Monday, 2 November 2015

Sarah Mooney's eXXpedition Story - interview

Glastonbury-based storyteller Sarah Mooney is setting off on what, as a bard of Glastonbury myself, I cannot help but see as a Bardic Quest. Starting this week, Sarah is going to be sailing the Atlantic Ocean from Senegal to Brazil, with thirteen other women (including scientists and sailors), creating stories on the way to bring back to schools and other groups on her return.

She has raised an amazing £4605 towards funding the voyage through crowdfunding - you can see her made for the fundraising effort, in which she explains some of her motivations and hopes for the project, here:



I asked Sarah a few questions before she set sail.

How did you come to be involved in eXXpedition?
I sailed from Cornwall to Ireland on a 100-year-old ketch called the Keewaydin with my son and some friends a  couple of years ago. When I came home I kept saying to myself "I am a sailor!" On board there was talk about a group called the New Dawn Traders who are sailing goods from South America, mostly rum, chocolate and coffee. Fair trade and carbon neutral. Epic! When I got home and I looked them up and on their website was a post about eXXpedition from the vision behind it, Lucy Gilliam.

What do you know about the other members of the Ascension crew, and have you worked with any of them before? 
I have met them all once. I was very nervous as they are mostly scientists and was expecting to feel out of my depth but they are 13 warm clear women with passion, commitment, and confidence.

What happens when you get to the other side of the Atlantic?
The boat goes onward to the Amazon and there will be talks,workshops, wreck dives, beach clean ups. I will be heading home to scoop up my son and hold him in a salty hug.

How long do you expect the journey to take?
It should take about 28 days.

A big part of what you are doing with eXXpedition Story is to create stories on the journey, to share in schools on your return. Do you anticipate there being space (and time) to share stories with the crew during the journey, as well?
Ooh I hope so, to tell them and to listen 

When you get back, you are going to be sharing the stories with "as many young women as possible". Do you think it is also important that young men hear the stories?
Good question!
There are aspects of the mission that have a fully female focus  but the more I tune into the project the more it becomes clear that I will be creating stories for all children and adults. Stories that are vast enough and deep enough for children to connect with their limitless potential and audacious thinking. It is the only way I know to support them to create new ways of living and being that are sustainable and harmonious.
My experience as a woman and mother to a son is  that boys are encouraged to be adventurous and have many role models in that area. I recently saw a primary school production of Robin Hood and the boys got to run around shooting bows and arrows, whilst the girls combed Maid Marian's hair and sang about falling in love. It is such a polarised message and not helpful to either of the sexes. One aspect of this project is to deliver the possibility of adventure for girls. The stories of ocean toxicity, new ways to live without throwing away plastic and self love are relevant to all of us.

eXXpedition Story seems to have two major motivations: raising awareness of ocean pollution, and inspiring young women. Is it possible to say which of these is the bigger impetus for you personally at this moment?
It feels the same to me. The way we treat our earth and oceans and the way we treat the feminine. As I deepen my understanding of it all I see the disempowerment that the masculine is shouldering too so it may be that it all integrates into one subject as my understand increases.

For five years you have been resident storyteller at SS Great Britain. It seems like that will have given you a lot of experience that will set you in good stead for this new journey. Can you tell us a bit about what it's like to be a storyteller on a ship? It sounds like an amazing job to have!
I LOVE IT! A chance to dream into the different lives on board and their motivations for travelling. To create stories about their hopes and fears.I enjoy tuning into the great engineering mind of Brunel.

What do you think will be different about being the Storyteller on the Sea Dragon, compared to SS Great Britain?
On the SS Great Britain I am recreating a feeling of being out at sea. I wont need to do that on board the Sea Dragon!

Is this the longest sea journey you've ever been on? What was the longest you were on before this?
Yes the longest by far, i have only sailed for four days before.

Is there anything else you'd like to say about eXXpedition before you go?
I have a skill, storytelling, and children trust me so it feels important to create stories that will nourish and inspire them. It feels like an honour and a service. I love this planet and I love people. I am committed to finding new ways to use storytelling as a container for growth and love.

