John’s Church Waterloo to send out their own call for awareness of the ecological crisis threatening our planet and therefore us. Sponsored, most appropriately, by the World Wildlife Fund and ARC (http://arcworld.org) and curated by poet, author and psychotherapist Jay Ramsay, Writing on the Wall was an ambitious part of the Waterloo Festival – a day of eco-spiritual poetry with speakers, poets, musicians and singers. The day also offered the opportunity for audience involvement through a rich selection of options: a guided walk through the Waterloo and Lambeth of Blake and Rimbaud with Irish poet Niall McDevitt, a poetry writing workshop with Sian Thomas, or a singing experience with Caroline McCausland and Anam Cora.

The focus of the day was eco-spirituality and a wake-up call for us to see the state of the planet we are a part of, a state brought about largely by our own role as exploiters rather than guardians of the natural world and of each other. Artists, in the deep sense, are called to truth-seeing and truth-telling and this was what all the contributors to the day sought in their individual ways to accomplish. It is no indictment of them that most of them are not mainstream household names. As Jay Ramsay pointed out, if they, and their views, had been mainstream, the state of our ecology – and spirituality – would have been different to what it is now. In any case, it has always been the voices from the periphery, those who come from outside the establishment, who make a difference, and who are responsible for revolutions in ways of thinking and of perceiving, and this is no different today. Those who bring in the truly new, regardless of how the established appropriate to themselves sobriquets and buzz words such as ‘ground-breaking’, ‘modern’, ‘challenging’, ‘innovative’, are still outsiders today. Anthony Nanson of Awen Publications, an eco-spiritual publisher, made an impassioned plea for the support of independent presses making the point that they have always been the ones to publish the important truly new non-mainstream books of their time.

The day got off to an inspired and inspiring start with contributions by poets Jay Ramsay and Jeni Couzyn, business thought leader Giles Hutchins, who spoke unforgettably on the Illusion of Separation, and vicar and BBC broadcaster Peter Owen Jones. All spoke with eloquence and from the heart, as did the afternoon speakers, Dr Glyn Davies, Executive Director of Global Programmes at WWF, international activist Jane Samuels, writer and poet Sarah Connor who proposed a new Bill of Truth, and Awen publisher Anthony Nanson.

It was particularly heartening to hear from speakers such as Giles Hutchins and Jane Samuels on the role of poetry. Not poets themselves, they were a clear illustration of how poetry can and does make a difference in people’s lives, inspiring them to look at the world in a different way, and to make a soul connection with it as it were.

The poets themselves, all of them included in the spiritual poetry anthology Diamond Cutters, edited by Jay Ramsay and Andrew Harvey (Tayen Lane), presented their work in the concluding concert. Jeni Couzyn, Helen Moore, Paul Matthews, Jehanne Mehta, Jay Ramsay, Victoria Field, Sian Thomas, Irina Kuzminsky, Aidan Andrew Dun (with pianist Lucie Rechjrtova), Niall McDevitt – each was memorable in their own way. Jehanne Mehta and Aidan Andrew Dun collaborated with musicians to enhance their readings, a beautiful illustration of how effectively music can combine with the spoken word. The final poem of the day was a reworking of Rudyard Kipling’s famous poem If by Jojo Mehta, striking in its simplicity and truth. The concert concluded with hauntingly beautiful musical presentations by Anam Cora, an all-women vocal ensemble led by Caroline McCausland, and flautist Nigel Shaw, who makes his own flutes, including a replica of a bone flute, one of the earliest ever found.

The amount of thought-provoking material and presentations packed into one day was incredible and more than enough for an entire immersive weekend. Part conference, part roundtable, part poetry readings, part workshops, part concert, the day left the audience well and truly sated and filled to overbrimming. All in all it was a Herculean effort by Jay Ramsay who enabled and organized the event and all credit goes to him.

The accompanying booklet, besides acting as a programme, provided examples of the individual poets’ work, as well as including poetry chosen by the participants, making it a fine poetry pamphlet in its own right.

Throughout it all St John’s Waterloo provided an excellent example of how a church can extend its reach into the community and bring people to an engagement with the spiritual through the arts. We all owe a big debt of gratitude to the Canon of St John’s, Giles Goddard who also led the opening and closing meditations, and to the members of the church for opening up their space to us, poets, artists, singers, musicians, photographers, sculptors, who see their art and creativity as a gateway into the spiritual and a way of engaging with the Supreme Creator of all.

Can poetry save the planet? It can bring about a groundswell of awareness and it can ignite minds, hearts and souls through words which reach beyond the illusion of separation and find an echo in an other.

The Awen authors are:

Back row: Paul Matthews (2nd from left), Aidan Andrew Dun (10th from left), Anthony Nanson (12th from left), Helen Moore (extreme right).
Front row: Irina Kuzminsky (6th from left), Jay Ramsay (9th from left), Jehanne Mehta (11th from left).

