My publisher, Gods & Radicals, are currently having a digital book sale as a celebration of their seventh anniversary. My three books, Enchanting the Shadowlands, The Broken Cauldron, and Gatherer of Souls are all available at a 33% discount reduced from $6.00 to $4.00. Many other Pagan, Polytheist, and anti-capitalist titles are also available at up to 50% discount and A Pagan Anti-Capitalist Primer and All That Is Sacred is Profaned are free. The link is HERE.
I am very happy and excited to announce that my three books, Enchanting the Shadowlands, The Broken Cauldron, and Gatherer of Souls have officially been re-released in print by the Ritona Imprint of Gods & Radicals Press (which specialises in mythic and mystic works).
Enchanting the Shadowlands has been updated with a new cover, layout, and foreword by Rhyd Wildermuth (below).
‘It’s thought human language derived from the songs of the land. The theory goes like this: our early ancestors, who were always walking through a world full of living songs—the caws of birds, the howls of wolves, the tiny buzzing of insects, the rush of streams, the crack and hiss of fire, the oceanic laughter of trees in wind—began to see meaning in those sounds. Playfully they would imitate them; others around them, hearing a familiar sound from an unfamiliar source, suddenly understood “meaning.”
If one of them wanted to tell the others a wolf was nearby, he would make the sound of the wolf, and the others would understand. That there were bees nearby, which meant that sweet dripping gold was also nearby, could be conveyed with a buzzing sound. Then there were also all the clicks and soft explosive noises made with the tongue on teeth or palate, the guttural groans and gulping sounds, the labial pauses played upon the lips: all these tricks of the mouth and throat to bring the world around them into the eventual meaning of words.
It’s easy to fell disconnected to this truth now, when so much that is said has so little reference to the land and all that live within it. It’s all ‘buy this’ and ‘calculate that,’ language of fear, of power, of the human world disconnected from its source.
The earliest priests and shamans—up to and including the bards and druids, and many wise person roles in indigenous societies still—are poets. This is not surprising, because if it is your role to intercede between people and the powers of the land, then you ought to be able to understand—and thus also speak—their language. The birds call in a certain way and snow is coming, the trees creak and bend in a particular fashion and a storm shall soon arrive. The animals of the forest suddenly go silent: there is a wolf. The great herd beasts are uneasy, lowing mournfully: a sickness is coming.
To speak to the land you must sing as it does. To translate for the land, you must understand what it is saying. That’s what poets are for, and that’s what Lorna Smithers is startlingly brilliant at.
She sings the stories not just of the land that is now, but also the stories of its ghosts, the land that once was. This collection, her first, is particularly filled with the songs of ghosts, the chants of ancestors, the wails of lost lives and felled forests, the low roar of the mills poisoning air and river and earth while all that lives there sickens and despairs.
There’s a particular poem in Enchanting The Shadowlands that once made me double over in sorrow, tears that were not mine running down my face. I looked around myself and didn’t know where I was, because I wasn’t where I had been when I started reading the poem. My fingernails caked with dirt, scrabbling through infertile soil for a root that looked like my stillborn child.
Yet I have never had a stillborn child, nor have I ever been in that place, which is the pure magic of her poetry.
The best translators make you forget that you are not hearing the original in its own language; the best poets make you forget you are reading a poem at all. Again, that’s Lorna’s brilliance, and I’m deeply happy you are about to experience this, too.
15 April 2021′
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On Wednesday 22nd April I held an evening of poetry, song and story to celebrate the launch of Enchanting the Shadowlands at Korova Arts Cafe in Preston. The night was very special for me because it marked the publication of my first book, the completion of a spiritual journey and brought together friends who have supported me since I took to writing poetry seriously in 2012.
Storyteller Peter Dillon was MC for the night. We opened with a joint performance of ‘The Bull of Conflict’ a glosa recording the moment when my patron god, Gwyn ap Nudd, gave me the imperative of ‘enchanting the shadowlands’.
Vincent Smith’s ‘Woodland Eulogy’ and reflections on early memories of a close friend made a poignant start to the first half. Mike Cracknell brought the house down with his hilarious poem about lovers with nothing in common except filthy habits. Martin Domleo performed poems tying in with my nature themed work including ‘Thor’s Cave’ and the experience of deceleration linking to his passion for motorbikes. Singer Nina George was the first headline act. She started with a haunting piece written by a friend. Her second song, she told us, demanded to be sung at the launch! She got everybody joining in with the chorus:
‘She said this is my church here where I stand
With my hands in the earth and my feet on the ground
She said this is my church here where I stand
With my heart in my mouth and my soul in the land.’
Nina finished with a song by Jodi Mitchell. At the end of the first half I performed poems exploring local history written in voices of the ancestors and spirits of the land. These included a reluctant resident of Penwortham Lake Village, a spinner in her cellar, the spirit of the aquifer beneath Castle Hill and Belisama, goddess of the Ribble. During the break we looked out at a pink-purple sunset against fairy-lit trees and the silhouette of St Walburge’s spire. I opened the second half with ‘Slugless’ which was written when I had a spate of people confessing to me about their slug problems. All but one…. As we often bump into each other walking beside the Ribble, Terry Quinn performed poems about the river, one set at a crucial time when a campaign run successfully by Jane Brunning saved the area that is now Central Park from a huge development scheme. Dorothy mentioned she also had a slug scene in her novel ‘Shouting Back’. Her poems included the memorable ‘City Rats’.
Nina returned to perform a song about reclaiming Druidry and a controversial tongue-in-cheek ditty called ‘The Day the Nazi Died’ by Chumbawamba. Novelist Katharine Ann Angel read excerpts from ‘Being Forgotten’ and ‘The Froggitt Chain’ and spoke of her inspiration from people, particularly working with difficult teenagers.
The second headliner was poet Nicolas Guy Williams. He opened with ‘Ancient by thy Winters’ saying he thought it would be suit my launch as it contains howling: ‘Hear them HOWL! HEAR THEM HOWL! Once no forest was defenceless.’ He also performed ‘Woman of the Sap’ and ‘Oh ratchet walk and seek that scent’ one of my personal favourites based on the local legend of the Gabriel Ratchets.
I ended the second half with a piece dedicated to Gwyn on Nos Galan Gaeaf called ‘When You Hunt for Souls in the Winter Rain’ and poems recording a journey to Annwn (the Brythonic Otherworld) with horse and hound to an audience in his hall. As a finale I performed ‘No Rules’ which summarises my philosophy of life:
‘Break every boundary.
There are no rules.
Only truth and promises
Bind us in the boundless infinite.’
Afterward there was an open-mic where it was great to have Flora Martyr, who is missed as a host of Korova Poetry, back to perform. Following Nina’s protest songs John Winstanley, who is involved with the Wigan Digger’s Festival, sung an old diggers song. I also opened some presents from the generous members of my grove. Nina gave me a bottle of wine (knows me too well!). Phil and Lynda Ryder gave me a book about Boudica, a warrior queen and ruler of the Iceni (horse) tribe, called ‘Dreaming the Hound’ with a wonderful bronze image of a howling hound on the cover.
When we left Korova the crescent moon was high in the sky with a bright and beautiful Venus above the fairy-lit trees. I felt the shadowlands had been enchanted. There is power in a promise… and in the support of friends without whom I wouldn’t have been able to see it through. I’d like end on a note of thanks to Peter as MC, everybody who performed and came to watch and to Sam for providing the venue.