---

Big thanks to Sarah for talking to me about this journey and her part in it - look for updates on the eXXpedition blog and on her own Facebook page for the journey.. The Sea Dragon sets sail tomorrow!

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Bardic Diary: September 1st - October 3rd, 2015

I've been conscious for some time that September was going to be a busy month as Bard of Glastonbury. On the night in May when I was given the Chair, I remember Stuart the sound technician coming up to me and making a point of mentioning that there was to be a Bardic Stage at Night at the Abbey, and that it was up to me to make sure things went on there. After that, other offers started coming in - we decided to launch my Library of Avalon residency in the same month, and later on to have my first resident session there, too. I was also glad to receive an invitation to appear as the guest at Street Library's Poetry Lunch Club.

Night at the Abbey

Only as the 'Night at the Abbey' date (11th September) approached did I realise how many aspects of the Bardic Stage were actually up to me to sort out, and it was only with about a week to go that it dawned on me that it was indeed up to me to sort out lighting! I am very grateful to my family at Splotts Moor for providing lanterns and solar lights which meant that my later performers weren't holding forth in pitch darkness.

On an evening with an eclectic mix of acts (I think we had as many performance slots as all the other stages at the Abbey put together), including several of our Elder Bards, I was especially proud to be able to read my poem 'Hawthorn' for Tim to him from the stage, and to introduce Dearbhaile Bradley who described herself as 'stepping into' her role as Bard again after a period of time away. I felt she gave us a storming finish.

A photo posted by Wes White (@whysweetlie) on
In all it seems as if the feeling is that a bit of attention paid to scheduling, particularly avoiding clashing with the main stage, helped both our performers and their audience this year. I'll be aiming to give next year's Bard a few tips for what is an important night for us with such a public stage. If anyone has any feedback they'd like to offer with this in mind, it will be gratefully received at chairedbard@gmail.com - another thing I'm keen on is getting us back in the Abbey's program for the night!

Library of Avalon Residency

I've blogged about the Library of Avalon launch in detail here - my first official session as resident followed on September 23rd and I will also write that up in more detail in due course. I want to mix up what I'm doing a bit with the next session (which falls on November 4th) - steer the residency back to my original intention of exploring the library as a writer. But more on that when I come to write the first session up.

Street Library's Poetry Lunch Club

Between the two, I visited the aforementioned Poetry Lunch Club at Street Library. This was a pleasant little event with about a dozen people attending, where I performed several poems and answered lots of questions about being Bard of Glastonbury and writing in general. This was exactly the kind of thing I hoped to do as Bard - get out to community groups like this and spread the word a bit. The next such event at Street Library is on October 19th. I think that they sometimes have a guest and sometimes simply meet as a group, but either way all are welcome.

Feeling unwell

While all of this was going on, I was suffering from frequent sensations of faintness and lightheaded-ness and becoming increasingly concerned about my health despite several reassuring check-ups. I undertook two of the above events sitting down to avoid being overcome by the strange feelings which were causing me some anxiety. I found that if I had something to eat, I felt better almost immediately - but not for very long, and as I'd like to lose a bit of weight, I could hardly go around eating the entire time!

Two conversations helped me get over this, what seemed to be largely a self-inflicted illness. The first with my GP, who went through my blood tests and showed me that everything was completely normal, and he just wanted me to understand that. He felt that I had had a normal physiological reaction to going without food at all for too long on a couple of occasions (which makes sense), and was then worrying unduly about that which was causing all of these other symptoms. I think on the occasion that really got me worried I must have had a kind of panic attack because of it. The second conversation came that same evening, when despite the doctor's reassuring words I was getting these feelings all over again while talking to Johanna in our monthly Dream Group. I spoke about this a bit with Johanna as I was looking to make excuses to get away and hopefully rest up again. Johanna listened carefully and pointed out that I had been engaged with my Bardic duties quite intensely of late, and that she had always been taught that if she undertook a spiritual ceremony, she should have something small to eat afterwards to 'ground' herself again. I'm happy to talk with anyone about whether what I do as a writer and as Bard should be considered 'spiritual' or not - I am in two minds about the question constantly - but I think it is fair to see it from that perspective, at least. And this conversation with Johanna about 'going into my body' as a kind of meditational excercise when I needed it was the thing that really helped, on top of the medical practitioner's words in the morning. Since this I've been feeling fine. And I'm interested to have realised the damaging effects we can have on ourselves just by 'thinking ourselves unwell'. A lesson learned.

