The Sci-Fi Croft

A new blog from Awen founder and author Kevan Manwaring about recent adventures in writing and landscape.

The Bardic Academic

wp_20160913_19_34_55_pro Sunset, the Croft, Gairloch Bay, K. Manwaring, Sept 2016

 As I was up in Edinburgh doing research in the archives for a week I thought, what the hey, why not have a Highland fling? But instead of tossing the caber willy-nilly, so to speak, I decided my ‘fling’ would involve a 9-10 day solo writing retreat in a remote croft on the coast of Wester Ross. Boy, I know how to party! Actually, I can’t think of anything more pleasurable (solo). It would be my third visit to the croft – a private residence and long-time family shieling which I had the good fortune to gain access to through a chance encounter at a Resurgence Readers’ Summer Weekend, where I was performing five years ago. Belonging to a musician and eco-minded soul, the old fisherman’s cottage, nestled within its private cove at the end of ¾ miles of rocky…

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Review for Words of Re-Enchantment

Words of Re-Enchantment, by Anthony Nanson,

Reviewed by Paul Cudby

A mine of thought provoking essays for those interested in the importance of story-telling in changing how we relate to the natural world. This book is a collection of articles and papers by the author on the theme of the value of story-telling from an eco-spiritual perspective. As such it is perfect for readers such as myself who wish to take their first steps into a subject about which they recognise the importance but with which they are largely unfamiliar.

It consists of three sections, Myth, Storytelling and Ecobardic with the latter collection having perhaps a more academic slant. As you might expect from an experienced storyteller and teacher of creative writing, each chapter carries well presented and thought-provoking insights which I found deeply inspirational. The lengthy bibliography reveals quite how well researched this collection of essays are, yet Nanson writes in a way which, while clearly an expert in this field, does not read as an academic text book and manages to remain accessible throughout.

To give some insight into the subject matter and the challenge that Nanson recognises he faces, the following comes from the chapter titled, ‘How Can Storytelling Re-enchant the Natural World: ‘By re-enchanting nature, storytelling may aspire – alongside diverse other efforts – to help foster a collective sensibility that constrains the exploitation of the earth’s resources and seeks the mutual flourishing of humankind and nature. However, this lofty ambition flies against the biological instinct of human nature to pursue short-term self-interest above all else.’ Nanson’s ideals and ambitions are well-earthed in the reality of 21st century climate change and the difficulties faced by the global population in changing the habits of generations to exploit rather than value the planet and her resources, but he puts forth a strong case for the role story-telling has in changing hearts and minds through revealing a world which transcends a simple materialist understanding.

If I were to make any criticism, and it a small one, it is that some editorial culling would have been useful in the ‘Storytelling’ section in which there are two or three very short articles, (a couple of pages each) which are essentially reviews of productions and performances that the author has watched. Having not seen them myself they seemed rather superfluous to the general tone of the collection but, given that they amount to no more than a handful of pages, these do not detract from the overall flow of the book.

Nanson clearly writes from a spiritually well-read and experiential perspective. He remains objective and open-minded, including writing in positive terms about Christ which comes as a refreshing change in an eco-spiritual context. He writes from the perspective of one who has engaged with a wide range of spiritualities and is well-informed and writes clearly and inspiringly about these other approaches. In short, an excellent book which clearly argues the case for story-telling as a neglected yet positive force for change in re-enchanting humanity with the natural world of which it is a part.

Paul Cudby is the author of The Shaken Path,  coming soon from Christian Alternative.

You can find out more about Words of Re-Enchantment here – http://www.awenpublications.co.uk/words_of_re-enchantment.html

Kevan Manwaring wins One Giant Write

Awen author Kevan Manwaring has been announced as the winner of the One Giant Write Science Fiction writing competition.

Marcus Gipps said of Kevan’s entry: “Black Box is an original take on the exploration of our solar system, with a Cthulu-esque monster and a harrowing sense of personal responsibility for one’s actions leading to a nightmarish closed-room murder mystery.”

TIM front cover - August 2016Read more about the competition here – http://literatureworks.org.uk/one-giant-write

Find out more about Kevan Manwaring’s work with Awen here – http://www.awenpublications.co.uk/kevan_manwaring.html

 

Tales of Witchcraft and Wonder

Tales of Witchcraft and Wonder with Inkubus Sukkubus and Kirsty Hartsiotis
Friday 9 September
at Blackfriars, Gloucester

8pm.