 

Event: Living a Writer’s Life

LIVING A WRITER’S LIFE an evening with Devon poet & author Roselle Angwin


BookStop event
at The Bedford Hotel, Tavistock, Devon, Friday July 7th  2017, 7.30pm

Westcountry poet and novelist Roselle Angwin began her published career here in Tavistock, where she also started the first of her 26 years of popular holistic creative writing courses.

Roselle’s deep interests are in how creativity and the imagination can help to transform the way we live in the world, especially in relation to the other-than-human. As a writer on place and deep ecology, she’s impassioned by our relationship to the rest of the natural world. All her work, whether novels, poetry or essays, includes a strong sense of place and the natural world (her most recent novel, The Burning Ground, is set partly on Dartmoor during the foot-and-mouth crisis, which she documented as it happened). She;s a contributor to Awen’s Soul of the Earth anthology.

The evening will involve some readings from Roselle’s books, and also a discussion of some of the ideas raised, as well as her journey to being a published writer via a rather crooked path.

She’ll also speak of the ‘nuts and bolts’ of making one’s way in an uncertain and precarious field, and will be very happy to discuss general questions in relation to why writing matters; the writing process; how to submit work, and other related topics.

Tickets (£8) can be purchased from Book Stop (01822 617244) or on the door.

 

Places of truth – a Pilgrimage

We’d like to draw your attention to a future event organised by poet Jay Ramsay – a day pilgrimage to Culbone  with meditation, writing
& convivial company. 10am for 10.30am, 7th October 2017
Meet at Culbone Inn car park (on A39 past Minehead).

A Gatekeeper Trust day with Jay Ramsay, poet,  following in the footsteps of Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

‘But oh ! that deep romantic chasm which slanted
Down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover!
A savage place ! as holy and enchanted
As e’er beneath a waning moon was haunted
By woman wailing for her demon lover !
—Kubla Khan

A walk to the magical hanging valley of Culbone with its diminutive church and a further wooded descent on down to the sea at Porlock Weir.  There will be opportunities to capture the moment in poetry in the company of the highly acclaimed poet Jay Ramsay, author of many books of poetry.  We will pause at the church for the nourishment of soul and body.

Price £15 for the day  (does not include lunch or other expenses such as transport)  Accommodation is available at Pepperhill Barn, Over Stowey, TA5 1HL  including supper on Friday and transport to Culbone.

Bring good footwear for walking in, and a picnic lunch to share. Be aware that the walks are fairly lengthy, will require medium fitness and can be steep in places.

Please contact: Lucy Wyatt (LucyWyatt 57 @gmail. com – minus the gaps) if you would like to come to this special day and if you would like to stay at Pepperhill Barn

Jay’s latest collections are “Diamond Cutters–Visionary Poets in America, Britain & Oceania” (co-edited with Andrew Harvey, Tayen Lane, San Francisco, 2016) and “Dreams Down Under—celebrating Australia” (knives forks & spoons, 2017). His Places of Truth, which includes the sequence about Culbone, is available from www.awenpublications.co.uk

Ballads, Fire Springs and Awen

Ballad Tales, while published by The History Press features a number of Awen authors and Fire Springs members, so we’re giving it a shout out here on the blog.

The contributors are…

Fiona Eadie, Kevan Manwaring (Awen and Fire Springs), David Phelps,  Chantelle Smith (Fire Springs), Richard Selby (Awen and Fire Springs), Pete Castle, Malcolm Green, Simon Heywood, Alan M. Kent, Eric Maddern, Laura Kinnear, Karola Renard (Awen), Kirsty Hartsiotis (Fire Springs, and Awen, backstage) Nimue Brown (Awen backstage), Mark Hassall,  Chrissy Derbyshire (Awen)  David Metcalfe (Fire Springs), Anthony Nanson (Awen and Fire Springs). the book has a forward from Candia McKormack and the cover art is by Andy Kinnear.

Kevan Manwaring said “This fantastic launch event was the culmination of two years’ work – from my initial vision to publication by The History Press. It was great to celebrate the mutual achievement of all those involved with such high calibre performances from our ‘bardic dozen’ present. To see their respective contributions brought alive through storytelling, singing and exegesis was exciting. Any who didn’t make it really missed out on an excellent evening. We hope this will be the first of several such Ballad Tales revue shows.”

You can read a longer post from Kevan about the journey elading to the book – It Takes A Village To Raise A Story.

The next one will be:
Bath Storytelling Circle Ballad Tales special
Monday 19 June
8pm, free entry
upstairs at The Raven, Quiet St, Bath

Here’s a photo from the book launch…

Left to right… Candia McKormack, David Metcalfe, Mark Hassall, Karola Renard, Andy Kinnear, Laura Kinnear, Kevan Manwaring, Chantelle Smith, Kirsty Hartsiotis, Anthony Nanson, Fiona Eadie, Nimue Brown.

