The Stone of Sacrifice

The stone is grey as any day but today we notice because today is the end of days —

Some great god of a machine from the lost-yet-Roaring Twenties laid it down long ago to Eisteddfod. It prostrates itself at the feet of faux-Celtic stone pillars;they cry in delusional unison:

Once we were Druids!

Now tourists lounge in their picnic-spread shade. Once we were all Druids. We sold ourselves for lumps of rock and summer trade. We exhume our dragon carcass of a castle shamelessly. We sell postcards which proclaim

COFIWCH DRYWERYN

famously. 

Ours is a town wandering aimlessly through the years. In the end we arrive nowhere. Under the ghost of the lemon-dawn centuries someone lost heaps high flowers on our stone of sacrifice. The wind of midday blows them away. Wild flowers tumble amongst the picnic debris and down into the sea where the bell still tolls for Cantre’r Gwalod. 

The sea blooms: the end of days always leads to the beginning of days.  
— HJ

 

=Untitled=

The crow opens its first eye. It cries in the darkness and the darkness answers back:

The birds are singing – they chirrup and cwrw, they warble silver streams to tumble through the fog of morning. Their wild babel is ringing the trees; they chime through the twilight like Sunday bells. With heavy boots the farmer tramples the chorus. He whistles his own tune: it is not tuneful.

He has come to meet the devil; his wife is still in bed. She snores loudly and rattles the pans and unsettles the pots.

He has come to make an offering. Ahead the devil stands in the field and beckons. The devil’s hand rests on a cow; it is the farmer’s last cow. She is pregnant.

This devil is black and he has red eyes like a story-book devil. He shakes the farmer’s hand to seal their deal. The farmer returns to his empty, silent home whilst the devil carries away the snoring soul of his wife. The farmer is promised the delivery of twin calves. One for money and one for meat.

It comes instead with one body and two heads.

 

The crow carries the night in its wings. It cracks from a frosted branch and flies into the dawn-lemon sun –

And the calf died, of course.

(in Ceredigion Museum there is a calve with two heads reserved for freakish sideshows and morbid curiosity. Its nose has been eaten by moths.)

— HJ

Memories of Necessity

I found something I wrote whilst happily slightly intoxicated, which is the natural state of someone returning to Drunk Wales*. I have not drafted this but am instead allowing you the full state of things: for your own amusement…..

 

The Aftermath of Being an Owl

The memory of wood carves my feet.

The air falls heavy with feathers and plant matter.

The people are silent. The noise is silent.

This is the space of the past.

Above our heads –

Above the door –

We dressed our entrance in ivy and willow. Chains fell from snaked ropes and empty masks, wild synthetic appliqué. It falls before my eyes like a veil. It heaves with the cliché.

Impossible people are falling from my head. Now our simple black room looks a mess. The leaves are trampled to nothing, danced to pieces, the floor is shattered to wood. Together we breathe the silence, transformed, and together we agree it feels as though nothing ever happened.

Gwydion has dissolved into the colours of holi and dance. His ancient words have vanished to music in memory. Math is to join the deer up on high Scottish hills filling our black whipped space with disparate rhythm. Everyone falls into another and fits neatly into a box rotting. I call this box memory. It is full of pomegranates. They fall on the piano keys and –

(I call this memory a lie. It took place in another universe, I lie, it can’t have happened here. Without my owl face I try to perch on my wooden tree trunk plinth and fall. Everything is broken and everything has passed to past –)

The note is dis-

Cord-

Ant.

I hand the pomegranates to Persephone, I crush them into her palm. This happened in the past.

Alone I am. I stand like a vase in the mirror, my face is painted, I have lost my owl’s feathers.

*Wales has been drunkening since the ‘80s, or perhaps even before. The towns are like livers failing to rejuvenate, falling into decay. We continue to sing along into the night and through to day, in the face of flooding and destruction and the money falling away.

– HJ

F/R/A/G/M/E/N/T

When I was little and before I knew what life was I lived in a farmhouse destroyed by the years.

We were ringed in by woodland woven with flowers –

Campions and bluebells rang loud red and lilac. Daffodils wept for vanity and snowdrops sang attention from the mosses. The ferns smelt unmentionable; their hard spines could rip the flesh of your palm –

Above, rogue buzzards cradled skies with their cries as the sun broke down into firs.

