Nina Milton, author of the Shaman Mystery Series, welcomes book lovers to the Kitchen Table Writers.
If you are passionate about books and writing, this is the blog which will help you express your life. Kitchen Table Writers love it when their work is published, but it's the joy of books that really makes them tick…and makes them write.
Yesterday, I spent a time out of time. I was in the National Library of Wales, where some of the oldest manuscripts are kept safe.
This includes the Black Book of Carmarthen, One of the earliest surviving manuscripts written solely in the Welsh language, full of handwritten poetry and amazing little doodles in the margins. And, for me, even more wonderful, they also have the original, White Book of Rhydderch
which is the earliest compendium of prose texts in the Welsh language, written by monks at an abbey only an hour's drive from us here, Stratta Florida. The White Book includes the earliest version of the Mabinogi, a wonderful four-part myth that seems to me as old as Wales itself.
One of the things I like about the Mabninogi, is the feisty women portrayed between its pages. These stories, written down in the 14th Century but which are most likely centuries older, show that women were often ignored, slandered, wrongly punished and often abused by the more powerful sex, but even so they are portrayed with a power that is palpable.
I was able to hold facimilies of these books in my hand and read through them – clearly, I can't read old Welsh (can't properly speak modern Welsh, yet), but I got a buzz when I recognized words in the text that I'd read in my English language copy of The Mabinogion, which is wonderfully illustrated by Alan Lee.
It inspired me to write some poems about the women, using some archaic poetic forms.
Rhannon by Alan Lee
When did I know your pedigree was forged?
After battle, the great feast of victory,
Toasts of mead and plates of boar our gathering gorged
Your watchet eyes a valedictory,
Even the gold-tipped merlin-feathered crown
Hinted at departure, contradictory.
When did I first hatch my plan? My baffled frown
Took me to my cousin, Queen of Annwvyn
–You seem distracted, sweet, have you felt down?
Her pale cheeks warmed like apples in the sun
– He’s been distracted. Not for one full year
Has he touched me. But, darling coz, I swoon...
Her breath was sweet, her lips soft on my ear
–Last night was...rapture! Her smile told me all.
The veiled and hidden secret became clear.
My head buzzed with my singing birds whose call
Shoos time away. My heart fluttered like wings.
My thighs wet with desire. Him, I’ll enthral.
I straddled my white mare, encircling
The mound of wonders, miracles and harm.
In dreams he sat, saw this sweet fay appearing
And rose, pulled to me by my whispering charm.
Enchanted hoofs restrained his mortal reach,
His face the colour of a farrier’s arm.
My lady, will you rein in and have speech!
I would, sir, for your horse’s better health.
For we are well-matched, therefore must well meet
I choose a man for character, not wealth,
Star fortune and star cross as my birds sing,
Will more befall? Our fates emerge with stealth...