I have a poem over at Gods & Radicals. Check it out.
The wound of the border.
I have a poem over at Gods & Radicals. Check it out.
The wound of the border.
The silversword plants (Argyroxiphium) grow around 9000 feet up on the island. Their leaves reflect. (Photo from Wikipedia). Fencing is to protect from invasive goats which have demolished their populations.
What follows is a poem full of personal gnosis.
The Silversword Alliance
the swords flash silver
in the mountain’s life,
the sun rose over the heads
of the many lost below
but here we raise the blades
of allegiance to the Cloud Lord,
an archaic league remade,
held high for the future.
where the sanctuary reigns
high like an eagle’s aerie
in the narrow valley we train
below the red house wary
the plants flash in the ash soil,
the alliance in mirrored din
reflects over world’s turmoil.
Sword of Nuadha.
These are poems and stories that probe, lifting tissues of (mis)remembered pasts. Ghastly misdeeds of King Arthur and his ‘knights’ are here. Smithers gives voice to those that were decapitated & slaughtered, mutilated like the Very Black Witch of Orddu, the giants of the land whose beards were pulled out bloody and nasty. Gatherer of Souls on one hand is a work of disassembly, but through such it is prophetically freeing of those who were buried, covered up, cast out as monsters from a developing, eventually imperial narrative.
Essentially, this book is a retrieval of Annwn, the Brythonic underworld, and of Gwyn ap Nudd to whom it is dedicated, a psychopomp and leader of the wild host who has gathered multitudes over the millennia, and is associated with Glastonbury Tor among other places. She shares her experience in a way that is accessible to the reader and also intensely poetic. “I met him on the tear-drenched edgelands between madness and reason, dreaming and waking, life and death. Gwynn ap Nudd opened the doors of Annwyn and called me to ride with him into the mists through the war-torn centuries to recover his forgotten mythos.” The book continues the courageous charting of Annwyn in her previous and recommended book The Broken Cauldron.
“Across Prydain giants lay headless and beardless, stony limb scattered in fragments on their hilltops. I helped them pull themselves together, fixed their broken fingers, stuck on their peeled-odd fingernails, guided their sprits into Annwyn’s craggy beds and chairs.
Their anger gathered into a muttering beneath the land that sounded like grinding rocks as Arthur and his men set forth to capture my hounds with leashes woven from their blood beards.”
The book is a mix of poetry and prose, but all filled with the prophetic vision of the anywyddyn. That the dead will rise again is foretold. That Gwyn has strengthened. She turns Procopius, the early Byzantine historian (who described a terrible wilderness of serpents and wolves north of the Roman walls) on his head: “From North of the Wall I return/cloaked in feather and claw./To breach the gap/and bring down the divide”.
Many voices speak through Lorna: a young girl living in a Celtic village who comes to know a Chalk God whom she first hates for taking her sister; there is Snow who lives at the time of the reinhabitation of Britain after the Ice Age, and who lives on plains of blizzard in the comfort of a “little tent made from willow saplings and reindeer-skins.” She tells us that it was like living in a “reindeer’s womb.” Wind Singer lives at the time of the Roman conquest and gives birth to dragons. In time of despair she flies as a dragon with the Winter Lord. Then there’s the raven that tells us of the downfall of the House of Rheged, that once-fierce kingdom in the north, of Urien blinded by the bible-bearers who forgot what his shield was all about. The oldest creatures share their stories here in a new way: the blackbirdsmith whose “black feathered cloak was sewn by the tailor who dressed the earth”, the wood stag, “when he sprouts back to life, no prison of brick can contain him; the wingless owl; the eagle who ate the stars, she who was taken to the depths by a salmon whom she healed from the wounds of the tridents; and that salmon of wisdom who now has to wear armor: “His wisdom has become a submarine to sink beneath visions of witches, eyes on the radar, launch missiles at Mabon’s prison…” and so many more…
As a child, I grew up with the King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table like so many Americans of my generation, went on to the shimmering artifice of Malory and later saw Arthur (whose name has a bear root) as a Celtic hero fighting off the Saxon invaders. At times this is a discomforting vision, almost a #metoo of the ‘once and future king’ on one level. The reveals of the voices of those abused feels so timely, the voices of Annwyn and the giants, witches and the rest of the ‘othered’. Smithers work is one of deconstruction but most importantly offering new vision and insight, the work of a true poet. I will be rereading this one. It could well be read alongside “Chulwych and Olwen” from the Mabinogi.
It can be obtained here:
This rosc-like poem wanted to come out here as we move into Winter. It was written during the January lunar eclipse.
a pig snores
in the eclipse
in the shadows Affagdu
had long remained
steps out slowly
I’ve got an essay on filidecht “The Well, the Sea, the Dead: the Poet in Irish Lore” in the latest issue of Air n-Aithesc, Volume 4, Issue 2. http://ciannai2.wixsite.com/air-n-aithesc
And a poem: “Fleet as Deer” for Flidais.
I’ve also got some poems in the new Bibliotheca Alexandrina book,
Blood and Roses: A Devotional for Aphrodite and Venus:
“A Grammar for Aphrodite”, “Venus and Felix Roma”, “Eros Unloosed”, and Hermes’ and Aphrodite’s Child”.
And a new post over at paganbloggers: Slipping Out Into the Mythic:
And happy Lughnasadh–and Imbolc for southern readers!
