Nia Davies on Ritual, Poetry Wales Editorial Summer 2018

Ritual, Poetry Wales 54.1

Welcome to a special issue of PoetryWales dedicated to ritual. Ritual marks out this space, that is the page, and a time, that is Summer 2018, as special. Ritual is a performance, a heightened presence, an intention. I invite you to step into this liminal place with us.

But before the ritual we prepare ourselves. We feel the bones in our body which is about to plunge into a river. Or we feel ourselves geared up to read, minds cleared, ready to be filled with language. We ready ourselves to accept the coming chaos. Then for a defined period of time normal rules are upended. Poetry happens. Perhaps we utter names, a mantra or a poem, over and over again until magical something shifts. Perhaps we don masks. Maybe a dance is made or a song sung. Perhaps something is ripped apart in order to be remade. Or we could be joined in union to a person we love. Maybe we whisper words to ghosts, bid the dead goodbye. Perhaps we call attention to the living needs of the world around us and make a live action, a political intervention.

By the time we emerge from a ritual, we have become aware of our bodies and the space we occupy in an altered way. Then we return to ‘normal’ life somehow changed. Perhaps a small transformation has occurred.The ritual may be repeated and repeated. My current research as a poet is on ritual and poetry (part of my doctorate degree in creative writing at the University of Salford). I am exploring how we charge a space, time, objects, bodies and words in the heightened experience of a performance ritual.

And so for this issue of Poetry Wales I have gathered a collection of reflections on this topic. Firstly I include the poems of C.A. Conrad who has been making (soma)tic poetry rituals for some time and here shares with us a selection from a new series. Each ritual contains ingredients for action against the extinctions of bird species in the US. Similarly Elizabeth-Jane Burnett’s swims are also environmental activisms, a calling attention to the present, a care-taking of our water ways by way of an embodied transformation. Nisha Ramayya’s tantric poetics forge a relational practice of resistance, listening and loving. Lyndon Davies describes the Ghost Jam, a game of multiple rituals with multiple players where anything can happen in the space of any time in sound, poetry, movement or action. For a moment humans can walk through walls.

And the cover of the issue comes from Rhys Trimble’s charged objects, totems to his performative poetics. It is with Trimble that I recently made ‘Cynhebrwng Aer’ an air burial for poetic texts in yr Caban, outside Pontio, Bangor, at the Poetry in Expanded Translation conference in April 2018. On the day of this issue’s release (July the 1st) we will repeat this ritual at Ledbury Poetry Festival where you can also hear performance from Trimble, Burnett and Ramayya.

Ritual seeks to change something, often by calling attention to the materiality of a thing – perhaps the textures or smells of the land, or water we are swimming in, our bodies and those we share the space with, the sound of the language in our mouths, the brushing of our hands with the hands of others. It is also something we repeat over and over again until something indelible is etched in us and somehow changes us, like the repetition of a line of song enters into our bodies and can be reproduced at any time. Ritual is a live ephemeral event. But it leaves a trace, perhaps in the form of a poem or simple marks on the ground.

This issue also includes a reflection on PW 1968 from Ben Gwalchmai as well as
poems and reviews, some by the Ledbury Critics.We are happy to be collaborating with Ledbury Poetry Festival in multiple ways this year. There will be more to come. We hope!

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