Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Tea and performance in The Cafe

On Sunday 6th April, the Cafe in Topsham kindly hosted a get-together for friends and customers as an official opening event for the new book annexe of The Cafe. Along with tea and cake, by fortunate circumstance we were able to have as guests the American poet Jay Leeming and the British storyteller Martin Shaw. Jay Leeming read from his anthology Dynamite on A China Plate (examples here), and Martin Shaw told one of the many versions of the story from Celtic mythology, Fionn Mac Cumhail And The Old Man's House.

I didn't know the speakers' background at the time, but Googling, I find that both have literary and philosophical connections with the eminent poet Robert Bly (both, for instance, attended Bly's 2007 Minnesota Men's Conference). Bly is, rightly or wrongly, probably best known outside the poetry field as the author of the controversial 1990 bestseller Iron John: A Book About Men. This essentially sought to rediscover, via mythology, archteypal truths about the nature of the male role (for instance, the importance of initiation ritual) whose lack, Bly argued, was behind a cultural malaise among American men. Iron John, rooted around Bly's analysis of the Brothers Grimm fairy tale Iron Hans, was a leading inspiration behind the Mythopoetic men's movement. In this light, the connection becomes clear with Martin Shaw's work, which focuses on applying mythological insights about initiatory ritual and rites of passage to skills such as leadership.

- Ray

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