During the evening you can enjoy an acoustic set of folkloric songs covering subjects such as shape-shifting, river goddesses and local mythology by Inkubus Sukkubus and friends (inkubussukkubus.com), plus folk tales of Gloucestershire by storyteller Kirsty Hartsiotis.

Kirsty is the co-author of Gloucestershire Ghost Tales 

Tickets £15 from gloucesterhistoryfestival.co.uk, tel 01452 503050 or in person from Gloucester TIC. All profits to Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust.

How a Poem Becomes a Symphony

From the left: composer Dan Thomason, OAE clarinetist Katherine Spencer, and me, discussing how Replenishment might be interpreted musically for a digital overture.

by Dawn Gorman

Poetry belongs in the community: that’s my starting point as a working poet. Let people have it and do with it what they will. So it was a great pleasure to help put that into practice in Wiltshire last year, alongside one of the world’s most distinctive orchestras, The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment (OAE).

This ground-breaking ensemble, which plays on instruments from bygone eras, regularly brings its innovative Watercycle project – an orchestral journey through the urban landscapes of England – to the Wiltshire Music Centre (WMC) in Bradford on Avon, and last year drew in both Wiltshire children and adults to create a unique concerto for the county.

Excitingly for me, the concerto was based on my poem Replenishment, which won a competition calling for poems on the theme of the local significance of water, run by the WMC. And as if that wasn’t enough, I also worked with sound technician and composer Dan Thomason from the WMC, and OAE clarinetist Katherine Spencer, to create a digital overture for the concerto, complete with a film poem, shot by Oliver Brown.

Inevitably, all this called for masses of collaborative work, which began with members of the public recording individual lines of my poem in a special booth at the WMC, to be jigsawed together for the overture. The way total strangers threw themselves into this activity was both surprising and humbling. The poem had grown out of a solitary walk alongside the river and canal in Bradford on Avon in that slightly deflated, just-after-Christmas vacuum, and, ultimately, draws on the essence of the water to offer a fresh surge of energy. The richly-textured chorus of local voices which Dan assembled from the recordings made me feel as though my local community was giving me the gift of my own poem, living and breathing. Very moving.

Dan, Katherine and I subsequently talked through how my ideas in the poem might be interpreted musically, and, in deconstructing my own work, it was clear that the poem wasn’t simply about a walk – it was also a journey from bleakness to hope.

Meanwhile, I was collaborating with the OAE, the award-winning composer James Redwood, and 240 pupils from various primary and secondary schools in Trowbridge and Bradford on Avon to conjure up the concerto itself. The students produced some phenomenally creative, insightful work, and I was unfailing impressed by the musicians’ rapport with them. The secondary students worked with James on ideas based on Replenishment to produce a tone poem that the younger children could sing. Again, it was a profound experience hearing my words in that new, rich context. The scope of Watercycle is ambitious, covering everything from the evaporation-condensation-precipitation cycle, to awareness about the charity WaterAid – http://www.wateraid.org/uk

The newly-composed music was premiered at the WMC in April last year and included the OAE and all the students involved. The overture film poem, which on the night featured live clarinet from Katherine alongside the digital score and the film, was subsequently chosen for screening at various film festivals, including the Cannes Short Film Festival 2015. You can watch it here https://vimeo.com/135481910 . The poem itself is on my website, www.dawngorman.co.uk

Huge thanks to the OAE, James Redwood, Dan Thomason, Oliver Brown, the WMC and the people of Bradford on Avon for the opportunity to be involved in such a brilliant collaborative project.

New Edition of Kevan Manwaring’s The Immanent Moment

TIM front cover - August 2016by Anthony Nanson

I’m delighted to announce that Kevan Manwaring’s poetry collection The Immanent Moment is back in print in a new edition. This is the collection that Kevan regards as the best of all his many collections published to date. This third edition includes a number of new poems.

I’d like to acknowledge the team effort behind the scenes to bring this book back into being: Kirsty Hartsiotis on design, Richard Selby on proofreading, Nimue Brown on blog, and yours truly on synthesiser and drums.

This is what it says on the back of the book:

‘The sound of snow falling on a Somerset hillside, the evanescence of a waterspout on a remote Scottish island, the invisible view from a Welsh mountain, the light on the Grand Canal in Venice, the fire in a Bedouin camel-herder’s eyes … These poems consider the little epiphanies of life and capture such fleeting pulses of consciousness in sinuous, euphonic language. A meditation on time, mortality, transience, and place, this collection celebrates the beauty of both the natural and the man-made, the familiar and the exotic, and the interstices and intimacy of love.’

