from BARDO

The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.

Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made

is star-stuff too?

– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –

dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.

Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.

Roselle Angwin

Saturday 30 December 2017

winter poem: What-are-the-birds-doing-with-the-December-sky riff

Winter lounges, sodden and unused –
the sky is a washing-line of sorrows.

At night, the stream talks to itself;
becomes a dance floor for wintersong.


The wind does not care for my
predictions or predicaments;
            like everything,
it suspires, expires, rises again.


Day wakes, laden with blue.

I wonder how much words weigh,
and why the oak log splitting under the axe
shows sinews haphazard as memory;

and how it is that we can hold on
to nothing, even love.


All truths in the end are symbolic.

I am a metaphor for transience,
just as a bird is a metaphor for flight

– how a synchronisation of starlings
is an incarnation of wind,
maybe an act of God.


When the ash tree fell in the woods
its bunched keys hung like a roosting
flock of pipistrelles.

In my sleep, I said: leave
access points under the eaves
for swallows, bats, angelic hosts.

You heard me. Held me close.

© Roselle Angwin, Bardo 2011

Thursday 21 December 2017

so many words... winter solstice 2017

Usually at this time I post a solstice poem and/or blog. This time, though, I want to tell you a little of my own writing, as it's a bus-story: you know, nothing for ages and ages and then so many you don't know which to catch.

It's hard to post this and not feel boastful. But I also know that I spend so very much of my time catalysing and sometimes critiquing others' writing that my own creative projects are on hold sometimes for months or years at a time. (I also know that many of you are very supportive of my work; thank you.)

So first some news I'm thrilled to share with you. My newest collection, my poems from 18 years' worth of facilitating my writing retreats ISLANDS OF THE HEART on the amazing Isle of Iona, is due out very soon. End of this month, in fact; from Pindrop Press.

I was first taken to Iona in the 80s, by a friend who has since died tragically (some of the poems in this book are for him).

Having become used to hands-off editing on my publications (which means very little editing at all by A N Other), and also usually being the one offering editing suggestions to others, it was a shock and a delight to have the editor of Pindrop, Sharon Black, go through this over and over with her red pen. She saw things I couldn't see; and I saw things that I realised couldn't go without some of the poems losing their integrity. It was a gruelling and very inspiring experience, a great collaboration, and I'm so grateful to Sharon-the-midwife. What a treat, to be on the receiving end of such care.

I'd love you to order it. (You could offset all those Christmas calories with a hit of soul-nourishment.) Plus I think a good New Year's resolution would be to support struggling authors and poets. (It is SO hard to make a living in this way.)
And here's another bus: probably too late to tell you about it now, but one of my winter solstice poems is going to feature in a wave of DUSK poems, short stories and music being read/spoken/performed in a timeline at exact astronomical dusk tonight throughout the UK. Dusk on this the shortest day begins in the far northeast of Britain, in Shetland, at 16:53, and finishes in the far SW (Cornwall) at 18:21, taking between 40 and 50 minutes depending where you are.

These pieces are being live-streamed via the relevant Facebook pages of each location. My poem will be performed in N Devon, and then in Redruth at around 5.30-40 pm today (my piece comes later, probably at the end of the first half):

You may have read the poem that's being performed before on this blog:

Just now, in the full night of midwinter’s night
over the traffic and the sirens and the late shoppers,
down at the bottom of the hill in the car park
where the red dogwoods flame, a robin started up
her strong ribbon of song in the lee of the storm, and as I
drive up the hill, window open to let in the dark,
a second tunes in, and then on the brow another,
each singing its loud hymn to the night and the cloud
and the brimming tapers of stars between, and this,
this, must surely be grace, a moment’s inbreath, in our
onwards rush, on this northern side of this lost-in-space
spinning-back-towards-the-light planet, our home star.

© Roselle Angwin 2013


Two more things I want to tell you before seeing if I can catch enough broadband to surf the Dusk wave:

One is that, if you wish, you can read my final essay for my residency at Greenway, on the writer and the spirit of place, here. (I have to say that some of my environmental polemic has been edited out, so it's blander than it was.)

And finally – for the moment – I'm just finalising my programme of courses and workshops in 2018. I love sharing this work with those of you who come, sometimes regularly, and thanks to all of you if you've read this far.

The first date in 2018 is for my annual THRESHOLDS day workshop in Totnes, South Devon. If you're local enough, do join us! (NB much of the websites still needs updating.)

