‘A Dance with Hermes’: an evening with Lindsay Clarke in Bath on 6 September

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Hermes, the messenger god, will be celebrated in a ‘power-poem’ presentation at the Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution (BRLSI) on Wednesday 6 September 2017 by Whitbread Prize winning novelist Lindsay Clarke. He will read from his 2016 book A Dance with Hermes, examining how the messenger god of the imagination is as relevant to us in the digital age as he was in antiquity.

Lindsay will be looking at how creativity can flourish in a world that constantly bombards us with stimulus of all kinds. Mixing contemporary wit with ancient wisdom, he will explore how language, dreams, travel, tweets, and trading floors are all aspects of Hermes, the archetype of the imagination and the poetic mind. Rather than the modern world being a threat to our creativity, by harnessing our knowledge of these ancient mythical figures, we may in fact enhance it.

Lindsay Clarke is a writer and educator now based in Somerset. He won the Whitbread Prize for his novel The Chymical Wedding in 1989. His novels, poems, plays, and non-fiction have often featured myth, legend, and alchemy.

The presentation will begin at 7.30 p.m. Tickets will be sold on the door: £4 non-members and £2 for BRLSI members and students.

The Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution is an educational charity based in the centre of Bath. The Institution runs a programme of more than 150 public lectures each year, on topics including science, philosophy, art, and literature. It also maintains collections of minerals, fossils, and other items, as well as a library of rare books. BRLSI’s Jenyns Room is one of Bath’s leading gallery spaces with a year-round programme of art and museum exhibitions.

BRLSI, 16–18 Queen Square, Bath, BA1 2HN. 01225 312084. www.brlsi.org

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On the Cover: Glossing the Spoils

 

by Kirsty Hartsiotis

b694b1_08f653f8784c44929d43a376cccf6604mv2I’ve always been fascinated by hoards. To me they are deeply poignant and offer a glimpse into a moment in another person’s life. It’s easy to imagine a scenario from the thin thread of evidence – the coins tucked away in a bag or pot – and see a desperate person hastily digging a hole, stuffing in their only treasure, covering it over, staring at it to try to drum the place into their memory, then snatching up a child, the rest of their belongings, tugging away a horse, and running from the chaos they’ve left behind, a raid, a battle, perhaps, but with one thought in mind – I will come back. Implicit in there is the thought, I will come home again, and pick up the reins of my old life, and all will be as it was. But we know that that didn’t happen. For whatever reason, the person who buried the hoard didn’t return, and the little bag of coins remains there until a metal detectorist or archaeologist strays on it one day and the ancient metal is brought to light.

When I first saw the cover image for Charlotte Hussey’s Glossing the Spoils, that’s exactly what I thought we had. The coins on the cover are from the Hallaton Hoard, a massive collection of Iron Age and Roman coins found near Market Harborough in the East Midlands. How fitting, thought I, a coin hoard is the perfect cover for this collection of poems expanding out, glossing, inspired by medieval texts from all over Western Europe. So often, in early medieval writing at least, all we have are the remains, the scraps, and our understanding of the complex meanings behind the poems in the Anglo-Saxon corpus, say, or the Mabinogion, and the lost tales they reference is like our understanding of coin hoards – we can imagine a bigger picture, we can gloss and explain all we like, but to capture that moment of writing, the societal context of the poet, the writer, and their world view, that’s all but impossible.

However. Some coin hoards are not like the one imagined above. Sometimes there’s a whole lot more going on. The coins on this cover are just a few of the 5296 coins found in no less than fourteen coin hoards on the site. They were deposited at some point just before or soon after the Romans came to Britain, but not because people were running away from invaders or civil war; rather, as part of a collective, community ritual. The people who deposited these coins came to the place, feasted, and held a ritual that resulted in the burial of these coins and the bones of the pigs they ate. And a Roman helmet. And, sadly to us today, it seems that the site was important enough to need to be guarded at all times – three dog skeletons have been found, psychopompic guards protecting against all spiritual comers. The coins show the exuberant horses, dots, and symbols of Iron Age coins, mixed in with the artistic inspiration – coins from the Empire across the Channel. What relationship did these people have with Rome? Who were they beyond the name Corieltavi? How did they get the helmet? Why did they stop coming?