Dream Group

The monthly Dream Group I go to involves a get together to share sleeping dreams we've had over the previous few weeks. Everyone brings one in the same way that you might bring a piece of writing to a writing group, and we have a chat with a kind of casual group analysis. It's really interesting what comes out of it and I'd encourage anyone with an interest in dreams to have a go at doing it regularly with friends or set up a similar group with the same aims. I know some people think talking about dreams is boring - I'm afraid I've never understood that, so undoubtedly I've bored a few people's socks off talking about them in the past. In September's group, the dream I brought was about two cats fighting in St John's car park. It was actually only myself and Johanna in attendance, and after a little discussion I found myself wondering aloud if the jocular intention I've had to make a shrine to Bastet had a bit more to it, subconsciously. My Catwoman poem was originally written in honour of the Egyptian cat goddess, or at least my own take on her, and was itself inspired by some very vivid and what felt like visionary dreaming. Ever since that poem won me 500 pounds in the Wells Festival of Literature's competition, I've joked that now I ought to do something more in honour of her, perhaps build a shrine(!)

Part of me is in fact sincerely taken by this notion - it would be a kind of artwork, and I haven't done much visual art for a long time - but part of me is also very resistant. I'm in two minds about how serious an undertaking it would be, and having grown up surrounded by Christian symbolism part of me is spooked by the notion of making a graven image like this. So - I actually felt that the two cats which I saw fighting in the dream were the 'two minds' that I am in over the idea.

In the end I pretty much settled that I would look out for things that could be a suitable starting point for this 'shrine', whilst being wary of getting carried away with it. I do not think that I am ready to be a thoroughly committed disciple of an ancient Egyptian goddess, 500 pound prize or no. Since then, I've already had another dream which more explicitly addressed the same notion... and I've found the physical starting point for the artwork. More on this after I've told my Dream Group about it next month!

The Tree of Eternal Life

Having talked about the Dream Group, I realise that I haven't yet said anything in this blog about what might, personally for me, have been the most special moment that I have had as the Bard of Glastonbury. In late June I took a trip to the coast to read through the Book which I have for this year as Bard (along with the Chair, my Robes, and the Silver Branch, which is described being '...but a twiglet of the Eternal Tree of Life). During this time I had a sleep paralysis episode, in which I saw an extremely vivid dream image of a great tree. The tree bore a wide variety of large and colourful leaves and flowers, all of which were coursed through with an inner light. There were also birds and animals which were at once part of and inhabitants of the tree - and they were also brightly coloured, and rippling with this light. I remember particularly an bird with rows of blue lights moving through it. As I looked up at this tree, at once in awe and keen to snap out of my paralysis, I had the sense that I was witnessing the very same 'Eternal Tree of Life' that our Silver Branch is part of. A treasured glimpse.

LeAnn and Eddie's Wedding

A photo posted by Wes White (@whysweetlie) on
Most recently, at the beginning of October I flew over to America to visit my wife Erica Viola (in whose apartment in Omaha I am currently typing this blog). On October 3rd we attended the wedding of our friends Eddie and LeAnn, and I went as the Bard of Glastonbury. I had brought my Robes over for this purpose, and asked the bride and groom each to tell me a bit about their relationship and each other. The poem I wrote and performed for them was based partly on what they told me, and a little on their names (LeAnn as a Gaelic form of Helen, meaning 'light'; the 'ward' part of Edward meaning 'guard'). This is what I wrote and performed for them:

---

'Fireguard'

for Eddie and LeAnn on their wedding day



He can be the flame she lights and tends.
Whipped by the wind
into fire whirls and blowups:
eddies of heat and light
she will watch over - not to control, contain, confine;
not to conquer -
but to console,
confide in,
consecrate.
To conjoin.

