Category Archives: Performance

Silver Branch book launch 19 August 2018

On 19 August 2018 we gathered in the Ale House in Stroud to celebrate two things: the launch of Awen’s newest title, Silver Branch: Bardic Poems & Letters to a Young Bard by Kevan Manwaring – and also the author’s birthday! 

Kevan organised the evening with his usual generosity of spirit, giving us a showcase of bardic talent from Stroud and Bath – and beyond. There were poets, musicians and storytellers sharing many different versions of the bardic arts that Kevan has worked in and encouraged for 25 years, representing a cross-section of his acquaintance with bards from his youth in Northampton, through his time living in Bath and now in Stroud.

He started the evening himself, with a rendition of ‘Taliesin’, from the poetry cycle The Taliesin Soliloquies, about the tale of the legendry British bard who is said to have lived in the sixth century. Kevan has taken great inspiration from the tale, the poetry and the man himself over the years.

Next up was Kevan’s partner in the storytelling and music duo Brighid’s Flame, and fellow Fire Spring, singer-songwriter Chantelle Smith, performing her song about the banshee.

Another Fire Spring followed, Kirsty Hartsiotis, bringing in the third bardic art of storytelling with a rendition of the tale of Mabon son of Modron in the Welsh story of Culwch and Olwen.

Two Stroud-based poets came next, Tim Bannon and Jehanne Mehta.

Then publisher and fellow Fire Spring Anthony Nanson with another bardic piece – a storytelling rendering of the Song of Amergin, one of the legendry forefathers of the Gaels of Ireland.

Kevan acknowledged the inspiration he had had from the next performer, his old friend Marko Gallaidhe, who continued the Irish theme with a song and a tune.

Marko was followed by one of Kevan’s students in the bardic arts, Wayland the Skald, who said that Kevan was one of his favourite people – and thus gifted him with his favourite folktale, a Yorkshire tale in which the Devil comes good!

He was followed by Earthwards, who are Jehanne and Rob Mehta and Will Mercer, who sang a song about Runnymede – the ‘rune meadow’ where the Magna Carta was signed.

Two more Stroud poets followed, Robin Collins, and Jay Ramsay, who delivered from memory a bardic poem about the fire in the head of bardic inspiration.

Current Bard of Bath – the 20th, Kevan was the third – Kirsten Bolwig gave us a true tale from her work with teenagers, which had us on the edge of seats – a tale of tempers, stories and stolen double-decker buses on the Mile End Road!

Recent Stroudie, but old Northampton friend, Simon Andrews gave us a song about unity. Jeff Cloves contributed a poem about book launches – and Nina Simone – from his own recent collection.

Then Peter Please told a spine-tingling story of dream and connection and birthdays and resonation through the generations – all the way back to the Ice Age. The evening was rounded off with a poem of Rumi’s, performed by storyteller Fiona Eadie, and then finished with a bang with another song by Simon.

We’d like to thank the Ale House in Stroud for providing a venue, and we thank all the performers and all the listeners!

If you missed the Stroud launch, Kevan will be launching the book in Bath at Poetry and a Pint at St James’s Wine Vaults in Bath on Wednesday 19 September, 7.30pm.

If you’d like to see some videos from the evening head on over to our Twitter account @Awen_Books, and you’ll discover Kevan and friends there!

All images copyright Kirsty Hartsiotis, save for the image of Kirsty, copyright Chantelle Smith and that of Peter Please, copyright Kevan Manwaring, all 2018.

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Behold, the Shining Brow!

By Kevan Manwaring (Lughnasadh 2018)