Here we lived against the years. The land lent us water: it ran down from the sheep fields and froze in winter. It ran down and through the worming soil to creep from our taps. We would eat squirrel pie and pigeon casserole. When it rained heavily our bins would drown with rats.

Before we lived against the years we lived in a rough and tumble grey-bricked damp-licked council estate. Here lived at least a thousand children like me: we would run in and out the houses and fight together until the sun bled away into the sea –

I have forgotten all their names.

In Craig y Bwch, my farmhouse rotting against the years, I had no one. I invented away my loneliness, hunting grasshoppers and crickets behind the house. Behind the house was an old gypsy caravan full of cuckoo clocks chiming the hour. I became a squirrel, polecat, vole, rat and hunted in the field. On my own I became a thousand friends. On my own I grew.

(and there the story ends — distractions)

– HJ

Azure Noise

Azure Noise was a movement in a silence, a separate coming-together of worlds, where each different transformation and voice ran like water alongside and into the others – Hope Doherty

A summer event in a puddle of quiet.

The Judith E. Wilson Drama Studio was dressed in rivers of fabric accentuated with streams of verse. Against the deep black every shade of blue shone through silence –

Rivers of fabric

Rivers of fabric

Our silence was constructed through noise. The noise was constructed on multiple levels mimicking the various levels of the stalls set up in the room. The poet Vahni Capildeo read from their collections Utter and Undraining Sea for the duration of the event; their soft voice permeating through the hours, unrelenting and continuous, like water. Previously recorded susurrations cascaded against one another’s sound in the background creating white noise out of Wordsworth, Angela Carter, David Jones and Dylan Thomas.

Hope is the thing without feathers

Hope is the thing without feathers

As an event Azure Noise is hard to review: its very nature was an absence of happening. A physical silence, perhaps. The poet Hope Doherty strung endless beads (in silence) whilst Jeremy Hardingham danced the water. He became a perpetual motion throughout the event, fashioned in blue and black, drowning and undrowning. Vahni threw a candle at him – he lit it and held it between his toes. He let its dripping wax drip into water and onto him. There was no sound.

Throughout the event Paige Smeaton transformed into a bird. As our four hours together came to a close she and Hope approached each other on the mat and embraced as the silence fell to nothing.

Silence and Feathers

Silence and Feathers

– HJ

Tales Taken from the Gut of the It

Only very recently I finished the first draft of an ongoing project of mine.

It features myself, perhaps overly caricaturised, and some friends of mine (disguised). It is a thing of masks, masking us, masking itself – a novel (?) written in short bursts of story. I find it hard to write at length; I need to trick myself.

If I ever did plan it out (and I only planned it out once it started to become ‘finished’ and fleshy) I planned it in boxes. I was the first box. Inside me was the IT (a grotesque bird with a universe in its gut) inside the IT was Old Town and underneath Old Town is The White. If there is a plot it grumbled away over the years, growing and decapitating itself, heaving and a-massing.

I used to publish on the internet (under a fake-name, you won’t find me, though I doubt you want to) which is probably where this started. The characters Tom, Nessa and – most importantly – Death grew there. Even more importantly so did The White. Writing ‘for others’ shook me up. I fell from long rambling pieces to being overly succinct in a bid for ‘online popularity’; what the impact of this is I’m not yet sure (undoubtedly negative).  In the end I stopped because I became scared of myself, people were sending me pictures of my characters, asking me for advice (I am in no position to give advice)… I took it all down and wrote for myself again, when I could. So that was a beginning, even if I did regret it.

Tales Taken from the Gut of the It features principle characters Hewyll and Lowry, Hannah and Penni. Their stories make up the two thematic halves (though really it’s more complicated than that: think 2/3 vs. 1/3 with some infections of the 1/3 in the 2/3) of the ‘book’, with Hewyll and Lowry taking centre stage first to be reflected by Hannah and Penni. Hannah is a younger, more self-assured version of Lowry. I see Lowry, shy and lacking in confidence, as an unfortunate consequence of Hannah growing up. Hewyll and Penni are more obvious parallels. Hewyll is based loosely on what I would like to be, in a way (I am not like him). Penni is an echo of a friend I once knew. ‘Bad things’ happen to Penni despite him being wholly good whilst Hewyll manages to side-step the after-effects of his misdemeanours… he is ultimately sinful. Their stories are similar, for this reason: Lowry is a housekeeper for Hewyll, Hannah becomes a carer for Penni. One story is fantastical and far-fetched but set in the plain bricks of Old Town. The other concerns ‘every-day-life-gone-wrong’ set in the guts of The White.