She can be the light he guards:
proof against the dark and all that’s in it.
A lantern that will pick out pitfalls, and from which
the scorpions will scurry.

In love they are each other’s wards
against all dark and hateful.
Today they show, and both wards know
how much each flame is grateful.

---

I am myself grateful to all those attending the wedding for joining me in linking hands and sounding the Awen before my performance. We also 'declared love' - I have tended to have reservations in the past about the declaration of peace that we undertake in our Gorsedh, and while I've come to terms now with the notion that by declaring that there is peace we are not denying that there might also be conflict in the world, I nevertheless feel that it is best expressed for me in the statement 'there is love' rather than 'there is peace' - so it was that that I asked those gathered to declare. It was wonderful to be able to share a little Bardism with those gathered.

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Library of Avalon Residency: the Launch



Today I launched my new residency at Glastonbury's Library of Avalon.

I am grateful to Dearbhaile Bradley and all of the volunteers and trustees involved at the Library for organising the event and for reading some choice texts from the shelves by way of an introduction.

I read a few poems that I felt were at home in that space ('Catwoman', 'Dunstan' and 'The Annual Visitor'), and afterwards ran a taster workshop for those present who chose to stay for it.

For the workshop, I invited the 5 writers in the room (plus me) to find a book on the shelves that got their attention. We straight away had a real mix - a book of folklore about Merlin, a pulp science fiction novel, Nichelle Nichols' memoirs, one on prehistoric London... you already start to get a picture of the breadth and the particular nature of Avalon's bookshelves.

The writing exercise I led involved choosing a word from a random page in each book, and inviting each writers to turn one thing chosen into the next, using only words. So in the first book I found the word 'mountain' - the second the word 'blanket' - and I asked Patrick to turn a mountain into a blanket. And so on...

Would you like to see what we came up with? I thought you would. I think you'll be able to spot which of these was found in Nichelle Nichols' memoirs...


Blanket by Patrick
Mountain. Risen from stone, carved from earth, crumpled by tectonics.
His hard surface, his sudden drops and sheer face. Torment, a grasping of rocks and falling of matter. The birds pecked, and eyes were absent. Yet he was seen, cut down, carried and laid to rest. Shaken, stirred, thrown, rolling and finally he settled, a blanket.


Leonard Nimoy by Senga Skylark
A blanket was flat on the ground.
'EARS' said a voice.
Two corners of the blanket stood upright, as though on command. "NOT SPOCK, NIMOY!" shouted the voice.
The corners went flat again.
It was always the ears, always the bloody ears, mused the blanket. Strange - the blanket had never mused before. It rather liked the sensation. It liked standing up as well. So its whole self got up.
Still blind, feeling the breeze ripple among its folds and hearing nothing apart from the voice. the blanket began to take on the form of a man. As it did, its senses started to awaken. Now it could hear the sounds of trees rustling and the flapping sounds began to fade as its texture changed.
It had legs, arms, a head, a fully functioning body with broad shoulders, a chest that rose and fell, a penis and an arse. It had its own arse! The blanket had had so many sitting on it over time and now it had one of its very own. A firm, two melons in a sack divided by a crack at the base, a double cusp that seemed to smile. His own tush. He had an urge to stick his head up it but that passed. Now he was him. An actor. Classically trained, but known only for one part. No, not that part. His acting role as a po-faced alien.


The High Priest by Jennifer Kreamer
He heard these words from afar:
LEO-NARD NEE-MOI
They meant nothing to him.
Repeated in sonorous tones, they echoed in the cave of his skull.
He groped in the dark velvet folds of his mind for familiar sound shapes.

LEO - lion-like - August - heat - strength - dominion - kingship and mantles of mane

NEE, born - born anew perhaps as he could not remember where what who when he last was

MOI; a self, a me-ness

Why, why the hiatus, why the darkness, the newness? Was this an opportunity to be... what?
Mindless - open - empty - a shell - a vessel - waiting to be filled.

