Hummadruz brings together Hilary Llewellyn-Williams’s first two collections, the long-absent The Tree Calendar (1987) and Book of Shadows (1990). The former includes her reputation-making title sequence of poems reflecting on the Celtic calendar, in which each month is represented by a tree.
Book of Shadows includes a group of poems inspired by Giordano Bruno, Renaissance philosopher, monk, magician and poet, who was burned at the stake for heresy. These two sequences lie at the heart of Llewellyn-Williams’s poetry, standing as it does at the interface of nature, mythology, contemporary science and mysticism.
Beautiful lyrical poetry with a touch of magical strangeness
This is a republication of this poet's first two collections in one volume - by popular demand. These are richly sensual poems celebrating the natural world and the magic at the heart of life. The first section, 'The Tree Calendar', includes a sequence of 13 poems inspired by an ancient Celtic 13-month calendar in which each month is named after a tree. The sequence celebrates not just these trees but the changing seasons in rural Wales in a particular year, with people and places, and folklore and magic woven in. The rest of the poems in this section also celebrate people and places - 'Letter to my Sister'is a moving evocation addressed to her sister in New Zealand; 'Candlemas' is about the death of her father at the end of winter with spring 'calling below the horizon/ invisible, but heard, like a changed note...' as she lights candles in her room many miles away. These poems made Hilary Ll-Williams' reputation as one of the best nature poets in this country.
The second half of the book continues with 'Book of Shadows', a group of personal and lyrical poems (including a powerful retelling of the 'selkie' legend, titled 'Sealwife'), followed by a sequence of 22 poems, one for each of the Tarot trumps, inspired by the life and work of a 16th-century magician and philosopher, Giordano Bruno. In case this sounds heavy the poems vary between his time and ours, some mysterious and others straightforward, some in his voice and some in the voice of the poet. And there are several pages of notes explaining the background to these poems and some of the more arcane references.
The poems in this book are full of music and vivid images, and they're thoughful and expressive. There's no hint of urban angst, so look in vain for gritty irony or postmodern posturing. But there's no sentimentality either - there's anger and flashes of humour and some inner darkness as well as beauty. It's spiritual at the core, but more pagan than Christian.
'Hummadruz' by the way (according to the notes at the back of the book) is a weird humming or buzzing sound sometimes heard on hot still days in the open air, especially near ancient sacred sites, with no discernable source. So now you know.
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