We mustn’t forget Dan de Wolf either. On the odd occasions I have taken this project to local writing workshops Dan de Wolf seems to come out on top. He is strangely likeable and because of this seems to have taken up more space then perhaps he should have, becoming part of everything.

Outside of the two halves are shorter, binding stories keeping everything together. They often concern ‘smaller’ characters and ‘smaller’ things. Sometimes, especially now I have to resign myself to drafting, I see this project as a great creature, breathing and squirming away. It is these smaller stories which do it. I accidentally created a world for myself in the gut of a bird. I don’t know what I want to do with it.

That is why I started this blog. There are smaller parts of this which I can release into the internet (I don’t particularly care whether or not they have readers). If it’s out of my head and out of my hands then that is a relief. Perhaps it is a creature I can tame. I think I’m hoping rather more that this will kill it. Dead. In the kindest way possible, I mean. I hope you don’t mind. (just letting you know)

=this sounds pretentious. It’s rubbish really=

By Howell Jones

Blodeuedd

Performed by Blodeuwedd at Maenads of Necessity:

They sang in the old time against the time:

‘I will swear a destiny on him; he shall have no wife of the present race.’ This race now past.

So Gwydion took Lleu to Math son of Mathonwy and Math with feet virgin-clad said:

‘Through our magic and enchantment we shall charm a wife from the flowers.’

They took the flowers of the oak, and the flowers of the broom, and the flowers of the meadowsweet. In the loneliness of dusk Gwydion chose the flowers and hung the trees. Illumination came from his left fingers: the oak grove glowed midnight. With shaking lips he kissed each petal, with cold hands he caressed each stem. Praying to the gods he crafted the flowers into life. He created a woman out of death. Her body was delicate, her soul was inanimate. She shone alone against the black oak boughs.

Gwydion beckoned her forward. Lleu slept with her at the wedding feast. The sun set and burnt the hue of the yew unafraid.

In the light of dawn she decayed into an owl’s scream and they named her the way they did then: Blodeuedd.

‘I cannot be killed by day. I cannot be killed by night. I cannot be killed indoors. I cannot be killed by sight. I cannot be killed riding. I cannot be killed walking. I cannot be killed clothed. I cannot be killed naked. I cannot be killed by any weapon lawfully made.’

‘I cannot be killed,’ said Lleu. ‘I am invincible,’ said he.

She smiled sweetly. She stole away his secrets into her chest.

Lleu fell at dusk and fell into dust. Lleu fell net-wrapped, cauldron-footed, goat-balanced and spear-struck.

He had not been killed by day or night. He had not been killed indoors or out. He had not been killed riding or walking. He had not been killed clothed or naked. The spear of Gronw Pebr was crafted in the hours of mass; the spear of Gronw Pebr hit Lleu.

Lleu fell at dusk and flew up an eagle.

Gwydion caught Blodeuedd in his hands; he pulled her to his lips. In a moment he broke her heart and tore her guts. He ripped them out and repackaged them. He caressed her breasts in a second. His fingers strayed over the nipple and it became flat with feathers. Her thighs her buttocks her hair were pulled down in his hands and thrown into the air. He consumed her body and spat it out and

In the light of dawn she decayed into an owl’s scream.

by Howell Jones

Posthumous Review: The Bacchae pt.1 and the Maenads of Necessity

Preparing for Sacrifice

Preparing for Sacrifice

Posthumous: that which is dead, decayed, consumed. Not a dictionary definition.

Posthumous review: reviewing an event that happened too long ago to be of use to anyone whilst shamelessly advertising events the second, prodigy of aforementioned deceased.