"I INVITE", he said aloud,
"THE HIGHEST"


A Sheep by Wes White
"Forever and ever...
Baa-men"

No, it was no good. They'd definitely noticed, that time. He coughed and gave it one more go.

"Baa-a-a-a-men"

The priest looked out at his disciples. The curse had finally come to pass.

LOOK AT THEM, AND WHAT YOU SEE
THAT IS WHAT YOU NOW SHALL BE, his demonic adversary had told him. He'd had a few sips of holy water after that, to be sure. But what was the big deal about that, anyway? He would become a disciple. So what? He'd been a disciple before. It would be nice, even, not to have to lead, for a change.

'WHAT YOU SEE'
'WHAT YOU SEE
He looked at the rows of faces again.

"Baaaaaa-men"

He put his hands to his face in horror.
They were not hands any more.
They felt the wool of his cheeks.
The priest had become... one of his flock.


A Colour
A sheep - honest, that is how it started out - and sheep - as this sheep was - are usually a mixture of black and white - or a sort of grubby off-white if we're going to be specific. I've no idea what colour it'd be called in those colour cards you can get, where there a million different shades of white, that are indistinguishable but for the name - almond white, apple white, apricot white (and you can't eat any of them).

So this sheep - and I accept this is pretty odd by any stretch of the imagination - turned fuchsia pink. Now I don't mean some eejit dyed it pink - that would have been weird enough. Nope, what I mean is that as I was looking the sheep sort of melted, lost definition, became bloblike and slipped onto the ground to become the patch of glorious fuchsia pink - like a bridesmaid dress but without identifiable shape, or, and this is even more curious, Substance.

To this day I can't say what that amazing fuchsia pink colour was of. Because it was neither sheep nor any other identifiable thing - it was simply fuchsia pink. The colour.

Mountain
A colour held his eyes, from horizon to horizon. He'd woken, stiff and hungry, to a burnished copper colour. Slowly he realised the sun was rising through thinning mists. Gradually the mist turned milky, then greyish patches coalesced into trees and bushes. Further away, strangely, the copper intensified eventually revealing the autumnal leaves on the mountain.

-

My first scheduled afternoon as resident in the Library will be from 1.30 to 4.30 on Wednesday, 23rd September - after that I'll be in on the first Wednesday of every month from November 2015. All are welcome to come and play a part in my writing journey with me.

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Hawthorn

for Tim Hawthorn, 1st Chaired Bard of Ynys Witrin, on his 50th birthday - and of course, for hawthorns everywhere.
-
A hem, a haw
That guards the door:

You are the wood-ward of all borders
Stood red-berried at the edge
Between silence and speech
The garden and the wild;
This world and the next.
-

The Glastonbury Thorn has been shortlisted for The Woodland Trust's 'Tree of the Year' - you can vote for it here.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Live appearances & dates for your diary

Already over a month into being the Bard. Tempus, as ever, fugit.

Here are some things that I've been booked for or are, in any case, happening; that will involve me wearing my robes and probably saying some words to anyone who'll listen - do come if you can.

2015
9th July - Divided Families gathering in London
The third anniversary of rules that divide thousands of British Citizens from their loved ones, or else force them to live in exile. Full details here.

11th September - Night at the Abbey
There will be a Bardic stage again this year. And we're assured that organisers are aware of last year's sound problems and have taken steps to stop that happening again! Always a lovely night. Tickets here.

19th September - Library of Avalon Residency Launch
I am thrilled to be appointed as the Library of Avalon's Writer in Residence. This afternoon event will be the launch for the residency; incorporating spoken word performances, readings from the Library's shelves, and a 1-hour taster creative writing workshop. Altogether it runs from 2:30 til 5. Entry by magic hat (ie £donation). Full details at http://libraryofavalon.org.uk/?page_id=340

21st September - Poetry Lunch Club, Street LibraryThe Friends of Street Library run a Poetry Lunch Club - this is about an hour from 1pm in the library itself. I'm their guest in September and am planning to read a few things as well as say a bit about the Bardic contest. All welcome and apparently you can bring sandwiches!

