Category Archives: Bardic

Blackthorn Poetry

This poem came out of some recent divination undertaken on my behalf. I was told that what lay ahead would be blackthorn, and I got to thinking about what that might mean for me.

 

On the Blackthorn Path

 

I walk a blackthorn path

This is a hard way.

The longest, cruellest thorns

Keen to breed infection

When they cut your skin

Pierce your shoes, snag

Your clothes, scratch and wound.

I will bleed on this journey

It demands sacrifice.

You cannot pass through

Blackthorn hedge or spinny

Only take the path suggested

Go where it tells you.

If you would take control

If you would lay a blackthorn hedge

In the old way, it is the hardest

Wood to cut, or bend or tame.

What results is long enduring.

Walk the blackthorn path

Through the first frosts and harvest

Vibrant purple sloes, make magic

With alcohol – there are rewards

On this difficult adventure

Reasons to take so hard a way.

Survive a winter and in spring

The pale, sweet profusion, blackthorn blossom

Waits for those who will travel this far.

Heart torn, soul battered, hurting

I walk the blackthorn path.

I will turn my frost into sweetness

Find strength in my obstinacy,

Learn from the blackthorn

Make what good I can

Honour the unforgiving guardian

Until the very end of the bitter road

No matter what that means.

If you are walking this path

I may find you along the way

However hard the walking

It is easier faced together.

There lies richness in fruit and flowers

And the path with fewest thorns.


Fire in my head

The lack of fire in my head has been a problem for many years. I used to dream, plan and create from places of intense inspiration. I used to go there a lot. What happened to me is no great mystery – economic pressures, exhaustion, not being able to get anywhere much with my creative work, becoming demoralised and all that sort of thing. What I have kept going with to this point is largely discipline – that’s how I get this blog written. This is how I tackle Wherefore twice a week, how I’m writing Druidry and the Darkness.

I’ve spent most of my life writing. I have skills and experience and I know enough about putting words together that I can do a decent job without being on fire. A few weeks ago I was, for example, asked to write a poem about a gatehouse, for an event. It’s not a location I’ve ever visited, but, I know how to work, and it’s a decent piece.

I’ve missed the fire. I’ve missed writing from a state of passion and putting words down because I have to – for me, not for some economic goal or to do someone else a favour. I’ve missed being on fire. I’d got used to at best having the occasional tiny bursts that might make for a better than average poem. I’d got used to feeling like I am mostly ash and embers in the place where the energy of my inspiration used to burn brightly.

This year has been all about re-enchantment for me. I’ve been able to reclaim, and have been given back a great many lost parts of myself. It’s been intense and surprising, and there has been a single catalyst for all of this. None of it has taken the kind of shape I might have expected. It has been a strange, challenging time, and I’m certainly not through it yet. I’m in a process with massive implications for my sense of self, and that will, one way or another, very likely define much of my future.

This week, the overwhelming emotions of the last month or so coalesced into the need to write. It doesn’t matter if I write a whole book, or whether I fail. It doesn’t matter if anyone else much reads it (almost unheard of for me). It doesn’t matter if it’s any good (again, not a normal way to be feeling). It certainly doesn’t matter if it’s publishable (more usual). I have to write. I have to write this story. I have to sit down with it every day and put pen to paper. I haven’t written like this since I was a teenager.


Druidry and my love of darkness

One of my projects at the moment, is writing a book about Druidry and the darkness. People who support me at the Bards and Dreamers level over on Patreon  are getting monthly excerpts from the work in progress and will get the complete pdf when I’m done – in fact, anyone who supports me on Patreon will get the complete pdf if they want it. (https://www.patreon.com/NimueB)

I like giving my work away. I also like being able to eat and keeping a roof over my head, so Patreon helps with that. During lockdown, Patreon money has represented half of my dependable income. We’ve been getting by on very little.

Back to the darkness… one of the things this project has done, is got me thinking about where my relationship with the dark began, and what the key early influences were. This led to a rather surprising discovery.

As a child, I was obsessed with the musical version of The Phantom of the Opera. Revisiting some of the material from that, it struck me how much The Music of the Night had influenced my sense of what darkness is, and means. It was a song I sang enthusiastically as a young human, probably with more joy than skill. These days it is right at the limits of what I can get my voice to do. I’m not a trained singer.

For various reasons, I ended up doing a paint and cosplay wallow in the darkness with this song, recently. Younger me used to do a lot more dressing up and it was part of how I used to navigate my gender identity, such as it was. I may get back into that. I definitely need to invest more time in play, mucking about and things that aren’t entirely orientated towards making a living. It’s often a thing for creativity – that you need it to pay to justify doing it, but it is the time invested in the not economically focused things that actually make the creativity possible, and therein lies all kinds of challenge!