And I'm just through a year-long course I've been leading on the Grail myths, the lost feminine and our estrangement from the natural world; something I've been studying, writing about and offering as workshops since my Celtic degree course at Cambridge too many decades ago to name. I followed that in the early 90s with a training in archetypal psychology, investigating the depths of the Grail Quest in relation to our psyches.

The yearlong course was exciting and very intense, and I think we all learned a lot about ourselves, myself included. This next WELLKEEPERS will happen as a residential, and you can see an outline on the link.

May the longest night be kind to you, and may you remember that the sun is reborn tomorrow; no matter how dark the days we are turning back towards the light now. Here, there are already daffodils, hyacinths and snowdrops spiking through, and hazel catkins are decorating bare branches.

Tuesday 12 December 2017

the very last Proper Poem

... because even I can't maintain this spoof much longer.

It seems that E J Thripps, who's been most prolific and is rather pleased with himself, now being a published poet 'n' all, could continue for a while yet, but I need to turn my attention to improper poetry once again, lest I forget how to write it.

So here, from EJT (still aged 471/2,more or less), is a final offering:

Elegy on a Country Sofa

So, farewell then, proper poetry.
Rhyme and metre make meaning neater,
But gradually I forgot
The entire poetic plot.
These days romcoms seem much sweeter
And verses just do not
Touch that inner spot.

© E J Thripps 


Saturday 9 December 2017

David Whyte's 'Consolations'

I dip into this book of short essays from time to time. Each of them is a short but original and profound meditation on a particular word.

What Whyte does is take an everyday word, usually related to 'the human condition', for a walk.

The essay is a form I really like. I have just completed another of my own towards a book of essays I've been writing on our relationship to the other-than-human; this one was a requirement of my residency for the National Trust, and the book will be completed next year, I hope.

There are many essay writers I admire. John Berger is a big favourite, and there are many within the field of 'nature writing' and ecopsychology, my own passions.

Right now, I'm thinking of Whyte's 2015 book as it is going to make a good Christmas present for a family member.

Today – as you can see! – I'm having a break from the computer – so to whet your appetite and also be brief here are two small quotes from Consolations:

'Alone': 'To be alone for any length of time is to shed an outer skin. The body is inhabited in a different way when we are alone than when we are with others. Alone, we live in our bodies as a question rather than a statement.'

(Although I really like this, I think that final sentence would be as accurate and true if reversed, as well.)

'Friendship': 'The ultimate touchstone of friendship is not improvement, neither of the other nor of the self; the ultimate touchstone is witness, the privilege of having been seen by someone and the equal privilege of being granted the sight of the essence of another, to have walked with them and to have believed in them, and sometimes just to have accompanied them for however brief a span, on a journey impossible to accomplish alone.'

Which is a cue to say to you, my readers, how much I appreciate and am grateful to each of you for accompanying and witnessing me here. Whether you were already a friend when you first visited this blog, have become one since, whether I have met you in person or not, whether you are a frequent or occasional visitor, the fact that each of you gives attention is irreplaceable. Obviously, without you there would be no blog. Thank you.


CONSOLATIONS The solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words David Whyte (Many Rivers Press, 2015)

Tuesday 5 December 2017

Proper Poetry #7

Um. What can I say about this one? Nothing, I fear, except that E J Thripps (aged 47 and a half) gets quite exercised by the idea of PROPER POETRY, especially on a Tuesday.


Metre and rhyme
Should still be prime
In a theory of poetry
For our time.
With verse that is free
It's hard to see
What the coherent 
Point might be
While verse that is blank
Is just a –––
Severe disappointment.

E J Thripps

Monday 4 December 2017


and a windstorm of redwings and leaves
in the valley
the old oak holds on
high ginger head
setting light to this winter morning

Roselle Angwin

Friday 1 December 2017

the lost feminine, & duty & responsibility

On Wednesday I led the penultimate session of my 2017 WELLKEEPERS group in Cornwall. This has been such a rich experience – and tough, too, in many ways. It has meant being willing to trawl through the mud of our lives over and over, not knowing where the light is, not knowing where we're going; only knowing that the journey, the pilgrimage of it, is essential for any kind of wholeness.

What we're attempting to do, in brief, is to look at the ways in which we have 'lost', culturally, the feminine principle and the implications of that. 

Jung has described this aspect of our inner world as the soul or psyche, present in each of us, biologically of either (any) gender. In times of philosophical materialism with its emphasis on science, logic and reason, it's easy to lose sight of ways of being that are different from this but utterly crucial as a counterbalance.