9781906900427.jpgAs a mode of enquiry for a creative practitioner interested in the bardic tradition, my poetry has, for over a quarter of a century, been a sustained commitment to what I eventually called the ‘Way of Awen’ (from 2004). I began to write poetry in 1991, inspired by a trip hitchhiking around Ireland – a young man interested in Celtic legends, with a nascent inclination towards Paganism. I met my ‘muse’ figure in a park in Galway and corresponded with her, writing her long letters (in those low-fi days before the internet became ubiquitous) and my first attempts at poetry. I wove in magical symbolism, inspired by W.B. Yeats, Dion Fortune, William Blake, and Jim Morrison, among others. I started going to ‘open mike’ events and inflicting my poetry on others. I quickly realised that reading from a text can create a barrier between the performer and audience, and so I began learning my poetry by heart. This freed up my hands, allowed me to make greater eye contact, and, by hard-wiring the poetry into myself through repetition, enabled me to embody the archetypal energies I was invoking. Each poem became an invocation to a particular deity, genius loci, or sacred festival. Over the next few years I wrote more poems, and expanded my repertoire to encompass the full ‘wheel of the year’ – material that I finally collected together in one volume: Green Fire. I started performing as a storyteller too, and weaving in the occasional ‘bardic poem’ into the texture of my shows. Invitations to perform at events started to happen – Witchfest, Wessex Gathering, Mercian Gathering, Druid Camp, Lammas Games, handfastings, and Bardic Chair competitions. In 1998 I had won the Bard of Bath competition with my epic poem, Spring Fall, which relates the legend of Bladud and Sulis of Bath. I hosted open mike events, ‘bardic showcases’, and book launches (after I founded Awen Publications in 2003). Often I would drop in a poem to set a mood, warm up the audience, break up the evening’s texture. I performed my poetry at Tate Britain (& Modern) and in front of thousands of protesters gathered in Trafalgar Square. On one memorable occasion I performed my Green Man poem naked while waiting to go into a sweat lodge at a Male Mysteries gathering! I realised then that, even if I was ‘skyclad’, I would never be short of material! As a bard I carry a library in my head – a repertoire of hundreds of stories, poems, and, these days, songs. I continue to use my bardism in key aspects of my life – teaching, guiding, and writing – and over the years have passed on my bardic skills to many students, helping the awen to keep flowing. The Taliesinic Effect is one too precious and powerful to be contained or controlled by one person, or a single organisation. I believe that all brows should shine. It is our innate potential awakening within us.

Silver Branch: Bardic Poems and Letters to a Young Bard is published on 19 August 2018. It will be available direct from Awen Publications here.

Lindsay Clarke videos

In this video, Lindsay Clarke talks about poetry, language, and the imagination. This was recorded at the launch of Rosie Jackson’s ‘What the Ground Holds’ Bath UK, 1st October 2014.

 

Here’s an interview with Lindsay Clarke talking about his novel The Water Theatre:

 

Lindsay Clarke’s A Dance with Hermes is published by Awen – you can find it on Amazon – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dance-Hermes-Lindsay-Clarke/dp/1906900434

Poetry news from Dawn Gorman

When Liz Watts suggested I ran an edition of Words & Ears within her ceramics installation Beached at Greenhill Cottage Gallery, I immediately said yes, because the gallery is such a wonderful space and because Liz’s work is stunning. But I didn’t anticipate it working quite so well as our Easter Monday event. That was down to a combination of things – Liz’s inspired staging of her award-winning, sea-themed ceramics; guest poet Rebecca Gethin’s superb, salt-tanged sets, which took us to Zennor and Co Donegal, into the company of turnstones, mermaids and whales and to the dark side of the lighthouse; and to the enthusiasm of the audience and open mic contributors, who really entered into the spirit of things with some great sea poems. Lovely to see new faces, Words & Ears regulars and old poetry friends – Lesley Saunders, Ruth Sharman, Paul Brokensha, Chaucer Cameron, Tom, Sue and Iris Anne Lewis among others. My thanks to gallery owner Martyn Slade, to Liz and her family, and, poignantly, to Mary, Martyn’s partner, who, after last year’s event at the gallery with Cristina Newton said to me ‘we must do another one of these soon’. Sadly, Mary passed away at the end of the summer; for me, the evening was a fitting honouring of her enthusiasm and support.

The next Words & Ears takes us back to The Swan in Bradford on Avon next Thursday, April 27th, for a really exciting line up – guest poets Susan Utting and Rishi Dastidar, plus guest MC Sam Loveless. Susan’s latest collection, Half the Human Race: New & Selected Poems was published just last month. About her work, Moniza Alvi says: “Poets are often praised for knowing what to leave out. Susan Utting knows what to leave in. Ordinary things gain an almost hallucinatory vividness in her richly textured poems. Utting animates life’s brittle edges and her poems carry unforced emotional weight.”

Rishi Dastidar’s first full collection, Ticker-tape, was also published last month. About it, Daljit Nagra says: “These poems are perfected eccentricities who dance through the techno world. Urban wit rubs alongside innovative love poetry. Dastidar is at home “forglopned”, in his “blipverts”, on the way to Stavanger without a signal, enjoying a ‘Potluck Kinfolk style’ or selling love at the Tsukiji fish market. Wherever he is, whatever he’s up to, I declare Dastidar to be one of the most ingenious, modern, thrilling, hilarious and tender poets writing today.”

You don’t need me to tell you that this combination makes for a stunning evening’s poetry… Bring your own, too – open mic contributions always welcome.

Storytelling with Kirsty Hartsiotis

Kirsty Hartsiotis is one of the people working behind the scenes at  Awen. She was, recently, responsible for the wonderful cover design for A Dance With Hermes. Kirsty is a writer and storyteller, here are some examples of her work:

John Smith the Dragon Slayer of Deerhurst

The Woman’s Wraith’ at Stroud Short Stories