Poetry news from Words and Ears

By Dawn Gorman

How appropriate for a Words & Ears falling on a hot, hot evening that we should find ourselves among Liz Watts’ Beached imaginings, and cooled, in the imagination if not literally, by the water-and-shady-woods imagery from Elephant’s Footprint films. That, though, was just the start of things at the Swan last week. The one-off collaboration between sculptor and film-makers produced something quite ‘other’ for the senses – the gorgeous synergies of those skies, wavelets and woods flitting and flickering over Liz’s work, the plinths and the walls, (clouds beneath sea shells and sea women – a poem in itself) created what felt like a brand new, three-dimensional, multi-layered art form. There was something mesmeric and soothing about the readings, too – Chaucer Cameron’s poems were all the more powerful for their uncomplicated delivery, without preamble. ‘Water seeps into our land’, she said, and so the theme settled with us all – Liz let the whales and blue fin tuna swim free, while in the open mic, Pey was ‘as indivisible as water’, Paul gave us George Mackay Brown’s ‘dreaming plankton’, and with Peter is was possible to ‘catch fish with our eyes’. In the second half, we were treated to a curation of rich and gentle poetry films by Helen Dewbery, showing something of what is possible with this delicious form. Jodie Hollander maintained the mood with a powerful but lilting reading from her new collection My Dark Horses and, among many wonderful poems in the second open mic, we were treated to a reading of Rosie’s poem The Heaven That Runs Through Everything, which recently won the Stanley Spencer Poetry Competition.

Coming up this month there are two Words & Ears events – we are Live! At the Old Road Tavern In Chippenham on Saturday 24th June as part of ChippFest, with open mic plus guest poets Crysse Morrison, Moira Andrew, Ruth Marden, Partrick Osada, Peter Wyton and Maggie Harris (£3 on the door) – please visit www.chippfest.org for more details of this brilliant arts and music festival.

Then we are back at the Swan on Thursday 29th June for a three-woman poet night with Kate Noakes, Beatrice Garland and Lisa Brockwell, plus, of course, open mic (£4 on the door – with more poets’ expenses to cover, there’s a teeny price increase this time).

You can find more information on Dawn Gorman’s website http://www.dawngorman.co.uk/words_and_ears_info.php

Storytelling events

Ecobardic is a key term for Awen, summing up a lot about who we are, what we stand for and what we do. ‘Bardic’ of course means performance, and for many of the authors, performance is integral to who they are as well as being a significant influence on written work.

Storytelling is itself a highly sustainable form of entertainment, and one that we can assume has been with us since the beginnings of human civilization. Once there are fires and people to sit in circle around them, stories must follow. And so at Awen we’re keen to promote storytelling and live events. Do get in touch via the comments if you’d like us to promote anything for you.

BALLAD TALES BOOK LAUNCH
Friday 9 June
at OpenHouse, Stroud (The British School) Gloucestershire.
7pm.
Celebrating the launch of Ballad Tales: an anthology of British Ballads retold from The History Press, with a showcase of stories and songs from a selection of contributors including Candia McCormack, Kevan Manwaring, Chantelle Smith, Anthony Nanson, Kirsty Hartsiotis and Nimue Brown.

A TIME OF LIGHT: STORYTELLING ON THE SOLSTICE
Wednesday 21 June
at Thistledown Farm, Nympsfield, Gloucestershire.
7.30pm.
This summer solstice – the longest day of the year – Thistledown Farm invites you to a storytelling celebration of midsummer. Join Fiona Eadie for an engaging evening of seasonal stories, myths and folktales. Ticket price includes either a soft drink / hot drink / small glass of wine.

TALES OF WITCHCRAFT AND WONDER
Friday 23-Sunday 25 June: SOLD OUT

Inkubus Sukkubus’ have sought out a fascinating, historic – and haunted – location for 2017. It will be a weekend of wonders, with, on the Saturday night, a cornucopia of delights: Kevan and Chantelle, as Brighid’s Flame, will be telling bardic tales and song, then after a feast, will be Kirsty and Anthony performing dark tales of the Forest and Welsh borders – then the band will be launching their new album Belas Knap in a wonderful acoustic set.

BATH STORYTELLING CIRCLE
Monday 19 June

at The Raven, Queen Street, Bath
8pm. Ballad Tales launch special! Come and hear songs and stories the ballad tradition. Supporting the oral tradition through performances of stories, songs and poems (from memory, not read). Organised by David Metcalfe. Free, arrive 8.00pm for 8.15pm start. For further information call 01225-789439.

 

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/