Tag Archives: Poetry

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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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

Poem: Migratory Roots

By Robin Collins

 

Britain,

this great mnemonic,

land of the English, Celt and flint knappers of another age.

The seas wrap around her cliffs,

never letting the kingdom sleep,

haunting her people

with the foam capped thud of waves,

telling us to remember, remember.

The seas carried our distant ancestors,

unrecorded faces and names,

making the way across,

that ancient pollination of migration.

 

Britain in the becoming,

the great life stream of cultures.

Without the crossing over,

this island would be unnamed;

for all the towns and rivers

we speak were names

on a tongue that came

over the waves.

This is who we have,

swirling in the coda of our blood:

Migrants.

The sea reminds us we all go back

to some long forgotten family in a boat,

making the journey to stay,

to home make.

This island in the midst of moving peoples.

Poetry news from Words and Ears

By Dawn Gorman

How appropriate for a Words & Ears falling on a hot, hot evening that we should find ourselves among Liz Watts’ Beached imaginings, and cooled, in the imagination if not literally, by the water-and-shady-woods imagery from Elephant’s Footprint films. That, though, was just the start of things at the Swan last week. The one-off collaboration between sculptor and film-makers produced something quite ‘other’ for the senses – the gorgeous synergies of those skies, wavelets and woods flitting and flickering over Liz’s work, the plinths and the walls, (clouds beneath sea shells and sea women – a poem in itself) created what felt like a brand new, three-dimensional, multi-layered art form. There was something mesmeric and soothing about the readings, too – Chaucer Cameron’s poems were all the more powerful for their uncomplicated delivery, without preamble. ‘Water seeps into our land’, she said, and so the theme settled with us all – Liz let the whales and blue fin tuna swim free, while in the open mic, Pey was ‘as indivisible as water’, Paul gave us George Mackay Brown’s ‘dreaming plankton’, and with Peter is was possible to ‘catch fish with our eyes’. In the second half, we were treated to a curation of rich and gentle poetry films by Helen Dewbery, showing something of what is possible with this delicious form. Jodie Hollander maintained the mood with a powerful but lilting reading from her new collection My Dark Horses and, among many wonderful poems in the second open mic, we were treated to a reading of Rosie’s poem The Heaven That Runs Through Everything, which recently won the Stanley Spencer Poetry Competition.

Coming up this month there are two Words & Ears events – we are Live! At the Old Road Tavern In Chippenham on Saturday 24th June as part of ChippFest, with open mic plus guest poets Crysse Morrison, Moira Andrew, Ruth Marden, Partrick Osada, Peter Wyton and Maggie Harris (£3 on the door) – please visit www.chippfest.org for more details of this brilliant arts and music festival.

Then we are back at the Swan on Thursday 29th June for a three-woman poet night with Kate Noakes, Beatrice Garland and Lisa Brockwell, plus, of course, open mic (£4 on the door – with more poets’ expenses to cover, there’s a teeny price increase this time).

You can find more information on Dawn Gorman’s website http://www.dawngorman.co.uk/words_and_ears_info.php

Koinos Hermes

A Dance With Hermes is a verse sequence in which award-winning novelist Lindsay Clarke explores the trickster nature of Hermes, the messenger god of imagination. Clarke travels with Hermes into the shifting possibilities of language, dreams, travel, theft, tweets, and trading floors, alchemy and the otherworld.

Here’s a poem from A Dance With Hermes:

Koinos Hermes

The work begins and ends with him: the sly
light-fingered god of crossways, transit,
emails and exchange, the wing-heeled, shifty,
wheeler-dealing go-between, who’ll slip right

through your fingers if you try to pin
him down. For he is labile, street-wise
and trans-everything. He is the one
two-fold hermaphrodite who’ll rise

up sprightly from the earth and turn to air,
and then descend into the underworld
to point his wand at philosophic gold.
You’ll find him anywhere and nowhere,

ever the unexpected messenger, who sends
you glimpses of the wet fire and the lit dark
in the loded stone. With him the magic work,
of which one may not speak, begins and ends.

