Unravel

The Notion of Love

I want to know
what midday confessions
you won’t whisper through
phone lines, but might confide
to the curve of my neck. Just
like the time when you unraveled
Orion on my back and the universe
fit in our bed, when we came undone
and allowed ourselves to be loved.

*Midday confessions
For #mayfalls18 hosted by @breath_words_ and @a_sea_of_words_

*Beloved
(Though I used it as be loved, sorry✌️)
For #cherryisamaybaby hosted by @__got2haveit

*Unravel
For © Our Poetry Journey Contest
#OurPoetryJourneyMay18

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Abundance

The Notion of Love

Like a dance, we will barter
the role of predator and prey,
trading surrender in abundance
like gold under our tongues, as if
it has been a year of drought in
our mouths. Make room for tongues
and teeth, whispers and kisses, the
sighs and sounds we make are the
kind that poets write ciphers about,
the art of worship and war cries.

*For Our Poetry Journey Contest
#OurPoetryJourneyMay18

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The Theft of the Cauldron

From Peneverdant

In the second verse of ‘The Spoils of Annwn’ the cauldron of the Head of Annwn is stolen in one swift move:

‘Lleog’s flashing sword was thrust into it,
and it was left behind in Lleminog’s hand.

These lines have been interpreted in many different ways. Cledyf means ‘sword’ and lluch ‘flashing’. Lleawc (‘Lleog’) has been taken to mean ‘destroyer’ or ‘death-dealer’.

Lluch Lleawc has been identified with Llen(n)l(l)eawc Wyddel ‘Llenlleog the Irishman’ from Culhwch and Olwen. There is a strong case for this because parallels exist between Lleog’s role in the theft of the Head of Annwn’s cauldron and Llenlleog’s in stealing the cauldron of Diwrnarch Wyddel.

In Culhwch and Olwen, Arthur and his men must attain Diwrnarch’s cauldron to boil food for the guests at Culhwch’s wedding feast. (In an earlier post I mentioned that the cauldrons of Diwrnarch and the Head of Annwn share the…

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The One Who Didn’t Go To The Meadows of Defwy

From Peneverdant

In the fifth verse of ‘The Spoils of Annwn’ Taliesin berates ‘pathetic men’ (monks) who do not know ‘who made the one who didn’t go to the Meadows of Defwy’. I have been perplexed for several months by these lines, which pose the questions: Where and what are these mysterious meadows? Who didn’t go? What is the significance of not going? Who is his/her maker?

The Meadows of Defwy

Both my research and spirit-journeys suggest the Meadows of Defwy are in Annwn, ‘the Deep’, the Brythonic Otherworld. ‘The Spoils of Annwn’ depicts Arthur’s raid on seven otherworldly fortresses and his plundering of its treasures. Arthur’s adversaries are Pen Annwn, ‘the Head of the Otherworld’, and his people.

In the fifth verse, the Meadows of Defwy are connected with the Brindled Ox and Caer Vandwy, ‘the Fortress of God’s Peak’. In ‘The Conversation of Gwyn ap Nudd and Gwyddno Garanhir’, Gwyn…

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Caer Vedwit: The Fortress of the Mead-Feast and its Revolutions

From Peneverdant

The second sea fortress raided by Arthur, Taliesin and ‘three full loads’ of Prydwen in ‘The Spoils of Annwn’ is Caer Vedwit ‘The Mead-Feast Fort’.

Opening the second verse Taliesin says:

‘I’m splendid of fame – song was heard
in the four quarters of the fort, revolving (to face) the four directions.’

Kaer pedryuan, ‘four quarters of the fort’ has also been translated as ‘Four-Cornered Fort’, ‘Four-Pinnacled Fort’, ‘Four-Peaked Fort and ‘Four-Turreted Fort’. The latter suggests it bears relationship with Caer Siddi: ‘around its turrets are the wellsprings of the sea’.

The image of a four-quartered, revolving fortress filled with song is fascinating and compelling. So far I have not come across the name Caer Vedwit or revolving fortresses in any other medieval Welsh literature. However fortresses that disappear, recede, or can only be entered under special conditions feature in numerous stories.

A close parallel with Caer Vedwit is…

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Caer Vandwy and the Theft of the Brindled Ox

From Peneverdant

A plain of blood where men once stood.
The lights have gone out in Caer Vandwy.
The clashing sea rolls over shield and spear.
The living dead. The dead dead again.

***

The sixth fortress in ‘The Spoils of Annwn’ is Caer Vandwy. This has been translated as ‘Fortress of God’s Peak’ and ‘Fort of the High God’. Marged Haycock uses ‘Mand(d)wy Fort’ but does not explain her re-rendering. It could relate to Manawydan (‘Manawyd’ in ‘Arthur and the Porter’). The connection of a sea-god with an island location seems credible.

In the verse relating to Caer Vandwy, Taliesin again berates ‘pathetic men’ (monks) for their lack of insight into certain mysteries he is knowledgeable about:

‘I don’t deserve to be stuck with pathetic men trailing their shields,
who don’t know who’s created on what day,
when at mid-day God was born,
(nor) who made the one who didn’t go…

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The Defwy – A Brythonic River of the Dead

From Peneverdant

In the sixth verse of ‘The Spoils of Annwn’ Taliesin berates ‘pathetic men’ (monks) for their lack of knowledge of the answers to riddles which in his day must have been well known. He says they do not know ‘who made the one who didn’t go to the meadows of Defwy’.

The meadows of Defwy are clearly in Annwn. Marged Haycock notes it has been suggested Defwy is a river-name from def-/dyf- ‘black’ ‘as in Dyfi’ and may be ‘a river between this world and the next’. Taliesin also sings of this river in a list of fine things in ‘The Spoils of Taliesin’: ‘Fine it is on the banks of the Dyfwy / when the waters flow’.