Stories about life

We’re all story tellers. We are all inclined to look for sense and meaning in our experiences and we tend to weave these into stories about who we are and what our lives mean. However, the kind of stories we tell ourselves come from our experiences and beliefs and will influence our lives without necessarily being true. One of the things that privilege means is having the confidence, self esteem and sense of entitlement to tell yourself uplifting and encouraging stories, with all the positive benefits that can bring.

I’m good at constructing stories out of tiny fragments of information, and I have a good track record for being right – at least when it comes to making sense of other people. Mostly I tell myself stories about how it is all going to go wrong. This isn’t irrational, and for much of my life, trying to see where the next blow might be coming from has been a useful life skill. It’s not one I think I can afford to do without. But I do need to imagine better things.

So, this is a story about how it came out well in the end. You couldn’t really see it at the time of course because when things are hard and scary, it is difficult to imagine a good ending. But, the hard and scary part was like the middle of a book, and you know how evil authors can be. In the end, things resolved. In the end, you found a way through and life went on and there were good days and you laughed and smiled and it was ok. You looked back and saw how the awful patch fitted into a bigger narrative. You could not have got to the good stuff without going through the hard stuff first, but it was a journey, that hard stuff, not your destination.

Often, the defining feature of a story is where we choose to stop. Take a story far enough and everyone dies. That might be a good ending, because a life well lived and a good death should be things to celebrate. Stop a story at the point when it all goes wrong, and that’s the story you have, even if things later change.

I can tell myself better stories. I can tell myself stories that include the way I make the best of things and how resilient I am. I can tell stories of endurance and the long haul, of not giving up, of second chances and things that worked out well. I can remind myself of the stories where things worked out badly despite my best efforts but how even so, I regret none of my choices. I can tell myself the stories about the things it took a long time to put right, but which came right in the end. Looking back, a great many really important things in my life have, eventually worked out the way I needed them to. Things that seemed like story-ending devastating setbacks at the time have, without exception, turned out not to be. They were not the end-points of the stories, they were challenges along the way.

Things are hard for me right now. I am disorientated, I don’t really know who I am, I’ve been through some life and self-changing stuff and I don’t currently know what it means or what to do next or where I am going. This is not how stories end. Something will change, because something always does. There will be a breakthrough, or a new direction will emerge, or something will sort out. Life continues, and I need to tell better stories about that process.


For You – a poem

For You

 

Let me tell you a story about

How good you were, even when it seemed

Your were failing and flailing and could not

See what you put into the world,

How precious and vital you are, how glad

Was I for the fact of your existence

Your beautiful, unique presence

Your glorious, irreplaceable self.

Even when you were wrong

You were so utterly worthy of love.

It was never about what you

Could do for me, never use or utility,

Only the sweet delight of your being

The joy of your perspective, your insight

The way you see the world.

And even on your down days, your dowdy days

I found you remarkable and enchanting

Watched out for you with joy

Felt your friendship as a rich blessing

In my life.

When you were ill, tired, lacklustre

I worried for you, wished to do more

That could ease your load, comfort you.

When you raged, I felt your anger

And wanted to punch through walls to fight

Whatever threatened or horrified you most.

Even though I’m no warrior, no saviour.

When I was lost, you showed me paths.

When my heart broke, you held the pieces

Kept me together when I fell apart

You shared your food with me, your tears

Stories, hopes, fears and passions.

You shared what wisdom life had taught you

Reached out hands to welcome me

Opened your heart, your life, your soul.

You were more amazing than you ever knew

Your generosity humbled me and made me bold

A smile from you enough to transform

A grim day into a hopeful one.

You are a star in my sky

And my sky is bright with starlight.


The world of Wherefore

Wherefore is a fictional series I’ve been doing over on youtube, aided and abetted by Bob Fry, and others. Mostly Bob though.

Wherefore is set in the Stroud Five (or possibly six) Valleys, and is silly, supernatural and has helped me stay sane during lockdown. As of now, we are gently extending the project by including photos of the setting. These are photos taken by Bob Fry, who has a rare talent for atmosphere to say the least and has somehow managed to make Bank Gardens look the way I write it rather than the way it usually is!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can find Wherefore series 1 here – https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLd-6bmI3UuPDjEp1YqIYY6GkVTmG-1qux 

 

And series 2 is underway here – https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLd-6bmI3UuPAxwnLOB4MzVJwba0wavMYG


How to Unpeel a Monster

I’ve finally got How to Unpeel a Monster up as a print version in case anyone wants a hard copy.

