Saturday, 19 March 2016

'Love Rules' - a verse for cross-border couples.


These few lines were composed for Stephen and Sandra Cole, members of the Bardic College of Ynys Witrin, on the occasion of their handfasting on the Fair Field at Glastonbury Tor today. They are pictured here 'jumping the broomstick' as part of the ceremony. Stephen is British and Sandra is from Mexico - by extension, this short verse is meant for everyone in a cross-border relationship.



This love has beaten national notions
This love has overcome the ocean
This love has defeated Theresa May
This love has conquered all, today.

-

The mention in the third line of this short verse, of the name of our current Home Secretary in the United Kingdom, Theresa May, has a particular relevance in this country and at this time - but I hope that Bards and others will feel able to recite these lines at all times and in all places to honour the additional challenges that couples in cross-border relationships must face. The name 'Theresa May' here stands for all national officials and bureaucracy, in all times and places, that stand in the way of love.

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

MM Case


Sat in the court room
Where they were deciding
The immigration status of our distant family members,
All I could think was -
The animal carvings,
The stained glass windows,
The dignified procedure,
The grandeur of the court...
...how I wished she was there to see it too.

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Bardic and other dates for your diary

Saturday February 6th - National Libraries Day
Lots of things going on in Somerset Libraries and around the UK for National Libraries Day. As Bard of Glastonbury, I'll be reading poems from the books on the shelves in Glastonbury [Public] Library all day. Come and find me for a one-to-one reading (or one-to-several if I get a crowd). 10am - 4pm (but I'll take breaks when I feel like it!). Street Library is also launching a creative writing competition the same day, which I'm picking the poetry winner for.
From noon on the same day there is a fundraising tribute to David Bowie taking place in the shop window of Cancer Research UK on Glastonbury High Street. I'll be reading 'I Was Pianos' - my cut-up tribute to Bowie - as part of the event.

Wednesday February 24th - Read Aloud Day
I'm taking part in World Read Aloud Day for Library of Avalon. I'm not sure exactly what format this will take... but it will definitely involve me reading aloud...

Wednesday March 2nd - Library of Avalon Residency

Thursday March 10th - AvalonVox Poetry Slam
More details here. I've put my name down!

Sunday March 20th - Announcement of 2016 Bardic Theme
At Noon on the Vernal Equinox, it is the tradition for the Bard of Glastonbury to announce the theme of that year's contest at Glastonbury's Market Cross. All those who wish to 'contest the Chair' - and become the next Chaired Bard of Ynys Witrin - are then invited to write a piece to perform on that theme. This year, I'm the Bard so I have the honour of making the announcement.

Thursday May 19th - Glastonbury Bardic Finals
(Date of trials tbc)
This year's contenders for the title of 'Bard of Glastonbury' will be performing at the town's  Assembly Rooms, as happens every St Dunstan's Day... and the Chair, Robes, Branch and Book will move on to a new Bard...

Monday, 11 January 2016

I Was Pianos: a cut-up for David Bowie

“This is the way I do cut-ups - I don’t know if it’s like the way Brion Gysin does his, or Burroughs does his, I don’t know. But this is the way I do it” - David Bowie I Was Pianos (After W.H. Auden's 'Funeral Blues') Coffin, doves, black and dead, Cut off the wood, Pour away the mourners: Everyone's in gloves tonight And every dog's in love. Would the stars see me now? Pack up the traffic. Bring out the ocean. At noon I want a juicy rest With nothing overhead. Let the white necks of policemen Sing songs to my wrong. Stop the turning circle, Put out my telephone. Silence all the midnight, The midnight from my bone. Put crepe bows round the message: "Can Sunday come?" I was pianos. Let aeroplanes wear moaning, With a sky-working week. I thought: South, sun, Cotton, West, my East, Scribbling on the clocks, And my public He was good, and... With my muffled talk, Dismantle the moon. For now, prevent the last. Come North, barking, and drum for ever.
- Wes White, Chaired Bard of Ynys Witrin, 11th January 2016

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Library of Avalon Residency - exploring the Library. Part 1.

Back in September 2015, I launched my writing residency at Library of Avalon. Part of the idea of the residency was that I would report back on what I was doing... well, we're three sessions in, so long past due for an update.

At my first session proper (after a small workshop on the launch afternoon), on 23rd September, I was taken aback by the popularity of the event. I'd pictured myself sat quietly and more or less in solitude in a corner at the Library, taking my time to explore... in fact, I had a good half a dozen other people there with me - mostly for the whole three hours.

