Gelli Fach

Gelli Fach

I'm a cell, I'm fragmented, I change my form;
I'm a repository of song, I'm a dynamic state.
I love a wooded slope and a snug shelter,
and a creative poet who doesn't buy his advancement.

Wyf kell, wyf dellt, wyf datweirllet;
wyf llogell kerd, wyf lle ynnyet.
Karaf-y gorwyd a goreil clyt,
a bard a bryt ny pryn y ret.

From: Legendary Poems from the Book of Taliesin, edited and translated by Marged Haycock

Friday, 14 February 2014

Shelter from the Storm on Valentine's Day

We're being battered by storms with hurricane force winds here on the west coast of Wales - as has a lot of the UK. At times it's been almost scary and when the electricity went off I had a taste of what so many people in the country have been going through - but without the flooding thankfully. I was so relieved I had the wood stove and could at least have one warm room and cook and make cups of tea and hot-water bottles.  
I went out during the height of the storm only once - to close the garage door which had blown open and move the car away from the trees. It made me think of how it would be to be out in such a storm with nowhere to hide and  Bob Dylan's song Shelter from the Storm began to run through my mind. Since it brings together storms and love (on one level), I thought it would be suitable for this stormy St Valentine's Day, so here it is:

Shelter From The Storm
                         by Bob Dylan

'Twas in another lifetime, one of toil and blood
When blackness was a virtue and the road was full of mud
I came in from the wilderness, a creature void of form
"Come in," she said, "I'll give you shelter from the storm."
And if I pass this way again, you can rest assured
I'll always do my best for her, on that I give my word
In a world of steel-eyed death, and men who are fighting to be warm
"Come in," she said, "I'll give you shelter from the storm."
Not a word was spoke between us, there was little risk involved
Everything up to that point had been left unresolved
Try imagining a place where it's always safe and warm
"Come in," she said, "I'll give you shelter from the storm."
I was burned out from exhaustion, buried in the hail
Poisoned in the bushes an' blown out on the trail
Hunted like a crocodile, ravaged in the corn
"Come in," she said, "I'll give you shelter from the storm."
Suddenly I turned around and she was standin' there
With silver bracelets on her wrists and flowers in her hair
She walked up to me so gracefully and took my crown of thorns
"Come in," she said, "I'll give you shelter from the storm."
Now there's a wall between us, somethin' there's been lost
I took too much for granted, got my signals crossed
Just to think that it all began on a long-forgotten morn
"Come in," she said, "I'll give you shelter from the storm."
Well, the deputy walks on hard nails and the preacher rides a mount
But nothing really matters much, it's doom alone that counts
And the one-eyed undertaker, he blows a futile horn
"Come in," she said, "I'll give you shelter from the storm."
I've heard newborn babies wailin' like a mournin' dove
And old men with broken teeth stranded without love
Do I understand your question, man, is it hopeless and forlorn?
"Come in," she said, "I'll give you shelter from the storm."
In a little hilltop village, they gambled for my clothes
I bargained for salvation an' they gave me a lethal dose
I offered up my innocence and got repaid with scorn
"Come in," she said, "I'll give you shelter from the storm."
Well, I'm livin' in a foreign country but I'm bound to cross the line
Beauty walks a razor's edge, someday I'll make it mine
If I could only turn back the clock to when God and her were born
"Come in," she said, "I'll give you shelter from the storm"

Like many of Dylan's lyrics it reads as poetry and like the best poems it works on several levels at once - hinting at but ultimately not pinning down, meaning. Who is 'she'? His wife (he was going through a divorce when he wrote it)?; the archetypal feminine offering warmth and succour to the (wounded) male? The Virgin Mary? The Church? Nature? The goddess? The biblical references give the speaker mythic proportions; his suffering is reminiscent of Christ's, taking us beyond autobiography or contemporary narrative.
It is up to you, the reader, to decide - or you may decide to live with potency and inference. A poem is not a static object - it is an event, activated when read or recited; it is liminal, existing in the space between poet and reader or listener -

"But a poem is reciprocal, it insists
on adult relations, to exist
it pre-exists in you or not at all.

Severed from me you hold its future, make
it open up between us. You must take
a poem like a lover,

God give you guts to see it: When it works
poetry is an orgasm. The O.K. word
is resonance."
(Exerpt from a poem by Peter Fison)


Saturday, 1 February 2014

Blessing the Rushes on Brigit's Eve

Blessing the Rushes on Brigit's Eve

We ask for your blessing, Brigit,
on the Eve of your day,
Brigit the generous, Brigit the fair,
may your blessings be upon us.

We ask for your blessing on these rushes,
Brigit beloved.
On tip and root,
on stalk and stem,
on brown and green,
on one and many.

Moving rightways with the sun
may they weave and thread,
thread and weave,
all goodness, all prosperity
into this house, into our homes.
May these rushes weave all goodness
into our lives.

We ask for the blessing of the Three
on these our rushes,
we ask for the blessing of Brigit
on these our rushes.

The rushes picked for the last two of our Brigit's Eve festivals were rather thin, dry and mottled - a result of the lack of rain and icy conditions. This year, when we have had such a lot of rainfall they were a vibrant green, thick and juicy. Not easily picked though as the land, Cae Pwll or the Pond Field, was so waterlogged. I've been looking at the crosses I made last night and thinking how each are a microcosm of the world outside the hearth where we were gathered. They connect us with the land, with water and ice and soil and air, encapsulating not just this time of year, but also this particular time, its attributes and conditions. 

Last year I experimented with making a Bride doll out of the rushes left-over and kept her as the image of Brigit to use to welcome in and lie in her bed by the fire. She is very simple - just rushes folded and the top part tied off to make a head; a few rushes on either side tied off to make arms and the rest splayed out to suggest a robe - or perhaps the rays of the sun. I like her much better than the small ceramic doll I'd used before. This Brigit doll is elemental, suggesting a human form and yet at the same time a strange and alien being, bringing the power of another form of life co-existing with ours. I don't think there are enough suitable rushes left to make one this year but I shall try later.

I'm allowing myself to rest all day today after a few days of rushing (!) around and a late night. Our celebration this year flowed well as we feasted, made our crosses each in our own way - one quiet and concentrating, two talking in a desultory way, sharing insights, news... frustration with the cross-making process. I find it strange how every year I seem to have forgotten how to make them. This year it took me several attempts to get the three-armed cross right when usually if I have the first three rushes interlocked it flows fairly well. I persevered and it worked out in the end. Ah, perseverance, that's something to remember for the year ahead.

We also drank tea and then recited Ruth Bidgood's Hymn to St Ffraid for three voices which is such a lovely thing to do - weaving our three very different voices into a recounting of the story and attributes of Brigit. Bringing her and a celebration of her into our minds, bodies and the candle-lit room. We each shared some of our writing and offered thoughts and blessings for a seriously-ill friend. 

It was after midnight when I waved my guests off into the stormy night. Today I wake to the news that Aberystwyth did not suffer too badly from the wind and waves but there is more to come today and tomorrow. Outside my home, the wind is showing its power by making the trees dance a wild dance. Twice a sudden burst of bright, bright sunlight has exploded through my window before disappearing again, the grey clouds glowering darkly as if they had never parted to give me a glimpse of something so precious.