I gave away a fair few ecopies of this poetry collection earlier in the year. It is available for kindle should you prefer to buy it, but I’m always happy to send out free ebooks. Leave a comment if you want one of those, and I’ll pick up your email address from there.

Amazon.co.uk – https://www.amazon.co.uk/How-Unpeel-Monster-Nimue-Brown/dp/B08DBZDDBL

Amazon.com – https://www.amazon.com/How-Unpeel-Monster-Nimue-Brown-ebook/dp/B08D6RX7Z7


Making time for inspiration

I’m good at requests. I’m good at pulling a thousand words out of the air at no notice for people who need a thing. There’s nothing like someone else requiring something specific from me to get my brain moving. But, the rest of the time, the question of where and how to find inspiration can be a serious one.

Currently I’m trying to put blogs here every day, and other places a few times a week. I’ve got 5 Twitter feeds I look after that need content, several Facebook pages. I’m poised to get series 2 of Wherefore going. I’ve got other things I’m working on that require me to feel inspired in specific ways. At some point I need to write the next Quiet Revolution column for Pagan Dawn… some of these things are paying gigs, and some are not.

Sometimes when I sit down of a morning, I know what to write about. Sometimes I have to just hope it turns up, today I am cheating by writing about writing. Most days I start by asking what do I know that I did not know before? What have I learned that someone else might find useful?

Inspiration isn’t finite, it’s not something I am sure to run out of. But at the same time, it isn’t infinite either. It’s affected by my mental health, and my ability to concentrate. Whether I’ve had enough sleep and how much pain I am in impact on both of these things. There is only so long I can go without feeding my brain before that starts to take a toll. I need good food, exercise and fresh air, rest time and time to daydream. If I don’t nourish my creativity in these ways, there are days when I don’t come up with much. Today feels like one of those, but I am going to take some time off and try to re-boot.

I am not a machine. But, like many self employed and creative people, I have to crank the work out at a certain pace to have any hope of making things work. Most creative folk don’t earn a great deal, and the less you earn per hour of working the harder it gets to justify the time to feed the brain, chew over ideas and seek inspiration – yet these are essential to remaining creative and not just churning out pretty much the same thing over and over again. If you are working other jobs and being creative in your spare time, it can be really hard to find the energy.

If you like what I do, and would like to help me keep doing it, I have a patreon account. https://www.patreon.com/NimueB It’s rather wonderful in that the more people sign up to any given level, the better paid I am for putting content there. When you only earn a few pounds an hour, time off is difficult to manage. A well paid few hours in a month helps make room for all those other things that are essential to the process but do not lead directly to getting paid.

 


Landscape poetry

Marginal

 

Life is richest

At the margins.

Wood edge, field side

Light and shade.

Butterfly places

Flower haven

Alive with bees.

I eat wild herbs

Underripe blackberries

Spot small birds

Too fast for naming.

Happiest at the edges

Where wild lives

Cling to the unwanted

Land at the boundary.

Untamed, uncut, unfarmed

But not unloved.


Collaboration and adventure

There probably are ways of collaborating that aren’t inherently vulnerable, but I’ve never looked for them. Working with someone else creatively always calls for a certain amount of letting go. It means accepting that you aren’t in control of the whole vision. It is of course possible to have people working together and one of them be in charge and control the overall shape, but that’s more like getting other people to help you realise a vision. It’s not the same as true collaboration, where everyone’s vision is equally important.

Collaboration requires compromise. It means accepting that your ideas are going to change and evolve. People who want to control the whole thing, and people who want to stay in control of their own bit, seldom make good collaborators. This works best when there’s a fearless leap into the dark and a willingness to embrace the unexpected.

It’s an interesting counterpoint to business-as-usual. Our culture encourages us to stick to our guns and hold our positions, as though life and creativity are military operations we can win or lose. So often, changing is framed as weakness and lack of commitment, but for creative collaboration, it is the magical essence at the heart of the process.

Letting go is liberating. Not having to dominate, or win, or direct is a really freeing experience. Being allowed to change, is wonderful. Being able to give up on things because you’ve seen something better, is glorious. And yet, in normal life we are not often encouraged to do these things.

Don’t fight your corner. Don’t hold your position. It’s much more fun to surrender to the process, get swept away by other people’s ideas sometimes, and be open to the unknown. Life is so much more of an adventure when you do not have to be right, or in charge or in any kind of control of what’s happening.