Buy the book directly from the publisher – https://www.awenpublications.co.uk/product-page/a-dance-with-hermes-lindsay-clarke (buying directly is of greatest benefit to the author)

Buy the book on Amazon – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dance-Hermes-Lindsay-Clarke/dp/1906900434

 

Irresistible Resistance

By Robin Collins

 

Let our resistance

be an irresistible,

bringing together

of the Stars and the Earth in our lives.

 

Let our resistance

be insistence on beauty and wonder,

let us be beyond

the deadening repetition of machines.

 

In all ways

we are evolving towards

the spiralling of creation.

 

Spirals in the resistance

will take us like starlings,

murmuring through

the shattering pieces

of where

we have come to,

arrived for the first time

in the middle of ourselves.

 

Spinning in the

time we create,

let our resistance,

weave worlds into our words,

adorn our paths,

through day and night,

with friendship,

 

Let this be our resistance,

sound as a well built house,

we can stand,

and belong in the place we are now,

taking,

sun,

wind,

rain,

and frost.

 

We become,

irresistible

in our resistance,

to the webbing

of life’s fullness.

 

Of all we

lock away

now the walls and chains

are blown away.

 

Today,

we have found

child’s play,

is irresistible in our resistance.

 

Writing on the Wall: How can Poetry Can Save the Planet?

Poets, thinkers, writers and people who care for the natural world will gather in Waterloo on Saturday, June 3, 2017 for a unique interactive day of exploring and learning how poetry can help us protect the environment.

We’re delighted to announce that a number of Awen authors will be participating in this event.

Writing on the Wall is:

  • A day of poetic action and reflection for the planet. The first in a series.
  • A chance for new and established poets, budding writers, fans of poetry and anyone stirred by the environment message and crisis to build a vision of what the world might be, using poetry as a catalyst.
  • A new collaboration between poets and the wider world of faiths, ecologists and governments
  • Supported by The Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC), WWF-UK and the Southbank Festival’s Belief and Beyond Belief, of which Writing on the Wall is part.

The conservation movement’s language is so often of fear, anger and despair. But poetry can take us down different paths, and find wonder there. Our invitation to the audience during this interactive day is to help build a vision, through words, of what the world might be. To go beyond the boundaries of despair and think again about the way we live in this world. And to explore a way of being together, being part of the world and not apart from it.

“Poetry, at its best, speaks directly to both heart and mind,” said poet Jay Ramsay who has put the programme together for the Southbank Festival. “It can do what little else can do. It can speak a language that moves beyond the data of climate change, beyond the tragedy of habitat loss and species extinction, into a place of truth, where we can find a vision of a different kind of ending. Effective poetry stirs us, evoking reactions and provoking thought and, hopefully, action and commitment.

Writing on the Wall is an invitation to everyone to step “beyond a world of eco-deliverables and eco-miserables” and to delight in the wonder of the world around us.

The full day programme includes a writing workshop on how to incorporate a true and authentic vision of nature into your writing. Throughout the day there are talks, discussions, meditations and performances featuring poets, musicians, conservationists, writers and representatives from faith, spirituality and publishing groups.

The poets, speakers and musicians include: Jeni Couzyn, Glyn Davies (WWF), Aidan Andrew Dun, Irina Kuzminsky, Paul Matthews, Caroline McCausland, Niall McDevitt, Jehanne Mehta, Gabriel Bradford Millar, Helen Moore, Anthony Nanson, Peter Owen Jones, Jay Ramsay, Nigel Shaw and others.

 

Next steps

This is just the beginning. There are plans for an event at Dartington College in April 2018 and the project encourages anyone who is interested to take this further, using poetry – their own poems or other people’s – to provoke discussion, encourage debate and give hearts and minds a good shake.

 

Details:

Venue: St John’s Waterloo

Date: Saturday June 3, 2017

Times: 10.00 to 17.30, activities throughout the day. Tickets: £20

Further details and bookings: https://www.waterloofestival.com/poetry