I was coming in with what I hoped was an open mind as to the possibility of what might happen - in fact, this is the approach I try to take each session. I don't go in with anything much of a plan. I go to see what I will find. And - I found these people. So, for most of the session, we chatted, introducing ourselves to each other and casually sharing thoughts about writing. At one point, one of our group mentioned a previous occasion when she had stopped in a gallery and simply written a description of whatever she could see in front of her. This member had the same text with her and read it to us - and it was very evocative in its simplicity. So - I thought, that's perfect, if what we want to do is explore this space, let's do that. See what we can see.

These were some of the results. For the most part, these are reproduced as written in the residency session on the day. Norman, who's a regular attender already, prefers to take notes home from the residency sessions and send me worked-on versions later, as here. My own results appear last. The authors retain copyright and work is reproduced here with their permission:

-

Through the Courtyard
Pauline Franks
Through the courtyard, past the dragon holding the world in his claw,
guarding the entrance to a world of wonder and knowledge,
Pan sits playing his flutes to inspire.
I lift the latch of the old oak door and pass through.
I'm met with the treasure of Avalon Library
An ordinary simple clock faces me on the wall - 3 o'clock - I have an hour to explore
where do I start
I follow my heart and my eyes fall on
'The Serpent Grail'
I open it and time ceases to exist

-

The Library
anon
I want to see more
I want to see how
I want to know who, and why
Amongst the wealth of books on shelves
The unimaginable number of words, phrases and paragraphs
None give me the answer
As to how, why and who
built the arch
over the fireplace

-

La Magia
Hugo Valveroe

La magia, que decir de la magia... Llevamos conviviendo con ella el mismo tiempo que el universo fue creado, pues asi fue... magia. La creacion del universo fue magia. El amor es magia, mi vida y la tuya son magia. La hay en las estrellas, en el sol y en la luna, nos rodea, nos envuelve, forma parte de nosotros a cada instante.

Cada encuentro es magia, cada comida es magia, el arte es la magia que fluyo un dia de la mente y el corazon de un mago o maga.

Magia la que ansiamos y magia fabricamos, con cada aliento, con cada pensamiento. Creamos con el pensamiento y el corazon, que unidos forman la magia de la realidad. Asi pues la creacion fue la magia de la diosa que un buen dia decidio creer y crear.

-

He visto un gato
Blanca Gomez Sanchez

He visto un gato, una piedra brillante y luminosa, he visto vida en las cosas... la primera forma en la vida y un angel en el bosque que me mira... mi espiritu y mi ser superior me guian.

Aqui rodead de libros en esta magica libreria los colores de nuestras almas se unen en esta ceremonia en armonia y sintonia, angeles que despiertan que en complicidad se miran, alrededor de el fuego la llama ilumina el juego que empieza y nunca termina.

-

Solitude My Greatest Friend
Norman Webley

I live in Solitude just on my own
But never do I feel quite alone,
And even in the dead of night
A quiet still presence watches over me

St. Michael and Raphael greet me
From a beautiful print on the wall,
Uriel and Gabriel hold me in thrall:
Protection, Healing, Peace and Wisdom,
Here in the Library of Avalon
I am reminded of them all

The strange thing is in times of trouble
I reach outside my silent bubble
And seek the help of a Kindly Angel,
Often for something quite mundane
A parking space in a narrow lane,
Finding lost keys to get my home,
Waiting for a Loved One to phone

Is there an Angel of Creativity?
I wonder when I've lost my muse
But when I pause to ponder,
I'm sometimes given subtle clues

I feel their silent protection
When sleeping or travelling alone,
With help in unfortunate mishaps
Maybe even in Radar Traps
When driving in a restricted zone

But Stillness is my Spiritual Food
To lift me from a falling mood
And Solitude my Greatest Friend
When my mind is still, all troubles end!

-

Looking at the Library 
Wes White

i.
Between the shelves, a stone mantle.
Worn. Weathered? Worn, anyway.
Worn and worn and worn.
And stained. And cracked.
On the stone, though, a clock
- a regular circle, in regular black -
keeps regular time
turning smoothly.

ii.
From a black beam
Hangs a red drape.
Elaborate, exotic.
What is behind
The red drape?

-

That seems like plenty of reading for one blog post, so I'll write further updates on the later sessions asap rather than trying to cram it all in here.

The next session is tomorrow (January 6th 2016), 1.30 to 4.30pm. If you're considering joining me, you don't have to come for the whole three hours or commit to coming to any further sessions - whenever suits you is fine. Donations are welcome, and are split between myself and the Library; please give generously according to your means. Library of Avalon volunteers should consider the sessions free to them.

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.