These are times for satires. Here’s mine. Some of you might perceive an echo of a famous prophetic poem here, among other things. In Celtic lore, satires really do have venom.
Towers: A Satire
it rose obscenely pink
like a plucked turkey neck,
then it rose more,
slathered and viscous, not from
primeval slime but
from a polluted swamp.
it rose, its towers flung
upward into the heaven of circuitry
into money’s pure domain, where it was
sly at manipulating the currents.
forgetful of its place of emergence,
wiped clean of all traces of roots,
leaves, humus in a sterilizing chamber,
simultaneously calcified and virtualized it was.
it turned itself into sign
in the eddies of the monetary,
yet, its towers slipped having
lost their foundation, the muck and mire
from which they had emerged,
the fecund perennial glut and rut
of hordes of teeming soil, oblivious
it was to the seismic twisting of restless serpents,
slipping their fetters far beneath,
the lands and waters
growing ever more active.
rapturous with its penetration
of heaven, the phallic thing
now orange and lurid, smirked,
unaware of the scythed ones,
the raven-clawed ones, and
the red-mouthed ones rising in
fury, their cries echoed
by the shadows of the dead—shrieks
shivering the forgotten foundations
of the network of fruiting bodies
now turned putrid, purple flecked,
and blackening with rot.
the millennium tilted as
they threw down
sheets of blood, and
cursed with mists of confusion,
their cups of blood emptied.
the scythed ones
with a flick of wrists unseen
slice the lurid orange things.
the hitherto weightless circuits
drift down in ashy precipitate,
mad mangled metal work
and tarantellas of glass.
against the tower
a fortress wall of storm
strong as white steel glowers
over this spectacle.
the unleashed torrents lash
a bare fortress now,
crumbling, naked, defenses failing—
the high places that cannot endure
before the packs of wolves, the terrible storm birds,
the outlaws of the woods, the
reivers, the revenants, the enchanters.
a ghastly scene lit by
artillery of lightning reveals
corpses bobbing in the wash.
as floodtide washes away the wreck
a rainbow breaks and I see
an old lady with a basket of mushrooms grinning,
making her way through the salvage.
Here are some useful resources.
Breatnach, Liam. “The Caldron of Poesy”. Eriu 32. 1981.
Calder, George. Auraicept na n-Eces: the Scholar’s Primer.https://archive.org/details/auraiceptnancess00calder
Carey, John. “The Waters of Vision and the Gods of Skill”. Art and the Sacred Kairos and the Dallas Institute for Humanities and Culture. 23 March, 1991. Santa Fe.
Carney, James. Medieval Irish Lyrics with The Irish Bardic Poet.
Chadwick, Nora. Poetry and Prophecy. Good worldwide survey form 1952 (but does contain some racist/colonialist attitudes prevalent in that era).
—, Chadwick. “Imbas forosnai”. Scottish Gaelic Studies, 1935.
Corkery, Daniel. The Hidden Ireland.
Ford, Patrick. “The Blind, the Dumb, and the Ugly”. Cambridge Medieval Celtic Studies 19.
Guyonvarc’h, Christian J. The Making of a Druid: The Hidden Teachings from The Colloquy of Two Sages (the text with annotations).
Heaney, Seamus. Sweeney Astray: A Version from the Irish. Irish poet’s translation of Suibhne Geilt, the poetry of “mad Sweeney’, a glimpse into the world of a geilt, outsider poet living in the woods.
Henry, P. L. “The Caldron of Poesy”. Studia Celtica 14/15. 1979/80.
Jones, Mary. Jones Celtic Encyclopedia. 1998-2015. Web.
Laurie, Erynn Rowan. The Well of Five Streams (contains her Cauldron of Poesy article).
Minahane, John. The Christian Druids: on the filid or philosopher-poets of Ireland.
Nagy, Nagy, Joseph Falaky. The Wisdom of the Outlaw: The Boyhood Deeds of Finn in Gaelic Narrative Tradition. Berkeley and Los Angeles: U of California Press, 1985. The Fenian outsider warriors were poets too.
Ó hÓgáin, Dáithí The Sacred Isle. A crucial book for understanding pre-Christian practices and believes in Ireland by an Irish Celticist.
Ó hÓgáin, Dáithí. Myth, Legend and Romance: An Encyclopaedia of Irish Folk Tradition. London: Ryan, 1990.
Ó Tuathail, Sean. The Excellence of Ancient Word: Druid Rhetorics from Ancient Irish Tales. Idiosyncratic modern practitioner’s take is worth a read.
Patterson, Nerys. Cattle Lords and Clansmen: The Social Structure of Early Ireland. The historical background.
Skelton, Robin. Samhain and other poems in Irish Metres of the Eighth to the Sixteenth Centuries. Contains an appendix with the different traditional meters.
Thompson, Christopher Scott. A God Who Makes Fire: the Bardic Mysticism of Amergin. A recommended practitioner’s handbook.
Anglo-Saxon Heathenry and Roman Polytheism
Exploring Myself and the Northern Shaman Path
poetry, Celtia, mythology
The official website of The Koinon
Diasporic Chinese Polytheism
Children of Brighid
A Poet's Life in Italy
Spirit-Work & Devotional Polytheism
Provocative Pagan Philosophy