Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Robin and Martin interview: in my day all poets were this tall! Shaw try's to hide doubts.

Martin and Jan Blake riding the vibe.

'In my day ALL storytellers were this high!' Robin Williamson lays it out.

The beautiful school tent! (plus at least 3 of our beloved pirates)

hey amigos. Just got time to adjust my hats between the just gone Westcountry Storytelling Festival and the 'Myth, Literature and the Unconscious'conference at the University of Essex on Thursday. Highlights for me were Hugh Lupton's stunning piece on John Claire, Jan Blake's inspired raps about a ravenous cat, and just a general feeling of good vibes and peace to all man and women. Apart from between the hours of 2-3 on the Saturday morning, but that really is another story. Much kudos to Chris Salisbury and Sue Charman for basically pulling the whole thing off, a noble and truly heroic effort. So here's some snaps. More writing in a few days, after Essex.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Minneapolis event! non - beardies welcome! (i.e. women and men that don't make the Minnesota Men's Conference)

Hello folks, especially Mid-west friends. News of an intimate event in Minneapolis post Men's conference.It will be lovely to see some non - bearded Minnesota friends (i.e. women as well as the wonderful growlers that come to the conference)Over to Tim Young and Dalyce Elliott......


Timothy Young and Dalyce Elliott present a Special Holtby House Concert

Storyteller and Mythologist
Martin Shaw
Tuesday September 21 at 7:30 pm
129 Melbourne Ave SE
Minneapolis, MN 55414
Recommended free will donation $10-$15
Seating is limited so reserve your seat at tim@twoboots.net
or call AFTER September 4th 612-331-4519

Martin Shaw, an award winning Rites-of-Passage teacher, mythologist and storyteller, is internationally recognized as one of the most exciting new teachers of the mythic imagination. For a decade Martin has facilitated wilderness initiatory process for at-risk youth through to company directors. He spent four years living under
canvas studying tribal lore, folk-tale and ceremony.
Author and Director of the Westcountry School of Myth and Story, he is also visiting lecturer on the Desmond Tutu Leadership progam at Oxford University. Widely traveled, Shaw teaches in the United States and Europe as well as the UK. His awards include the Summerfield award from the British School in Rome, and the Price, Bretherton, Elgood award for outstanding achievement in the Arts.

He is the author of A Branch from the Lightning Tree: Ecstatic Myth
and the Grace in Wildness. Robert Bly says, "A true master. One of the greatest storytellers i have ever heard. Shaw offers a hundred visits to the moon"


Talking of the Minnesota champion, here is a snippet of an interview with Robert, conducted by our very own Fran Quinn i believe.

Interviewer: What was the mood of poetry in the late Fifties?
Robert Bly: I started a poem the other day that goes this way:
There was a moment in '58
In which we thought–
And we were right–that poetry
Our poetry–would bless everyone

It's hard to explain. Something fresh could be felt all over the country. Don't believe what you read that the Fifties was a dull time; it wasn't, certainly not in literature. Robert Creeley was publishing the poems later collected in For Love, amazing things! Roethke was laying out his high-spirited poems, and Gary Snyder was publishing the poems later collected in Rip Rap. Robert Payne had brought out his great anthology, The White Pony. Li Po said:
If you ask me why I dwell among green mountains,
I should laugh silently; my soul is serene.
The peach blossom follows the moving water.
There is another heaven and earth beyond the world of men.
Hong's book of Tu Fu poems was out–that beautiful green book I still have with me. Some kind of longing was in the air. James Wright felt it:
Suddenly I realize
That if I stepped out of my body, I would break
Into blossom.
The Chinese poems and James Wright's lines are linguistic expressions of the longing that there is "another heaven and earth beyond the world of men." All over the country young poets went expectantly to the mailbox, to find some wild thing like Kayak, or some little essay by a Buddhist meditator. There wasn't a flood of mail–just one or two delicious pieces, or nothing.

I don't know why that mood of longing appeared in the late Fifties. Perhaps it came because we had won the war. Thousands and thousands of men my age had died. There was a lot of gratitude for that enormous sacrifice. Awe and gratitude was in the air. Maybe we felt–as Creeley suggested–that despite the disintegration, it would be possible for us to put culture back together again. During the war, for example, Poetry had about six subscribers. Everything was starting over again.

