Tag Archives: Awen

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).

 

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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

Awen blog roundup

For a while now, we’ve taken the opportunity each Monday to re-blog something that relates to Awen and/or its wider community of writers, artists, performers and fellow travellers.

This week, there are too many good posts that we want to share on to pick just the one, so here’s a selection of recommended reading.

Roselle Angwin features two prose poems from Chris Vermeijden http://roselle-angwin.blogspot.co.uk/2017/06/100-word-prose-poems-from-chris.html

Kevan Manwaring has two blogs about the recent Ballad tales project – It Takes a Village to Raise a Story reflects on the process of making the book happen while Wetting the Baby’s Head reflects on the first book launch party.

Anthony Nanson has a review for Alexandra Claire’s Random Walk on the Deep Time Blog.

Nimue Brown has an uplifting post about how modern politics crosses borders.

 

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.

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.

 

A Website with a Purpose

by Anthony Nanson

 

I’m delighted to announce that we’ve recreated the Awen website using more up-to-date software. It’s responsive now on mobile devices, you can order books directly from us via Paypal, and we’re making sure it has plenty of interesting information to advance the cause of ecobardic writing.

The homepage and About page outline in brief Awen’s mission to promote quality writing that ‘engages with the world’ – a phrase intended to convey the idea of a reciprocal relationship between literature and life: writing can draw inspiration and urgency from what’s going on in the world, and reading it can flip you back into the world with a new facets of insight and commitment. This includes our relations with the natural world, for sure, but also aspects of society and the bigger picture of spirituality. It’s a broad-church vision of engagement and  connection, not a narrow sectarian prescription.

There’s more detail about that in An Ecobardic Manifesto – the entire text of which can be found on the website. The original pamphlet of this document has nearly sold out; we may reprint it sometime, but it seems more important to have it available to as many people as possible online.

The website has lots of information about Awen’s authors and our books currently in print and on sale. We’re uploading contents pages and samples of text from each book so people can get a better idea what’s in the books. The author page of the late Mary Palmer includes a bibliography and links to a video of her performing, two poems written in her honour when she died, and the entire text of my short literary biography of her (printed in the second edition of her book Iona). This suite of pages is intended to be a lasting memorial online to Mary and her poetry.

There’s still plenty of work to do on this new website. Search engine optimisation, for example, is a fiddly business that is still underway. The facility to buy books by Paypal is up and running; please do use it! We hope soon to install an alternative credit-card payment option as well. A slate of new editions of Awen titles are coming back into print this year, plus a brand new title from Jeremy Hooker. Look out for information about them on this blog and on the website when they’re published.

Visit the site here – https://www.awenpublications.co.uk