23rd September - First afternoon in residency at Library of Avalon
I will be present at Library of Avalon all afternoon as its new Writer in Residence. The plan is to explore the library and produce writing inspired by its work and its stock. I will also be available to discuss library members' own creative writing - this is by £donation, but free to Library of Avalon volunteers.

2016
February 24th - World Read Aloud Day
I'll be taking part in World Read Aloud Day for Library of Avalon.

~sometime in the new year, probably March ~
Announcement of the theme for the 2016 Bardic Contest. Time, date, place TBC

nth of May
Trials of the 2016 Contest for the Bardic Chair of Ynys Witrin

19th May
Finals of the 2016 Contest for the Bardic Chair of Ynys Witrin

More dates and more details to follow in due course. Please get in touch if you would like to book the Bard of Glastonbury for your event.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Aadeilop Rsst

An alphabetical repent of Eden, with a cameo appearance by a prehistoric whale. Apple bitten,
Code defied.
Eden flitten,
(Garden hide).
In justice’s keeping:
Labour, multiplication; now.
Of paradise's quarrel reaping -
Serpent’s tongue: uncertain vow.
Why cross, YHWH?
Zeuglodonta!


Apple bitten,
Labour now.

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Ugly Aunti

Some years ago I contributed to an art student publication called 'Ugly Aunti'. I never found out where the name came from, or if it had any deeper meaning beyond the possibility of insulting all of our Aunties.

I think I wrote something for an issue of this zine that never got made (or maybe it did and I just never saw it). I was trying to find this never-published piece of text in the never-made issue on Sunday, when I came across a couple of pieces that had made it into earlier issues of the zine.

I thought perhaps they had something to them (if some of you might reasonably think that what they have is nothing more than debt to Borges) - so I'm putting them here on the blog.

The first of them was for the issue entitled 'Dad'.



Eachan's father was a horse. Sometimes language would escape Eachan. Other times he found himself running, uphill and against the wind, the world full of scent and absent of artifice. He would reach the crest and stand, chest heaving, forgetting entirely his name, his home and his duties; and at the same time remembering exactly who he was, where he belonged and what he was put there to do.

The horse's father was a diamond. He was so hard he left hoofprints even on rock. In the mating season and the disputes that went with it, both stallions and mares were astonished by his heritage.

The diamond's father was a bomb. When the diamond was displayed in collections, visitors stepped around it tensely, cautiously, as if they feared their tiniest movement might trigger an alarm.

The bomb's father was a key. The bomb was used to open a door.

The key's father was a piece of silk. The locks slipped over themselves like tongues.

The silk's father was a grain of pollen. In November one year a sensitive girl had worn it to a prestigious ball, and found her eyes and nostrils streaming as they did in June.

The pollen's father was a lead weight. The bee who gathered it flew in encumbered zigzags to its hive.

The weight's father was a crooked coin. It could not be relied upon to give a true measure.

The coin's father was a secret. It was passed covertly from one gambler to another, and more than once slipped clumsily into hands the wrong side of the table.

The secret's father was Eachan. Some things are beyond our reason.

Monday, 15 June 2015

Mayoring Sunday

Written for the Civic Banquet and Thank You Party of the Mayor of Glastonbury, Denise Michell - Glastonbury's first Green and first Druid Mayor; June 2015


image copyright (c) Bill Nicholls
appears here cropped with colours enhanced
licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons licence


I suspect it may come as a surprise to many outwith Glastonbury
That our famous town’s Mayor has not already been
a Druid Green
Who has also been known as the Fairy Queen.


With Glastonbury's reputation for alternativity
(as keen to mark Beltane as the Nativity)
What took us so long?
Our Town Hall has stood since 1818.
That's as long as London’s Old Vic, which in the intervening 190-odd years, has seen
Thirteen productions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream...


But perhaps we shouldn't be too hard on ourselves
For, alongside their many magical features
Fairies are notoriously elusive creatures.

Until today, some would have thought it no more possible
To put chains on a Fairy
Than put an anchor on a cloud
Tie the shoes of a ghost
Harness a tide
Send a sunbeam down a wire,
Or fashion a plough out of stars.