Or perhaps that wasn't it at all. Maybe the simple delight people felt in air, wind and poems when there was no war was normal. Perhaps everyone felt that way before television held people indoors and fed them bad psychic food. For a few years, we felt, like Yeats in his poem, that
For twenty minutes, more or less,
It seemed so great my happiness
That I was blessed and could bless.
In 1956, I had received a Fulbright Fellowship to do the job of translating some old and new Norwegian poetry into English. Writers my age were aware of good poetry in English, but not the powerful poetry of Chile, Peru, Sweden, Germany, Italy. In the Oslo library I found Pablo Neruda. The moment is still clear to me. The lines were,
Young girls with their hands on their hearts,
Dreaming of pirates.

It has an exaggeration there that's so beautiful. It's alive in the heart and flamboyant–so different from T. S. Eliot. I had spent three years at Harvard without ever hearing the name Neruda. One problem with the New Critics–whom I otherwise admire greatly–is that they were blind to material outside the English language.
A new kind of image had appeared, which was the engine, or the angel, or the body of a wholly fresh poetry. Cesar Vallejo said,
I will die in Paris, on a rainy day . . .
It will be a Thursday, because, Thursday, setting down
These lines, I have put my upper armbones on
Wrong . . .
He didn't say, "I have put my suit on wrong." No, I have put my upper armbones on wrong!
And never so much as today have I found myself
With all the road ahead of me, alone.
And there was Neruda's great poem on death:
There are cemeteries that are lonely,
graves full of bones that do not make a sound . . .
And there are corpses,
feet made of cold and sticky clay,
death is inside the bones
like a barking where there are no dogs. . . .
Astounding! "A barking where there are no dogs."

I had a relatively good literary education, and I felt astonished by these poems, so I thought that other poets my age would be moved also. In 1958, when I got back, Bill Duffy and I started a magazine called The Fifties. On the inside front cover, we announced that "Most of the poetry published in America today is too old fashioned." We developed various ways to infuriate people who had submitted old-fashioned poems.

One was a card that read:This entitles you to buy the new book of Alfred, Lord Tennyson, as soon as it is published. In each issue we awarded the Order of the Blue Toad to an obnoxious literary personage of the day; and we made up a "Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum." In it were lines of John Crowe Ransom, or Allen Ginsberg, and Longfellow, and so on. The whole thing was a little adolescent, but it had some spirit...(end of interview segment)

Right, i need to pack for this weekends Storytelling festival, just up the road near Exeter. Camel bags,coffee,one bottle of Lagavulin, complete works of William Blake, three roasted chickens glazed in honey, four bars of green and blacks 'Maya Gold' chocolate, my grandfathers sword, one bearskin, six Persian rugs, gospel of Thomas and the first Ramones album. Sorted. See you there!

Monday, 23 August 2010


Hi Folks -this fresh from the Independent on Sunday over here in the UK. Come early -and help us put our enormous, resplendent School of Myth Tibetan tent up!One free doughnut and a used copy of 'Trickster Makes This World' for every hour spent hauling gear. See you there!

from The Independent & The Independent on Sunday
Home > Arts & Entertainment > Theatre & Dance > Features
Tall tales: Meet the storytellers spinning edgy new yarns for the digital age
Spinning a good yarn is the most ancient of entertainments – but thanks to the iPod generation, it's getting a new lease of life

By Lena Corner
Sunday, 22 August 2010S

Should you be at a loose end in the country next Saturday night, in a field in Higher Ashton, not far from Exeter, you'll find a storyteller named Martin Shaw. He will be giving a rendition of the 13th-century European masterpiece Parzival – a tale of knights, loyalty, romance and the search for that pesky, elusive Grail. He plans to start his yarn before midnight and finish some time around daybreak. Bring coffee and a warm blanket, advises Shaw; it's an all-nighter, but not as you know it.

Shaw's marathon tale is one of the highlights of next weekend's Westcountry Storytelling Festival, a three-day extravaganza of myth, saga, epic and plain-old fairy story told by the top tale-spinners on the circuit. While it's not quite Glastonbury, it has slowly been gathering followers. "We started out nine years ago with a group of about 100 people gathered in a meadow in Devon," says artistic director Chris Salisbury. "Since then it has grown exponentially." It's a similar tale in South Wales at the Beyond the Border festival, which takes place against the dramatic medieval backdrop of St Donat's castle, perched on a cliff-edge. When it started in 1993, a humble three storytellers featured on the bill. Now there is a cast of 90 telling tales to an audience of a few thousand. It is the biggest festival of its kind in the world.

"Storytelling is an art form with deep integrity," says Salisbury. "It is so simple and stripped-down. A good tale well told doesn't need set design or costume. It's as if our lives have all become a bit complicated and this is what we seek."

The revival of interest in the art form can be traced to the mid-1980s when Hugh Lupton, Ben Haggarty and Sally Pomme Clayton formed a collective called the Company of Storytellers. The group spent the next decade tirelessly promoting its craft, teaching new blood how to spin a yarn and, crucially, persuading people that storytelling was a valid adult art form. "There was a misconception that stories were to be told only to people under the age of six," says Salisbury. "People began to realise this wasn't necessarily so."

Prior to this revival, the oral tradition had undoubtedly been on its last legs. One of the last remaining troubadours was Duncan Williamson, a Scottish traveller who had a repertoire of 3,000 riddles, tales and ballads he'd learnt at his grandmother's knee. He took to the road at the age of 14 to share his extraordinary knowledge, but died three years ago at the age of 79. "It really was a forgotten art form," says David Ambrose, festival director of Beyond the Border. "Our forebears knew all about it but we forgot how vital it was. I think it was a social thing, to do with the fragmentation of the family unit. I'm sure TV played a part, and the rise of literacy – we live in a world where things can be written down so we no longer have need to remember them."

Although storytelling occupies a territory somewhere between comedy, poetry and theatre, its reputation also suffered due to an association with crusty old men telling tales of goblins and dragons. "When it gets done badly, and it does, it is truly awful," says Salisbury. "It's a folk tradition which comes from the heart so you do get a right old mixture. At least at festivals there is a quality-control filter in place."

Ambrose believes storytelling's revival is tied up with a resurgence of interest in live performance, particularly music. "For a while we all became a bit infatuated with TV, film and digital art forms, but people have become hungry for live experiences again," he says. "You only have to look at what's gone on in the music industry. Live performance of any art does something that recorded performance can't." '

Most storytellers describe their craft as the art of painting visual images in listeners' heads. Some believe that to tell stories is their birthright and calling, while others study at one of the many storytelling schools in the UK. It is never, ever about reading aloud: Salisbury compares good storytelling to improvised jazz; as the musician riffs on a familiar tune, so the storyteller breathes new life into familiar tales.

And so the scene continues to grow. You only have to look at the audiobook market, currently one of the few areas of growth in the publishing industry, to see how much our appetite to have stories told to us has been whetted. The scene is particularly vibrant in Scotland, with much new work coming out of the Scottish Storytelling Centre in Edinburgh, and in Shropshire, where the annual Festival at the Edge attracts thousands. Meanwhile, in London, the Crick Crack Club at the Barbican, also started by Ben Haggarty, has raised the bar for storytelling and often sells out weeks in advance.

A final indication that something is afoot is that finally storytelling has spilled out from within its specialist confines. Literary festivals such as Bath, Cheltenham and Hay have brushed aside any snobbish preconceptions and welcomed the tellers in and now even mainstream festivals such as Latitude, Cropredy, Big Chill and Port Eliot all feature serious storytelling programmes.

Ambrose believes his job now is simply to continue spreading the word. "The business of telling and the business of listening is deeply, deeply inside us," he says. "The Greek myths, Persian epics, Arabian Nights, Brothers Grimm, they form the backbone of what we know of the world and give us the ability to say something about what it is to be human. It's our job to make it speak to now."

Tuesday, 17 August 2010



Hey U.S. friends, here is news of a possible School of Myth up in Point Reyes, California. Please e-mail Lisa TODAY if you are interested. Please forward on to any networks you have. I also have a new e-mail:


due to some burger guzzling nutcase hacking into my old one and sending out e-mails about marital aids to everyone i have ever met or respected.So, over to Lisa Doron:

West Country comes to West Country

As a result of our recent successful storytelling event, Out of the Village and Into the Forest, the bookstore and Martin Shaw of the West Country School of Myth and Story in England are sponsoring a year long course on the power of myth and story. Participants will meet on a quarterly basis, Friday evening through Sunday late afternoon. We are poised to begin this first year course the weekend of September 24,25,26, but we need a core group of at least 20 to sign up, commit to, all four weekends otherwise we cannot fly. The cost for each weekend would be approximately $200.00, give or take a few. So please strap on the wings, the snowshoes or saddle up those ponies to let us know you are on board. For more information contact bookstore staff person Lisa Doron at


Saturday, 14 August 2010


So we arrived back last night.A rain swept Bristol airport. Here's some lines from the diary I scrawled whilst over there. We're off to a night of Salsa and peaty Whisky at the Pigs Nose pub in East Prawl - see you on the dance floor amigo...

So where is Duende? one place to meet Duende is in heat; a shield – wall of fire that descends brutally on our skinny tent daily. The heat is meeting a salty Lion on a road of glass. For libation I place a bushel of hair under a rock – hours later I find the tail of a fox as a reciprocal gift. Holed up in the hills around Alora in a small oak grove we see half built houses scatter the hillside, huge views, bleached scrub land, the flash of a binocular across the valley from a neighbour to hot to talk, but always ready to pry.

The bins have containers of suffocated puppies in them, water has gone missing – ten thousand litres – from our precious source at camp. Bandits have only been gone for a generation from the area; we look for tyre tracks or hidden pipes. Water seems lighter here, it never seems to get to the belly but clings for seconds at the back of the gullet before becoming a misty dream.

The Spanish I meet seem robustly unconcerned with their history. A friend tells the tale of finding Roman earthenware whilst picking olives and being sworn to secrecy so it didn’t affect the pace of the picking, to hell with the historical discovery. They seem clear with who they are, but the heat seems to wipe out much sentimentality. The Moorish Castle, perched uneasily atop the town remains resolutely shut, despite any wandering tourists. A trip to some nearby Dolmens involves a complicated web of un - sign posted roads, dust choked alleys and industrial estates. Andalucia seems to be an area with the volume turned up. It has nuance but you have to look past the ferocity of the heat to see it.

And what of its poets? Heat seemed to make poetry rise from their body like ambitious curls of mist; words that are not benign, but, like the place,sharp, lurching, hallucinatory. Words that combat the lionlike heat, not retreat into tense little bundles of sound hiding under another parched rock. Heat swishes its many bladed tail across the table of safe language.Three days into the trip a wasp crawls into my mouth and stings its base, keeping the storyteller mute and listening.

The gypsies live in dark corridors of estates at the edge of the town. During the day many wander to an old square underneath the castle. Some of us had noticed a young gypsy driving a freshly painted, very swish Mercedez Bendz: two days later our host’s four by four collides into it. In the gypsies square. In full of view of the gypsy community. He is a favourite son, half a dozen men race to inform the owner. Much animation, conjecture, possible trouble. We get down from the mountain as swiftly as we can after getting a panicked message – an old friend was once kidnapped for three days in a similar encounter – we could be entering quite a scene. Duende indeed. Despite tensions, all is resolved, and, in an oddly British moment, insurance details are swapped.

That night, up at our small camp, a strange wind sifts through the low olive trees. The lanterns flicker, for a second even the Secadas stop their rattle. In the cooler time and near dark, the hillsides look like a parched Wales. For a while the drinking, smoking and music stops, and we all feel the SPOOK – the delicate, eerie moment where old ghosts with Crows on their shoulders glide by.

In nearby Alora the fair, the ferrier, rages on. Earlier Dulcie had ridden on ‘The Ride of the Brujo’. Thousands crushed into tennis courts dancing to techno and making out. Bacchus gets briefly excited but can’t get involved; he can’t hear the old songs that get him waltzing. Baubo wants to lift her skirt but realises the incantations of the throng are not aimed in her direction.

The next day I have a dream, the gist is:

From my throat to my belly
There are four low strings
That need to resonate
To pluck and vibrate
Several times a day