20 May 2011

Bawdy Bardism

Invited to be guest poet at the Bardic Finals at the Annual Gorsedd in Glastonbury, yesterday: (19th May 2011)

Gorsedd (ˈɡɔːsɛð)

— n
(in Wales) the bardic institution associated with the eisteddfod, esp a meeting of bards and druids held daily before the eisteddfod
[from Welsh, literally: throne]

I am not a member of this traditional path, but they are a peace and poetry and nature loving lot so I was honoured to be invited to attend. The event was held at Glastonbury's Assembly Rooms, a community owned building, with a history and reputation for hosting many things 'alternative'.

My set seemed to go down very well - but the highlight for me was watching and listening to the contenders for the position of 'Bard of Glastonbury' and gaping at some of my old friends who have changed so much (or so little) since I once lived in this town until about 18 years ago. How the years have shaped us all - some for the better, some for the worse. Are we really that old now?
Contenders each presented their performing and literary skills to varying degrees of ability, to cover the topic 'The Glastonbury Zodiac'. The alleged Zodiac refers to land formations in the landscape. Kali Roberts' clarity of verse and voice and Wes White's erudite wit offered recitals least cluttered by esoteric references and 'insider' perspectives, far more acessible to non-Bardic, non Glastonian audience members like myself.

Outgoing Bard Tony Atkinson, kept the event focused superbly throughout. The wider Bardic group(what is the collective term for Bards? A Grove?)also brought a sense of Bardism's deeper significances, amidst a properly glitter-edged, white-robed, floaty-dresses, silver-branch jangling pageant - and not without its wonderfully spontaneous bawdy moments. The drunken dancing on stage during one musician's set, was a refreshing antidote to an overdose of deities, dragons, ley-lines and such. The range and number of people in the audience was impressive - demonstrating the popularity of the Bardic Path and the community's respect for its poets, and for the competition. How would I describe it in a nutshell? Cosmic slam poetry in a peculiar hat.

Many thanks to Tony Atkinson for the invitation to be guest poet, and congrats to Kali Roberts, the new Bard of Glastonbury.

I pondered whether this event was typical of our ancient British heritage, or was just something completely...other. A unique synthesis perhaps, between heartfelt ceremony and bawdy revels, the respected Oral Tradition and post-modern Mummery, ancient rites and avant-garde interpretations of them.

Only Glastonbury could put on a night out like this. I recommend it as entertainment for next and for future years. And the cafe is Licenced to sell alcohol.