I recently attended the launch event for WITCH a new selection of poems by Damian Walford Davies. The poems are arranged in a dramatic sequence in seven sections for seven sets of voices, each poem being arranged in seven couplets. The numerology was completed on the night of the launch by assembling a total of thirteen readers in the circular space of the Studio at Aberystwyth Arts Centre. In this darkened setting they presented a strikingly effective rendering of the whole sequence, set in Suffolk in the seventeenth century but intended to have resonances of the demonizing of individuals and populations in our own time.
Among the readers was the artist Clive Hicks-Jenkins (featured previously on this blog HERE) who designed the cover of the edition as a lino-cut which imaginatively combines a modern look with the aura of a seventeenth century woodcut. He and the other readers conjured an evocation of the 'making' of a witch out of an atmosphere of fear, superstition and paranoia. The lyric qualites of each poem were balanced against the dramatic development of the narrative sequence and the fate of the 'witch' Clemence Addy is sealed as the 'Discoverer' goes about his work:
Distract her -
prick the place. You'll find it
deadened if she's given suck.
Following her execution the sequence ends with the same poem from the priest with which it began:
We're in Domesday; …..
My garden borders the deadfold
where they murder down the lambs.
Life goes on. Persecution and suffering are incorporated into the fabric of society. Nothing has changed.