Inside Jesus Chapel

Inside Jesus Chapel

To begin:

On January 25th (2015) I travelled for The Bacchae pt.1 a paganistic winter sacrifice in Jesus College, Cambridge. Our offering commenced (if such a word is appropriate) with a reading of Simon Jarvis’  ‘Dionysius Crucified’ in the chapel. Christianising the Greek god, the reading was accompanied by the swinging of incense and chanting: theology is the queen of the sciences. This in itself was highly curious to me: the air smelt like burning, the experience was unnervingly lulling. The poem ran through and exhausted itself.

There was a noise. Goat-faced, Jeremy Hardingham pulled movement to the evening. Binding the poet Vahni Capildeo in virgin-white material, the sacrifice began with a screech. Accompanied by the beast constructed in an afternoon and known only as Mega-Snake we maenads snaked from the chapel and into the blackness of the college cloisters. Janani Ambikapathy chanted excerpts from Euripides Bacchae hidden by words. Glowing against the January night we followed the ritual led by dancing screams. We reached the altar: a single tree. Vahni-as-sacrifice was chained down as Dionysus prepared his axe. The sacrifice was trimmed and prepared, losing great swathes of material, crying ancient and redundant Greek. The axe came down. It shattered into a laptop, shattering against the silence of the audience. Unmasked, Dionysus asked the emptiness: ‘Why then delay (to do) what is inevitable?’

We peeled away leaving nothing behind us.    

'Dionysus Crucified'

‘Dionysus Crucified’

To continue:

I returned to Cambridge a second time, this time for Vahni Capildeo’s event The Maenads of Necessity, on the 13th of March (2015). This time we convened to usher (gently, gently) in the Springtime.

We spent a day dressing the English Faculty Drama Studio in ivy, pillars and snakes. Mega-Snake returned, scathed, from the Winter Bacchae to lounge lazily above the door and hinder all who tried to enter. Dino Mahoney bought us carrots. We hung them from the ceiling with masks.  We prepared the colours of Holi in the sink –

Mega-Snake lounges above the doorway

Mega-Snake lounges above the doorway

Brutal Dissection of a Memory

Jeremy Hardingham: new work

John Regan: new work

Shared Reading: Iain Crichton Smith, ‘Deer on the High Hills’

Alice Meyer: Shredding of ‘Deer on the High Hills’, recreation of a text with audience

Alice Meyer, Vahni Capildeo, Janani Ambikapathy, Jeremy Hardingham: Martin Carter, Poems of Shape and Motion

Jo Cobb: Short Film

Dino Mahoney: New Work

Shared Reading: T.S. Eliot, ‘Ash Wednesday’

Jalina Mhyana: New Work

Hope Doherty: as Persephone, and poetic whisperings/distractions

Fern Richards: as Hades

Mabinogion:

Vahni Capildeo: as Math

Jeremy Hardingham: as Gwydion

Paige Smeaton: as Blodeuedd

Carrots and Masks

Carrots and Masks

The evening began with Welsh. It fell into an ancient mayhem, crammed with words and whisperings and decapitations (of texts and of voices). Beneath our feet we trampled our ground to death. Jalina Mhyana wrote on leaves in black biro. Disco urchins were thrown against the wall. Blodeuedd pressed pomegranates into the hand of Persephone. Hades whipped the air black. I sat and I watched. I sat and I observed. Everything was rich and strange – Jo Cobb’s film tempted in the spring. Together we watched in silence. After that we continued in a hush (shush now, shush), reading in a maenadic relaxation.  Everything was words. Blodeuedd took to the oak whilst Gwydion and Math danced a strange dance beneath a white sheet. They cast a spell into flowers and into colour. Our spring began with music and Holi.

Persephone and Blodeuwedd

Persephone and Blodeuwedd

Resurrection:

AZURE NOISE – Potential date May 14th, reading at the English Faculty, Cambridge

The Bacchae pt. 2 – A Summer celebration in Murray Edwards College Gardens (Hopefully!), potential date June 12th.

Interesting Links pertaining to Maenads of Necessity:

http://jalina-mhyana.blogspot.co.uk/2015/03/maenad-of-little-voice.html

I am intending also to throw my Blodeuedd piece up on here in the Very Near Future

Also: a piece on memory linked to this.

I apologise profusely if I have neglected, by accident entirely, anyone who took part in these events.