Here’s a quote from Jay Ramsay’s foreword:

‘Awen, the flow of energy that is creative life, becomes Zen, its apprehension … Kevan’s poetry is (as he is) for life; of that you can be sure.’

And to whet your appetite, the opening lines of one of the poems:

 

Bike black on chalk down,

leather against grass.

Watching the shadows lengthen

on this clear October day.

 

You can order the book direct from Amazon here https://www.amazon.co.uk/Immanent-Moment-Kevan-Manwaring/

Review: Soul of the Earth

 

Soul of the Earth: The Awen Anthology of Eco-Spiritual Poetry, Ed. Jay Ramsay

This beautiful collection of poetry centres on our earth as a living entity and on whose survival our own lives depend. Ramsay states in his introduction: ‘We are being asked, individually and collectively, to make an absolute basic spiritual choice for life.’  The spiritual choices in this collection are positive, life-affirming declarations of love for this planet from a variety of perspectives.

Each of the twenty-one contributors to this book of poetry has something vital to contribute to the concept of eco-spirituality; and the myriad of explorations on this theme will resonate with readers quietly contemplating this important question explored in the collection. It is difficult to single out individual poets / poems as the entire volume is soul food.  Apologies to those poets not mentioned in this review – rest assured your poems too were appreciated.

So – what are these spiritual choices?  Karen Eberhardt –Shelton’s Misplaced Calibrators explores the disconnection between modern life and the things that really matter. The natural world in her observational poem is removed from the personas within it by the personas’ obliviousness to patterns and meanings of life:

Mum walks the springer spaniels while talking

On her mobile phone;

Ladybirds crawl away, bees watch in amazement.

The ladybirds flee; the bees are stunned. The loss of all the old wisdom of bee-keeping, part of the ancient knowledge that allowed us to survive as a species is wonderfully captured in this personification and their astonishment as they observe this human so indifferent to their presence.  No telling the bees here.

The whole poem reverberates with old knowledge and the personifications used are more than a literary device. The question asked at the end: ‘What would they do if there was no moon or sun or seasons ever again?’ is the heart of this poem and the gentle meditative wisdom at its centre.

Jehanne Mehta’s Hymn to the Earth is a stunning panegyric reminiscent of classical works in praise of Gods and Goddesses. The earth is portrayed as a beautiful young woman who has many moods:

She is lovely in the springtime in her dress of gold and purple;

She is lovely in the summer in her robe of living green…

The poem invites its reader to walk the seasons and to appreciate our world as a living, breathing entity. It encourages the reader to think about the earth and what it means. But it does more than this. It involves the reader at a visceral level and makes them contemplate a relationship with the earth as they might contemplate a relationship with a lover. The power in this poem is palpable and it is perfect for immersion in spiritual practice, regardless of path.

Lynne Wycherley’s Substitute Sky picks up the same theme as Karen Eberhardt –Shelton’s poem: the disconnect between the appearance of living and of life itself:

…we stare at screens,

A sly fluorescence, a not-quite sky…

(…)

Less talk,

Less laughter, less sun on our skins;

Our lives on hold, our children wired in.

The imagery of children entrapped by wires is a powerful punch to the gut and reminds the reader that a literal tying down of children to control them would – rightly – be viewed as child abuse, but our acceptance of a metaphorical tying of children by the unseen wires and cables of technology is an abuse we seem to accept without question. Such sad children are all too often the norm and it can sometimes seem they neither know nor care that they are in the thrall of machines.

The eco-spiritual question asked of the reader throughout the book is how we interact with our modern world and the technology within it – and how we teach our children that a machine is a good servant but a bad master. This is an important, pertinent and relevant question and the result of not addressing it is encapsulated in the final couplet of Wycherley’s poem:

Core addiction: captive eyes.

Outside the real world breathes, and dies.

These three poems are but a small taste of the treasures contained within this volume. Each of the poets brings their own interpretation to the question of eco-spirituality and each offers something of themselves and of importance to the reader.

Fiona Tinker

Soul of the Earth: The Awen Anthology of Spiritual Poetry, Ed. Jay Ramsay, (England: Stroud, Awen Publishers, 2010.)  £12.

More about the book here – http://www.awenpublications.co.uk/soul_of_the_earth.html

 

 

 

 

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