Always there are more questions than answers. A quick glance won’t do. That’s what I take from the cover – and from the poems inside the book. There is everything to be gained from looking under the surface. In those deeper places lie discoveries – not just the materially obvious hidden treasure, but an elucidation of hidden lives and, perhaps, a glimpse into ourselves and a chance to have a deeper connection with both ourselves and the the myriad lost lives of the past.

You can find out more about the Hallaton Treasure here, and if you’d like to dig deeper into Hussey’s book, it’s available here.

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.

 

Charlotte Hussey’s Glossing the Spoils

by Anthony Nanson

Charlotte Hussey’s Glossing the Spoils is rather more than a collection of poems. It will have a particular interest, not only to admirers of edgy and crisply constructed verse, but to anyone engaged with medieval romance, legend, and epic, especially in Celtic, Old English, and Arthurian traditions.

Awen have now published a new edition of this book, first published in 2012, with an expanded introduction by the author in which she goes into more detail about her fascinating method. The ‘Glossing’ in the title refers to the ‘glosa’, a poetic form that functions as a gloss, or commentary, upon a pre-existing text. Each of the poems in Glossing the Spoils takes a short extract selected from a medieval source – such as Beowulf, Mabinogion, Geoffrey of Monmouth, Parzival, and many others – and expands this into an expertly metred poem that imaginatively both unpacks that moment in the source story and evokes resonances with the modern world. This nuanced relationship between ancient and modern is then neatly reinforced by concluding each stanza with one line from the source extract.

Let me show you what I mean with an example. Charlotte’s poem ‘Tree’ is based on this extract from the Arthurian tale ‘Peredur Son Evrawg’ from Mabinogion:

 

On the bank of the river,

he sees a tall tree:

from roots to crown one half is aflame

and the other green with leaves.

 

The first stanza of ‘Tree’ goes like this:

 

She passes through a skeletal wall,

door blown off, its skeletal

frame leaning inwards. The drone

of the bombing squad begins to fade

as an eerie music like wind through the ribs

of something large grows louder,

rising over the rubble, stirring her

to cry and laugh and wish to sleep,

not knowing whether, like a dreamer

on the bank of the river,

 

— and so the narrative continues into the next stanza …

An encyclopaedic knowledge of medieval literature lies behind these poems. Charlotte Hussey is a scholar in this field and teaches courses on Breton, Irish, and Arthurian literature at Dawson College in Montreal. The poet Lorna Smithers has described Glossing the Spoils ‘as exemplary in re-envisioning the oldest myths of Western European tradition with formal mastery’. This is truly bardic poetry and I hope you will enjoy it.

Buy directly from Awen – awenpublications.co.uk/

Buy from Amazon – https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1906900523

Walled Garden, Hawkwood

A beautiful, seasonal poem from Awen author Kevan Manwaring. Do click through and read the whole thing.

The Bardic Academic

Image result for garden in the sun

So soon now the midsummer
builds like a migraine,
a pressure in the head.
The sun rucks the sky,
stuns us into submission.

Drunken bees tumble
dark poppy heads ~
with their forgetful secrets.
Under the nets the strawberries
quietly bloom to fullness.

How sweet the seed
that from the bitter earth
erupts, clamouring for
the spell of light and
the kiss of rain.

Each thorn snags
a bud of dew,
sap swims up
the hidden rivers
of roots and stream.

Green blood pulses
and pushes life up
and out with a broken
cry of yes. And the trees
nurse us asleepwake

with their beards of birds.

Kevan Manwaring

14 June 2017

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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

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