This Friday 20 April we’re publishing a major new work by Jay Ramsay, to coincide with his 60th birthday. It’s called Pilgrimage – a journey to Love Island. The Love Island in question is Scotland’s sacred isle, Iona, so the new book will be big brother to Mary Palmer’s Iona (Awen, 2008).
Jay will be reading from the book at Hawkwood College, Stroud, on 20 April as part of an event with Andrew Harvey on the theme of sacred activism (8 p.m., £12/£9).
The FREE LAUNCH PARTY for Pilgrimage is on Wednesday 25 April at Black Book Cafe, Stroud GL5 2HL (7.30 for 8 p.m.) and includes poetry by Steve Morris, Polly Howell, and Gabriel Millar and music from the Day Jobs. Everyone is welcome!
Pilgrimage is available to order from the Awen website. Here’s some info about the book from the back cover:
In the summer of 1990 Jay Ramsay set out on pilgrimage with an interfaith group from London to Iona. The result is his most ambitious book-length poem, an astonishing tour de force in the tradition of Wordsworth and Chaucer. Epiphanic, conversational, meditational, psychological, political, it divines ‘the cross’ of spiritual and ecological being in Britain’s radical tradition, as symbolised by Iona as the crown of the Celtic church and the direction that Christianity lost.
Constructed as a series of 25 ‘days’, the narrative builds symphonically like waves of the sea up to its visionary climax. Full of stories, reflections, memories, and images, Pilgrimage is above all a love poem, an invitation into the greater love that is our true becoming where we can find the God most personal to all of us – alive in the heart of Life.
‘Pilgrimage is an important outpouring from one of Britain’s leading poets wrestling with the Christ story, the human story, and the story of where we need to go as a species. Travelling with Jay is never anything less than a journey into the past, with adventures in the present, and visions of hope for the future.’ Martin Palmer
‘It is strange and beautiful how everything he passes comes into colour, into focus – is born. And I ran along after him and listened as he changed the colour of the sea and broke down doors.’ Peter Owen Jones
by Jay Ramsay
It occurs to me again today that the task for poetry couldn’t be clearer where poets are choosing to bring their work into the field of social justice and (as Andrew Harvey would say, with utmost relevance) ‘sacred activism’.
The real story, which is surely the environment now, is being masked by a puppet show diverting our attention from what urgently matters in our collective consciousness. However, every effort is being made through the best of social media to keep that story at the frontline of our awareness.
Of course, our human story matters as well: we live at a time when all the world’s wrongs are being exposed in a time of transparency. This great transparency, in my view, has the absolute backing of the spiritual world where that transparent light originates. When that light informs a poet’s eye, we also have poetry that matters.
You must have asked yourself, as I have many times, what does the spiritual world make of the state we are in? With a new century so quickly mired in sourness that is at the same time an unavoidable process towards our awakening, the dark before the dawn, the End Time, Revelation … and now with two important films released recently on both sides of the Atlantic: The Post, with Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep, recalling the great Vietnam cover-up through a series of White House administrations, and the Washington Post’s brave decision to publish leaked documents; and on this side of the pond Darkest Hour, where Churchill stood firm in 1940 against all the forces of appeasement to take Hitler seriously as the very real threat that could have (would have) changed our island history.
As a dear friend and local poetry lover, Sally Whitman, said who saw it (and I paraphrase): ‘I mean, what kind of Britain do we want ? A trivial nation, or what?’
This is transparency in action, through the Self, through intuition; and of course this is fire in the heart which is the passion that knows how much it matters: this is where we will recover our moral compass, and not only that, but our own authentic orientation as people living now who want to make an empowered contribution.
As Robert Bly, 92 this year, put it in ‘Advice from the Geese’:
Every seed spends many nights in the earth.
Give up the idea the world will get better by itself.
You will not be forgiven if you refuse to study.
(Reproduced in Diamond Cutters: contemporary visionary poets in America and Britain, ed. Andrew Harvey & Jay Ramsay, Tayen Lane, San Francisco, 2016)
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 !
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
This is a poem continuing the theme of working through my illness, which has produced Surgery (Yew Tree Press, 2015), Left Field, and Al-Chemo (the last two unpublished/work in progress). This kind of writing has not only helped me explore a very deep and challenging process, it has also been very much about sharing it with others, not least because much of it is uncharted territory. All of this deepens the emphasis in Places of Truth (my main individual Awen collection so far) into a ‘poetry of the body’, which is also (it seems to me) largely unwritten, or written certainly more by women than men, closer to biological reality, less attached to logos-as-transcendence. The body means eros, and that is why it is so rich and healing a subject for me right now; and of course its domain is deep ecology—it has to be ! The body is perhaps our ultimate place of truth, even though we go ‘through’ it and beyond…
Left side, left field, after all that hard driving
it rises, a silent mound as if with a mouth
an O on the left of the throat, neck
swollen glands, lymph. How
does the body speak ? How else—
the truth is always beneath.
To read it you have to bend or kneel
as if to a tiny wild flower…
you have to have a conversation.
The doctor does drama
erring on the side of caution.
You do instinct—you do indigenous,
swelling means ? Immunity compromised
infection associated. Swelling feels?
It’s true, I’m a little tired
in the truth beneath.
And it’s trying to drain
the poison that remains
the paradoxical two-sided snake.
You go non-linear: you swell with listening
you receive, and the swell is abating
taking its time
you don’t hurry this Indian.
He walks as you could be walking
fasts as you are fasting
to the point of stillness
where your spirit begins to grow strong.
Long ago, in a café of my childhood
where we had fish & chips with tomato sauce
(cod always, and mushy peas) the proprietor there
sported a goitre on his neck.
We were fascinated, repelled, in awe.
What did it mean? How had it come to be?
Had he lost control?
Poor man, he looked like Frankenstein
bolted through his neck—
but commanding respect.
We were drilled to be polite,
and of course never mention it.
And we dreaded his fate.
The body’s fate is to speak, always
healthy or sick, striding or limping
in the truth beneath.
Ours is to learn the language
always before it’s too late
and there are no more Indians.
They are everywhere here, invisible
where we become invisible
immersed in listening.
And then we rise, and Mother of God
we will grow strong.
by Gabriel Bradford Millar
On Thursday 9 March @ Star Anise in Stroud a roomful of poetry aficionados were treated to a double book launch: Jay Ramsay’s Dreams Down Under (published by Knives Forks and Spoons Press) and Will Thomas’s Soul Candy. Will’s first book came out under the Chrysalis imprint.
Dreams Down Under was prompted by a 1000-mile road trip through New South Wales in Australia. Jay’s close, almost affectionate descriptions of the flora and fauna he saw were arresting, especially his empathy with things so other.
Soul Candy deals with the end of a long-term relationship and the hazards of online dating. Basically upbeat, it ends with the joy of a new love.
Both books are the immaculately articulated responses to life of two open-hearted men.
Here is the blurb from the back of Dreams Down Under:
‘These dynamic and vivid poems explore being “turned upside down” in different ways, geographically, emotionally, spiritually—the familiar becomes strange: seen for the first time. Based on a thousand mile road trip through New South Wales, Jay Ramsay fuses his ability to write in the moment with a deep ecological perception and concern where place is also metaphor, and our capacity for relationship and celebration is the invitation of Life itself. This is poetry of the natural world suffused in Eros, in love and sexuality, but also in memory: both ancestral (his maternal grandfather tendered for the building of Sydney Harbour Bridge) and aboriginal, inviting us to connect with what it means to return to a place of primordial connection, both for ourselves and for the planet.’