November 2011 – Performance and Lectures at Oxford
The presentation in Macclesfield of ‘Sir Gawain and the Green Knight’ in June was attended by Dr Mark Atherton (with his guitar) and also by his Oxford colleague Dr Francis Leneghan of St Peter’s College.
An invitation was extended to perform the ‘Gawain’ in the Chapel of St Peter’s; and I was also invited to give two lectures on the translation of Old and Middle English texts and on matters of rhythm. The lectures were at Regent’s Park College.
June 2011 – The Green Knight rides into Macclesfield
Dorli Nauta’s step-daughter the artist Jacki Clark drew us into the Macclesfield Barnaby Fair celebrations.
That spring I had penned up my translation of ‘Sir Gawain and the Green Knight’ for possible publication in facsimile in book form, with illustrations.
Macclesfield was also celebrating the 700th anniversary of its medieval Charter, and puppets of the Green Knight and his horse, designed by Jacki, were entered into the parade.
At the time, I was recording and editing both versions of the story in their entirety with Roger Boden at The Cottage in Macclesfield. I devised a telling of the story in about an hour and a half using my translation mixed with the original Middle English. This version of the story was given its first performance in the wonderful three-hundred-year-old Unitarian Chapel in Macclesfield. Mark Atherton provided incidental music.
June 2010 – The Oxford Connection: Performing and Lecturing
Dr Mark Atherton, who I met in Manchester in the 1990s and who now teaches at Regent’s Park College, invited me to perform ‘The Wanderer’ and ‘Sir Orfeo’ in my own translations and in the original Old and Middle English, and to speak on matters of rhythm to undergraduates.
May 2010 – Oxford Professorship of Poetry
April 2010 – Tatton Parliamentary Candidate
March 2010 – Poetry Man not Averse to Elections
March 2010 – Press Release
March 2010 – Professor of Poetry Oxford 2010
March 2010 – Oxford Professorship of Poetry Election – again.
July 2009 – The Walled Garden, Ledbury.
June 2009 – Poetry Wars
This was the last in a series of press releases relating to the Professorship of Poetry at Oxford 2009.
April 2009 – Professing Poetics
I duly presented myself to the University of Oxford on the 11th March 2009 in the splendid Danson Room of Trinity College with a performance of ‘Beowulf’s Boxer Shorts’.
The Garden-Craft white van was admitted to the Dolphin Yard and the gear for the show which included a branch of Cheshire holly for the Green Knight was wheeled through the magnificent Trinity College Estate (I was under surveillance at the lodge).
At the performance, I was supported by friends and ‘roadies’ Chris Tribble and Susan Maingay; I was introduced by Mr. Mark Atherton who had kindly taken me to lunch at Regent’s Park College (where the College tortoise was introduced back into the open air on the warm spring day.)
In the course of my lecture-cum-recitation I had strong words to say about the poetics of Mr. Stephen Fry and Mr. James Fenton; and I roundly criticised the translation of ‘Sir Gawain and the Green Knight’ of Mr. Simon Armitage and Mr. Bernard O’Donoghue.
I had given a short preview of the show to Ms. Sharon Cure, the Trinity College Librarian who graciously offered to sign my nomination form; and the show was attended by the College Conference Organiser Rosemary Strawson.
The Danson Room had probably never before housed a wheelbarrow. The holly branch was left in the room as a token of respect. I will be returning for a second performance on Thursday April 30th at 8.30 pm.
May 2008 – Baiting ‘The Boss’
April 2008 – Poets on Fire Blaze Away
6th March 2008
Recording of ‘Sir Gawain and the Green Knight’ and ‘Sir Orfeo’ was completed at The Cottage in Macclesfield. Both poems were performed in translation and the original Middle English. Each telling of ‘Sir Gawain and the Green Knight’ will be about three and a half hours when the editing is completed; ‘Sir Orfeo’ takes about forty minutes to tell.
It is forty years since these wonderful poems took root in me.
20th February 2008
A bundle of documents from October and November 2006, intended for placement on the website but mislaid, has reappeared.
One set is of correspondence with the Editor of The Times and with its ‘poetry columnist’ Frieda Hughes. These may be accessed here.
Another set is of letters to various politicians: Tessa Jowell MP, then Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport; my constituency MP George Osborne, the Shadow Chancellor; Hugo Swire MP, then shadow minister for the Arts; and Paul Holmes MP, then Liberal Democrat spokesman for the Arts. Mr. Osborne kindly replied. These letters may be accessed here.
Michael Gibson will complete his presentation of this wonderful 14th Century story of witchcraft, violence and seduction in the days of King Arthur, using his own translation and the original Middle English verse.
A resume of the first parts of the tale, told before Christmas, will be provided.
The show was in the Millenium Tapestry Room, and it was a full house. Pentangle biscuits were provided at the interval with other refreshments.The story was taken to the point at which Gawain would be tested by the Lady, while her husband was out hunting…..
Cheshire Poet Laureate 2008
In October Ms Nauta and I attended a presentation at County Hall, Chester, by the current Cheshire Poet Laureate, Jo Bell.
She informed prospective candidates and others what the post entailed.
At question time I asked of Ms. Bell and the County Literature Officer, Anne Sherman, how poetry was defined for the purpose of the Laureateship. I received no direct reply.
I subsequently applied for the Laureateship and named two referees as required. I had been told that interviews would take place early in December.
My application began thus:
I seek to become the next Cheshire Poet Laureate in order to, in the words of the original Constitution of The Poetry Society, ‘Advance Public education in the understanding and use of poetry.’
By ‘poetry’ I firstly mean all English poetry since the earliest written beginnings.
And by ‘poetry’ secondly I mean those literary works that have been and those that may in the future be written according to clear and objective craft principles.
(The whole application may be found here)
I subsequently received a letter from Ms.Sherman dated 8th November (see here) telling me that on this occasion I had failed.
I replied on the 9th December (see here) expressing my continued interest in the Laureateship and inviting Ms. Sherman to a performance at the Knutsford Heritage Centre on December 21st.
Watching his ps and qs?
On November 15th 2007 I will be performing in London for the Queens English Society at the kind invitation of Dr. Bernard Lamb. Dr. Lamb, an Imperial College geneticist, was recently in the news when he raised the matter of the poor standards of spelling displayed by his students.
The likely title will be Beowulf’s Boxer Shorts.
I will be sure to dot my every i and cross my every t, to avoid splitting my infinitives, and to spell the name of Dr. Lamb’s college correctly.
On the road to Middle-earth: The Exeter Book
In August 2007, with my agent Dorli Nauta, I visited Exeter Cathedral. By kind permission of the Librarians, Peter Thomas and Michael Howarth, we were able to view the Anglo-Saxon ‘Exeter Book’ which has been at the Cathedral since 1072.
The book is one of the principle sources of the Old English Poetry of which JRR Tolkien was a researcher and teacher.
The book, in its immense secure and protective case, had been turned to folio 76b on which begins the elegy called ‘The Wanderer’ that I have translated and recorded, after considering it for 20 years.
I was then accorded the great and moving privilege of being able to recite part of the poem from the manuscript itself. It was the end of a long journey – or perhaps just a stage along the way.