This is the way to wholeness: recovering the lost aspects of ourselves so our lives and our societies can be governed by the principle of wisdom that draws together two currently-polarised principles; ones that I'm describing here in Jungian terms as masculine and feminine, reason and intuition, logos and mythos, head and heart. (I am of course over-simplifying and it isn't anything like as black and white as gender-based ideas of 'men' and 'women'.)

'The feminine' is, in this way of thinking, the aspect of ourselves that values among many other attributes relatedness and community, and in patriarchal times this feminine principle, and by literal extension women, tend/s historically to be persecuted, used, oppressed, and so on.

For me, there is a very direct connection between the values of a culture and an era and the outward manifestation of these in how we live; specifically, I feel an enormous sense of urgency, as many of us do, in revisioning the way we live in relation to the other-than-human.

The Grail legends and their sources have underpinned my life and my thinking since the early 70s when I read Anglo-Saxon, Norse & Celtic with mediaeval French as an undergraduate at Cambridge, and my understanding of their prescience and wisdom were deepened by my training in Transpersonal Psychology 10 years later, in which I focused once again on the psychology of the Grail corpus and its relevance to our lives. (Later still, though not much, I was commissioned to write a book on all this: Riding the Dragon – myth & the inner journey, Elements Books, 1994.)

In the course, we have been looking at recovering the feminine principle in our lives, exploring how a state of wholeness in an individual contributes, in no matter how small a way, to the healing of the collective, and very specifically for me how that in turn helps heal our desperate state of fragmentation between us and the rest of the natural world which we are destroying so swiftly, and what might change that. 

On this last session, I realised that we couldn't continue our discussions and writings without addressing the idea of empowerment.

By this I very much mean 'power to': power to choose the course of our lives, to be self-determining, to live by a set of personal values; power to believe that we can make the choices necessary to change what needs changing; power to contribute our sense of inner-directedness to a whole. What I don't mean is 'power over' which has been, arguably, the distortion of the masculine principle in our times (and yes of course there is a distortion of the feminine principle, too; both are dysfunctional).

Once opened up, this discussion could very easily have taken over the whole day, and proved to be a very fruitful session.

We looked specifically at the 'feminine' and 'masculine' principles in relation to 'power to', and explored what a truly-empowered woman looked like; and a truly-empowered man (I'm being gender-focused here for the sake of clarity in archetypal terms).

We are, this time, a closed group of women-only. So when we also started to look at the ways in which we, as women, no matter what our own sexual bias, gave our power away and are encouraged to by the deep-seated collective misogyny of our historical trajectory (and yes, there is misandry too, I'm not denying that, but it hasn't manifested in the same way as 'power over' another, or a society, or the rest of the natural world) we of course opened a Pandora's box.

And one way in which this has manifest in our times – this is where I'm going, but needed the context – is the sense of 'duty' as it plays out for women in the more negative of the Judaeo-Christian messages that still underpin our Western lives. Of course there's far more to say on this than I can even catch an eyelash of, and others have done it so much more justice.

All I want to say here, really, is that it might be truly helpful to differentiate between duty and responsibility.

This is a brief resumé, as I emailed it to one of the group who asked:

Firstly, Dr Jung said, famously, that increased rights bring increased responsibility. As adolescents, we don't recognise this: we want what we want and our desire drives us.

One of the hallmarks of a mature adult is an awareness, in whatever terms we couch it, that rights and responsibilities make a pair of choices that really are empowering.
'Duty: I see this as a set of expectations imposed from outside: parents, schools, religions, states’ expectations of how we should behave. I’m not saying we shouldn’t; but nonetheless some of those impositions are archaic and patriarchal. DUTY is full of SHOULDS, OUGHTS, GUILT and BLAME. We need to sift through those expectations carefully, thoughtfully, and with an eye to what we actually truly believe, deep down.

'Responsibility, on the other hand, is the response of a mature adult to having the rights of adulthood. Responsibility has an element of choice to it; it’s something that can arise from within us; something we can put our hearts into, as we can see clearly that it’s for the greater good.

'In relationship with others – any others – as I see it, we’re responsible TO them for our words and deeds in relation to them; but, given that we are not setting out to be aggressive and hurtful but are acting from an inner truth with kindness, then we are NOT responsible FOR their reactions to our words and deeds. 
'I think the caveat of our intention is key here.'

More on all this another time.

Meantime I'm musing on how best to deliver this course – The Wellkeepers – on into the future: whether as a face-to-face group or online, or both.

If you are interested, please let me know. You can contact me through my websites.

Also, the physical practical aspect of 'visiting and tending the wells' that brings the inner and outer work together is explored to some extent on my writing and walking week in West Cornwall: see more on The Land's Wild Magic here.

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