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

 

 

 

 

David Orr’s WHAT IS EDUCATION FOR?

by Karen Eberhardt-Shelton

I read, read, read informative books as my choice for the best way to be informed. What has grabbed me most recently are the books and various writings by the world’s great educator, DAVID ORR, currently on the faculty of Oberlin College in Ohio, and a perpetual partner in the Earth’s Institute of Learning. He’s the most articulate, knowledgeable, and convincing advocate of changing the way people think by radically altering the deformities of the Education System I’ve ever come across, and therefore feel the world owes him a great debt of gratitude for his persistence in offering rescue remedies capable of curing our overall persecution of life on Earth.

First I read ECOLOGICAL LITERACY, an education in its own right, including contributions by Orr. Now I’ve nearly finished EARTH in MINDOn Education, Environment, and the Human Prospect, and view it as the bible containing what we most need to know if we’re to survive. Then I looked for material on line, and came up with this splendid piece offered by the Context Institute: What Is Education For?   The whole piece can be read online, only about 5 pages long, and offers some of the main points contained in Orr’s endeavours to align us with rational choices and reality.

Here are a few of his main points. “Education is no guarantee of decency, prudence or wisdom.   More of the same kinds of education will only compound our problems. . .It is not education that will save us, but education of a certain kind. . .It makes far better sense to reshape ourselves to fit a finite planet than to attempt to reshape the planet to fit our infinite wants. . .The plain fact is that the planet doesn’t need more ‘successful’ people, it desperately needs more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, and lovers of every shape and form. . .There is a myth that our culture represents the pinnacle of human achievement, but in fact, we live in a disintegrating culture, and need to participate in the creation of real solutions to real problems. We should set a goal of ecological literacy for all students that includes the basic comprehension of : the laws of thermodynamics, the basic principles of ecology, carrying capacity, energetics, least-cost/end-use analysis, how to live well in a place, limits of technology, appropriate scale, sustainable agriculture and forestry, steady-state economics, and environmental ethics. If Education does not teach us these things, then what is education for?”

Read the whole piece! Read Orr’s books. Focus on education and invent ways to redesign its function and intent. How else are we going to change the way people think? If students go into workshops where they debate and discuss the main points of whatever is problematic, destabilising, destructive, and out of alignment with the way the Earth functions, etc., Orr’s call for real education will develop a steady heartbeat.

 

Ballads Across Borders

Bardic adventures in song and landscape from Kevan Manwaring….

The Bardic Academic

Off by yourself you could sing those songs to bring yourself back.

Gary Snyder, ‘Good, Wild, Sacred’

WP_20160707_15_02_37_Pro Offa’s Dyke Path, descending southwards from the Jubilee Tower, 1821 ft (555 m) .                   K. Manwaring 2016

I felt very much like a pilgrim – a bit crazy and off the beaten track of reality. I was delighted to discover in Thoreau’s iconic essay on walking (slipped in with my other essentials) that the word ‘Sauntering’ is derived “from idle people who roved about the country, in the Middle Ages, and asked charity, under pretense [sic] of going a al Sainte Terre’, to the Holy Land. Apparently children used to call out, ‘There goes a Sainte-Terrer!’ a Saunterer, a Holy-Lander. Thoreau notes that some derive the word from ‘sans terre’, without land or home, ‘which, therefore, in the good sense, will mean, having no particular…

View original post 1,874 more words

Mary Palmer

Geoff Hall remembers poet Mary Palmer

“It’s 7 years since our friend Mary Palmer left us. She died from cancer a day after my birthday in 2009. We were both born in that most glorious of years, 1957. I was 10 days older than Mary and indeed still am!

I met Mary through some mutual friends and somehow we hit it off. Maybe being born into a year of National turmoil – there was a National Strike in ’57 – meant we shared something in common. It’s interesting that we are both poetic souls.

You can read the rest of the post here – http://artsmentoring.co/art-and-spirituality/mary-palmer/

Mary Palmer’s biography and bibliography are here – http://www.awenpublications.co.uk/mary_palmer.html

%d bloggers like this: