There are a number of notable humans who write quietly in response to their walks around the lanes, fields, hills and coombes of Glastonbury. Some share their writing via these newfangled platforms, or in self-published books, rarely in public performance.

There are a number of notable humans who write quietly in response to their walks around the lanes, fields, hills and coombes of Glastonbury. Some share their writing via these newfangled platforms, or in self-published books, rarely in public performance.

I like to think of these people as Bards of Glastonbury, though they would probably never accept such a lofty title, nor may they pledge any allegiance to any sort of collective, especially one that only exists in my head!

In the olden times, the bards, or at least the vague definition I have come to grasp, were poets and holders of the stories of their respective oral traditions. They were dedicated to the druidic path with nature and inspiration at the helm. They were trained poets, learning and creating epic poems recited from memory that inspired their communities and aided in the continuation of their oral tradition.

These days, the term bard has been diluted, it can refer to a writer or poet, travelling minstrel or folk musician, or a person who speaks well and to whom other listen. From a personal perspective, the humans I see walking around the lanes with their notebooks, observing and absorbing, and who I later see sharing poems and images inspired by these journeys, can quite rightly claim the title. (Image: Grandmother Lime’s first leaves of Spring).

Bards of nowadays may use social media, they may speak on behalf of the community and perform their poems at significant annual festivals, or they may quietly go about their business, writing for the joy of it, with another’s enjoyment of their work as an added bonus. They may not be in training for decades and able to recite epics, but perhaps that’s because their audience haven’t the time for epics, we need our wisdom mainlined in a three minute folk song or a thirty second soundbite, or three, three line poems, or an impactful image, straight from the heart.

 

John Bernard Eagan pops up randomly around the lanes. He writes daily and shares his short poems and prose on facebook. His pieces are intimate nuggets, like tiny shells prized open to reveal iridescent pearls. John pulls back the curtains, opens the window, and allows you to climb through into his perspective. Here is one of my favourites:

a natural prayer

between blackbird’s dawn
and the dusk song of a thrush
earth is graced with light unbound

between oak’s mantle
and the reaching branch of ash
earth is blessed with green and crowned

between well-spring’s rise
and the river’s run to sea
earth is sanctified profound

between the first breath
and all the air intaken
earth is pure and holy ground

johnegan. 18/2/21

 

Steve Leighton is a quietly spoken man to whom I was first introduced on an icy morning in Glastonbury. We both find enjoyment in the naming of trees and Tor sunsets. I was not aware that Steve was a writer and illustrator until he calmly placed a book in my hands and said, “I wrote a book”. Like many of the talented people I come across, Steve was not immediately forthcoming in sharing his creative abilities.

The View from Here, is a collection of short writings accompanied by pen and ink drawings, inspired by Steve’s time in nature. Steve enjoys writing about consciousness, the feeling of bliss and contentment, allowing oneself to be in nature.

Here are two of his fine pen and ink drawings depicting local ash trees in the landscape:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rosemary Smith is a regular tree walker and also recently revealed herself as a writer. Rosemary sent some of her haiku to be read on upcoming tree walks. They are beautiful, delicately piercing in their clarity.

The following haiku mention aspects of the Glastonbury Landscape, Chalice well, the Tor and Grandmother Lime. I particularly like the imagery of the moon rolling up the Tor.

Listen out for Rosemary’s haiku on the special edition virtual tree walk on 7th May at 7pm, via Home Stage.

 

 

 

Three Haiku of Avalon
Rosemary Smith

Robin splashes in
Cool waters of Chalice Well,
Iron red his breast.

* * * * * * *

Moon climbs up the Tor;
Ivory light tumbles down
Into the gleaming green.

* * * * * * *

Grandmother Lime holds
Feathers, ribbons, tufts of wool,
Creaky songs of love.

The bardic expression is not limited to words, Robin Luca Francis of Glastonbury Sketchbook, says just as much in colour as a poet does in rows of words. Robin creates vibrant depictions of the Tor and portraits of the locals and visitors. To me, his images don’t speak a thousand words, they speak some very specific words in high definition, his pieces are like a grand stage performance, painted on the page.

Image: Robin Luca Francis

Image: Robin Luca Francis

These are just some of the artists I have come to know and admire over the last few years, no doubt many more have passed by unnoticed. I have often said that the landscape of Glastonbury wants to collaborate creatively, and these “poets” all seem to have a loose hold on who exactly has written their pieces. As with my songs, I am not completely sure they are mine, they are created as much by the land as by our hands.

These are people, gentle of heart, towards whom my attention and affection has been drawn due to their focus upon the land, the hills, the plants and creatures, the movement or the stillness of the human in the landscape, and all that lies beneath. They express the importance of nature and the earth as the bedrock and this is something to which I can relate deeply. They have inspired me to step into what I am doing with a full and open heart, and they continue to inspire me creatively, and in my daily walks.

The relationships I have fostered around the lanes of Glastonbury, however distant and fleeting, have buoyed me through these times. Some say that artists are able to create their own stories, and these fantasies, to some extent, curb the insanity of the modern world. I would dare claim that the Bards of Glastonbury are creating their very own epic myth, numerous synchronised hero journeys all coinciding around the base of the Magic Mountain. Our collected stories creating a melting pot of inspiration, an interaction that provides community, camaraderie and for this artist, a wholehearted sense of belonging.

Hail all the Bards of Glastonbury.

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