Saturday, 15 December 2012

Winter Retreat in San Diego Jan 25/26th

Hey folks,
don't want to interrupt the rustle of christmas present wrapping, but some news just in on a Southern Californian event for late January. Impressed with the child care and bagels angle - that gets some gold stars in my book.


It will be held at Bard Hall, at First Unitarian Universalist Church in Hillcrest.

Friday and Saturday January 25th and 26th
(Child care will be available on Friday night)

Join the UNITARIAN UNIVERSALIST MEN’S FELLOWSHIP (UUMF) in an interactive lecture and workshop on storytelling and mythology, supported in part by the fellowship’s Program Enrichment Fund*.

Both Women and Men are invited.

This year, the UUMF has invited Dr. Martin Shaw to facilitate our exploration. Through Martin’s inspired storytelling, we will consider the stories we “carry” and the potentially universal themes embodied in them.

Our fellowship often uses mythology and stories to help us unlock our feelings and reach deep levels of sharing. We meet in small groups for discussions maintaining confidentiality which develops a trustworthy environment. We honor the right to reticence – no one is pressured to share, but all are invited to participate. These have proven to be powerful and useful techniques, offering profound opportunities to discover meaning in our lives.

Program Schedule:
Friday 7:00PM to 9:00PM. Through myths and story telling, Dr. Shaw will share the importance of stories in our lives.

Saturday– 8:30AM – 3:30PM. Bagels, juice and coffee will be available in the morning and lunch will be provided at noon. There will be small group discussions of the shared story as it relates to our own personal history.

About Dr. Martin Shaw Author and guide Martin Shaw has been described by Robert Bly as “a true master… one of the very greatest storytellers we have.” Based in Devon, in the UK, Shaw is Director of the Westcounty School of Myth and Story. He leads year long programs and wilderness retreats. He is available for lectures and workshops throughout the year. He is currently teaching a class (The Oral Tradition: Myth, Folklore and Fairy Tale) at Stanford University.

Dr. Shaw’s new book, A Branch From the Lightning Tree: Ecstatic Myth and the Grace in Wildness (White Cloud Press), is a collection of seven myths that he describes as “prophetic” and which speak to the challenges we face today.

*The UUMF has been generously endowed by present and past members to expand its role as a San Diego men’s resource. Our mission is to support men in the quest for lives of compassion, integrity, responsibility, and balance.
UUMF at:

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Caw Blimey - the Crow Puppets, Books and More.

Exciting Musical Happenings for 2013:

Are the links to a fantastic couple of musical storytellers, Crow Puppets. First one gets you to the strange, smokey den of their music, second to their Facebook page where by clicking 'like' you put your elbow of support towards their wild and elegant sound.

I'm not going to say too much about them, but let their music do the talking. They don't need my yakking. They seems to be their own kingdom - with fierce weather patterns, clumps of gold hidden on blustery, midnight hillsides, strange old men praying to gods no one remembers anymore. So there they are - moon pirates - catch em' while you can - they won't be a secret for long.

Books, Books: not all from this year

Ted Hughes: The Poetic Quest Ann Skea

Rowboat: Poetry in Translation (Issue no3) Editor Jay Leeming (and Katherine Rauk and Norman Minnick amongst others, all hugely gifted poets)

Dark Mountain Issue 3. Editor and collaborator of mine Paul Kingsnorth, another smorgasboard of writers and ideas.

The World of Storytelling: Revised and Expanded Edition Anne Pellowski

Dancing at the Devil's Party: Essays on Poetry, Politics, and the Erotic
Alicia Ostriker

Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition Frances Yates

Hummingbird Sleep: poems 2009 - 2011 (upcoming) Coleman Barks

Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology David Abram

Which leads me to announce, or whisper, because it hasn't quite gone through the books yet, but a collaboration with David Abram and myself the first week in July at Schumacher College, in the UK. We were up till the small hours last night with him on the phone from a crackly-lined New Mexico planning something so hair-raisingly exciting that we have trouble actually getting its essence into prose (needed for promotional uses etc). We may just utter a few feathered yelps and an eruptive twitter as dawn breaks.

More as i have it....

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Merlin and New Recordings

is the link to some live recordings of prose-poem like folktales i have been working on. Please forgive my less than usual contribution to the blog - the Stanford residency begins just the other side of the new year, and bags are being packed, presents for loved ones prepared. Look out for a possible evening with myself and Coleman Barks at Stanford in february - will confirm when its nailed down.

Wishing you luck and warmth and companionship in this cold month - here's a few lines from one of the recordings - something of a battle speech from Merlin - something he lives to regret.
Well, viva peace! i say this christmas. More gadzooks, less humbug.

More soon,



(From Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Vita Merlini 1150.)

It was then, in that time

that Myrddin - our Merlin-
drew wisdom and laws

from the nettle-grass
and horse chestnut
of South Wales.

He issued seership and instruction
to the proud Demeti.

He had the bracken ear
the coltish tongue
the dark speech
required for such largeness of task.

His gleeful word
could school the temperament of young princes.

His curling language could lend a swan elegance.


Unflinching with truth.
Ordering a firm house in the roar of court.

Son of an incubus -

he still claims residence
to some inner animal.

And he is friend
to the Old-Man-in-the-Fur-Coat - the bear.

He has gathered red berries by the cold stream,
He has pressed his mind
through gorse and hemlock.

To the men his outer-being is calm :
but inside it rattles with knowing,
a ripping hail, a speech-blizzard carving up
the skull of his woken-ness.

Double-tongued is he:
faithful enquirer to
the wolf’s epiphany
and the politics of the long-house.


To Merlin, alone in his secret den,
This gut-black-power, this second sight
has brought him a new worry.

Peredur of Wales,
prince of the Venedoti of the North,

was drinking blood-buckets
from the veins of the peoples of Gwenddolau,

-Gwenddolau, king of the woad-country
in the far north.

Britain sags with the keening.
The bruised hills hold a mother's terror,

The tree line is a blood-comb
from war’s many bragging roosters.

The bone hills fire-up across the moor.


A battle is arranged, punctual.

Warrior-gear a gleam; straight turf and firm;
Under foot, no bog: A good killing map.

Merlin backs Peredur,
as does Rodarch, High Man of Cumbria.

Rodarch’s brothers come too --three boars
tusk-drunk for the fight, chanting low behind him.

The good seer, Merlin--smeared thick with dirt and rook blood
struts a tawny mile in front of the soon-to-dying men.

His task is to raise a hail-storm in their souls.

He calls out the enemy :

Let your hearts rip like bursting cliffs.
Let shit fill your veins
Let your cocks shrivel;
Let your balls be lumped coal that never sires
your bowels cluck with terror
at the sight of we western men
We handsome destroyers.

Let your eyes be as milk
and battle-blindness descend
leading you to the red pasture
of Welsh blades.
Let you feel good horror
at our bastard strength and our hoof-power.
Let our anvil bludgeon
loose your feeble brain-mush
as compost for our noble soil.

Have at them.

This black father, Merlin,

Hurls dark speech like warfare
and all his loving sons charge the field.

The three brothers of Rodarch,
electrified by speech

seek the field's deepest trouble,
to be witnessed aflame by their terrified men.

Fame will not come
to those that don’t.

But speech can be fragile; as any man knows
our best prayers may land this side of the river.

Copyright Martin Shaw 2012