And yet here we are.
Our Mayor is solid and so are her chains.
Which might serve to remind us:
Green can be fairy.
Green can be airy.
But green can be for grass,
For turf, and earth.

Well, now the long green wait is over: We'll see now what the wait was worth.

- Wes White 10th Chaired Bard of Ynys Witrin /|\

Saturday, 13 June 2015

Robin

on the appointment of the European Robin as the National Bird of the United Kingdom; June 2015


Photograph by Tony Hisgett, reproduced under Creative Commons License 2.0

When we named you ‘red’,
We didn’t have a name
For that stain on your chest and face;
Your unashamed orange blush
That says,
“I have something to say”.

Down the centuries, we’ve made you friendly,
Here in the land of Goodfellow, And that Hood fellow.
Leaving you unharmed
In countless nods to folklore:
Closer,
Closer.
Sit on our garden tools.
So say it you do.
You come to us, here with the voice of the brook,

Singing phrases we will never understand.
But Robin, did you get the message?
Ruddock, Redbreast, have you heard?
Who will tell you, rubecula?
We’ve made you our National Bird.
- Wes White 10th Chaired Bard of Ynys Witrin ('Bard of Glastonbury') /|\

Friday, 29 May 2015

Call to the College

The Bardic Chair is now on display in Glastonbury Library, along with the Tim Sebastian Memorial Trophy currently held by my colleague Steve Leighton. They've already been generating a bit of interest - if you're in the area please come and see them too. 
In the coming days and weeks I'll be adding information about the Chair to the display boards around it. I am asking all members of Gorsedh Ynys Witrin to bring a piece of writing for display along with the chair. This can be information about Bardism, or even better your own creative work.

If the boards get full up I intend to keep refreshing them with newer work, so if pieces need to come off to make room, I will put a folder there that those can be archived in.

Everyone who has been initiated into our Bardic College (you'll know if you have - the annual ceremony at the foot of the Tor) is welcome to bring or send me work at the Library to be pinned around the chair; including all past recipients of the Tim Sebastian Trophy and our honorary bards. My own winning piece 'Twilight of the Gods' is there at present, as well as Lisa Goodwin's spin on Taliesin's Tale and a translation by Nathan Lewis Williams.

For the avoidance of confusion, this is the Public Library on Archers' Way, where I work - not the wonderful Library of Avalon (I believe that the Chair has also been housed at the Library of Avalon in the past).

I ask everyone to use common sense when considering what is appropriate to display in a public library...



With thanks in advance,

Wes White
10th Chaired Bard of Ynys Witrin


Monday, 25 May 2015

Bardic Diary: 19th - 24th May

So. Last Tuesday I finally managed that thing I've been trying for six years, and became the 'Bard of Glastonbury'. Or, to use my formal title, the 10th Chaired Bard of Ynys Witrin. I am greatly honoured and also excited to have attained this title in the town where I have lived since I was born (and where my ancestors have lived for at least hundreds of years); let alone in a place with such a rich and important place in history.

I mean to publish an ongoing diary of my time as the Bard, here on my writing blog. If you'd like to follow updates, please subscribe to the blog (I think that 'Google Friend Connect' button, top right, will do it).

Tuesday May 19th
The night I won - here's the piece I won with. My fourth attempt. I'm glad I didn't get it on the first go. I've learned more, and there are more people around to help me. Lisa Ceneri aka 'Raw Poet' took the crown - I hadn't met Lisa before the trials but I've already been impressed by her prolific energy. Richard Field claimed the Fool's prize again with typical flare; and to my great pleasure, my colleague and friend Steve Leighton was awarded the Tim Sebastian Memorial Trophy - "for elevation of the word". It was an extraordinary night for our gathering as Denise Michell, one of the instigators of the Bardic Chair and indeed the maker of the robes I have for the next year and a day, was inaugurated as Mayor of Glastonbury at the same time as our contest was taking place. I am quite sure, when other details of the night have faded from memory, that I will recall the brand new Mayor standing in front of me in her shining chains, holding the lapels of the garment new on me, and saying, "I made these robes!"