Rivers dividing Thisworld and the Otherworld, the realms of the living and the dead, are found in many world cultures. In Greek mythology the Styx ‘Hatred’ divides Thisworld and Hades, the dead…

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Blood in the Depths

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evil mermaids From the 2011 film “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides”

In later years, it was largely believed that Fair Isle, a tiny spit of an island between Sumburgh Head and Mainland, Shetland, which would eventually be claimed by Scotland, was originally settled by Bronze Age traders.

The real story was first withheld and then lost to history. Truth be told, Nordic raiders used Fair Isle as a hiding place for their plunder. By the ninth century, the Isle would become a legitimate Norse settlement, but hundreds of years earlier, it was the site of treasure, home of marauders, and a monument to a fearsome curse.

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The Perfect Self Portrait

Fictionspawn

A brush making a line. Aak fictionspawn

He took a long look in the mirror, got the next stroke on. It was perfect. Slowly the self portrait was taking form. It looked more alive than anything he’d ever painted before, anything he’d ever seen. Every new stroke made it better, every next step made it more real.

He studied every little detail in the mirror, every little colour, every last wrinkle, every shadow. It looked real. More than real. More real than reality itself.

It was all done. Just a little bit more on the eyes, the most important part. They came alive, like if they had a mind of their own. Like if the man staring out on him from the canvas was the real him.

He realised he could not move. He could see the man in the painting, himself, paint the last little detail on his canvas. Then he moved away from the canvas…

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Book Review: The Ruby

Titania-1897-Frederick-Howard-Michael

Painting by Frederick Howard Michael, Titania, 1897

”The Ruby” is a short story from the collection El Azul written by the Nicaraguan poet and writer Rubén Darío. An exquisite sample of Hispanic Modernism, ”The Ruby” narrates the story of how the titular gemstone was first birthed into the world.

The gnomes, labourers deep within the entrails of the earth to extract precious stones, find themselves in great turmoil when their leader, Puck, announces that a Parisian alchemist has constructed, through the means of sympathetic magic, a false ruby. Having travelled to Paris himself, Puck has snatched such a false stone from the golden chocker of a sleeping woman and has brought it as proof back to his fellow gromes who imprecate the alchemist as a blasphemous impostor.

Then, he proceeds to narrate the true tale regarding the events that led to the natural creation of the ruby. One day, the gnomes were in strike and they crawled out of the dark belly of the earth and into the sunlight. Puck came across a river into which a few stunning, mortal women were bathing. One of them catching his fancy,  he grabbed her by force and took her to live with him back into the subterranean cave.

Puck adored the woman, toiling night and day to pluck out the gemstones so as to scatter them all around his bed where the woman passed her days in languid nakedness. The woman, though, didn’t reciprocate his feelings because she had promised her heart to another and they had found a unique way of communicating with each other. From the depths of the dark cave, she sent her sighs to her lover and they, penetrating through the crust of the earth, reached him. In return, her lover had taken to kissing the roses of a garden and every time he scattered his kisses, the woman moved her lips as if receiving them.

One day, Puck, having sweated to pull out a passel of diamonds, threw away his hammer recklessly, a gesture which smashed the diamonds into tiny pieces, and went to sleep. He woke up because of the pained sounds the woman made. The hammer having created a hole in the cave’s wall, the woman saw this as a chance to escape and unite with her lover. But in her haste, she didn’t pay attention to the diamond-littered ground, stepped on it and fell, cutting her feet and the rest of her body. From her flowing blood, the diamonds turned red, the woman ending up lifeless.

And that’s how the rubies came into the world.

Having heard the tale, the gnomes crush the false ruby and start dancing with joviality, surrounded by the glimmering beauty and light of the precious stones wedged into the cave’s walls.

In the end, Puck sings out a hymn to the Woman, his last phrase, ”¡Y tu, Mujer, eres – espiritu y carne – toda Amor! (And you, Woman, are – spirit and flesh – all Love!).

Upon the first reading, ”The Ruby” comes across as a typical child of the Hispanic Modernist movement: magnificent descriptions, evocation of the senses, references to mythological beings, tones of fantastic elements and a love story swimming in a sea of nostalgia and romanticism.

In fact, the lush descriptions and the beauty of the prose stand out to such a degree that an unsuspected reader unfamiliar with the movement might come to view this as nothing more than an enjoyable yarn that excites and awakens the imagination.

But ”The Ruby” is much more than a pretty fruit of an overactive mind. Rubén Darío had something meaningful and important to get across and he found a very clever and moving way of delivering his message.

”The Ruby”, through the embedded love story, takes the form of an allegory. Puck compares and contrasts most vividly the birth of the false and the true ruby. The false is created effortlessly, with cheap materials and quickly. On the other hand, the real one requires suffering, blood, disregard of danger and genuine passion.

In a nutshell, Darío concludes that imitation lacks lustre and substance while originality is full of life, an honest baring of the soul. In the battle between hocus pocus and love, the latter is crowned victor.

But Rubén Darío is not merely interested in the general idea of imitation and originality. One of the most significant themes of Hispanic Modernism is that of art itself. The Nicaraguan artist takes a definitive stance and declares that real art disdains pale tricks. Instead, it demands effort and pain and fervency and unquenchable longing.

True literature is a fruit of blood, passion and love. For, after all, as Puck remarks, ”Cuando el hombre ama de veras, su pasión lo penetra todo y es capaz de traspasar la tierra (When man truly loves, his passion penetrates everything and is capable of piercing through the earth).