Wednesday May 20th
"Venus, as she nearly always was, was the first to appear..." - that was the first line of my winning piece. Now my first day as Bard and a beautiful synchronicity that only occurred to me after the event. My friends Hannah and James - of the band Venus Bogardus - are back in the UK for a couple of weeks, in Bath, and I've arranged to meet them for lunch. So my first appointment after being appointed is a trip to that other Bardic seat to see Venus!

Venus Bogardus aren't just any band, either. Their music is packed full of references to literature and other artists - they used to run an independent bookshop in Bath - James has written what I consider to be one of the finest works of visionary fiction I've ever read, ('I, Judas') - they're even named after a character in a cult novel. All in all a fine pair to break bread with. I urge everyone to get to know them:


In the evening, back in Glastonbury, I meet with my monthly 'Dreaming Group'. We get together once a month and talk about dream experiences. The one I share this time is from before the Bardic trials: I'm with my wife, Erica; we're looking for a new project, we step outside and there are great stone buildings in the sky behind the Tor! Later in the dream, a stone girl emerges carrying a stone scroll with both hands. She is walking determinedly and is clearly on a mission. She takes my hand and I hear her voice in my head - "Your Highness?" - I wake up, protesting in my mind that I am nobody's Highness. As always, things about the dream become obvious in the discussion that had not occurred to me before. A gravestone with the name 'JARWOOD' on it has to be a failed application I made to the Jerwood Foundation over 10 years ago.

One of our number has had a dream that, in discussion, suggests to her it could be time to get out and perform her own work more. I encourage her to consider the Bardic contest next year - but also not to wait that long!

Thursday May 21st
Working in the Library, and out on my lunchbreak, I get a few 'Hail the Bard's for the first time. It will probably take me all year to get used to responding to it. I've decided the correct response is simply 'Hail'...

Friday May 22nd
I've spoken to my Library manager, Iain, and got agreement that I can bring the Chair in to be put on prominent display there - brilliant! Steve is going to bring the Tim Sebastian Memorial Trophy too. I'm going to put out a call for initiates in the Bardic College to bring in work to go up on display around the Chair - more on this soon.

Saturday May 23rd
I wake early in the morning and text Erica. I've been having a read of the 'Brown Book' - a beautiful, leatherbound book that only the Chaired Bard may write in (and, I think maybe, that only the Chaired Bard may read? Or am I allowed to share its contents with others if I choose?). A highly covetable artefact to be sure. EV texts me back to write something in it. I spend a few minutes meditating on what would be right to put in there, and settle on my version of 'Pip's Poem for the Fiend' - I put it quite near the front, on one of the many blank left-hand pages. What an extraordinary boon this book is and what consideration it shows was put into the institution of the Chair. I surprise myself with how comfortable I feel writing in it. Not a pretender. I wonder if I'd truly have felt that way if I'd won through in 2009 when I first tried.

Sunday May 24th
Another first - the first chance to put on my robes since winning them!


























This is to read at my sister's wedding anniversary. I read them (Hollie and Pete) a poem written specially for the occasion. The context? They were together for 12 years before they got married, and both have Geology degrees:

Rocks
for Pete and Hollie



Before we came here and drank and laughed
and danced and ate,
and wore hats and shared your joy,
together;


your love already had a timescale
some might call geological.
Between your meeting and your marriage,
islands appeared in Tonga, and Russia,
and Yemen and Japan
and Pakistan.


While you were courting,
an oak tree grew from an acorn...
until it was taller than both of you...
put together.


While you were courting
the sea level rose
by over an inch.
Millions died.
Millions were born.
While you were courting.

The Solar System was redefined
while you were courting.
All three parts of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy
were scripted, cast, filmed, screened in theatres
released on DVD
then sold again in second hand shops
while you were courting.

Your love already lasted aeons.
May aeons more follow, in love. - I also set up a new Facebook page for the Chair. Along with the Twitter feed (and the Chair, and the Robes, and the Branch, and the Book...), it's to be passed down from me to the next Bard, and so on, down the years (or at least until Facebook and Twitter go the way of all things). Follow them, anyway, for updates! /|\