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Witch

Damian Walford Davies
ISBN-13: 
9781854115799
Format: 
Paperback
Publication Date: 
Monday, June 4, 2012
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"Overall, Witch is an intriguing and moving poetry collection, which revisits an old story to throw a new and disturbing light on gender and power." - Planet

"...vividly imaginative, intelligent and engrossing." – New Welsh Review

"...Walford Davies brilliantly confirms the terrifying cultural power of language. A masterly work perhaps comes to speak most chasteningly through the implacable cultural and linguistic contingencies it sets in play" Poetry Wales

With the narrative pull of a novel and the vibrancy of a play for voices, Damian Walford Davies’s Witch offers a thrilling portrait of a Suffolk village in the throes of the witchcraft hunts of the mid-seventeenth century. The poems in this collection are dark spells, compact and moving: seven sections, each of seven poems, each of seven couplets, are delivered by those most closely involved in the ‘making’ of a witch. The speakers – from Thomas Love the priest, the villagers who slowly succumb to suspicion and counter-accusation, the ‘discoverer of witches’ Francis Hurst, and the ‘witch’ herself – authentically conjure a war-torn society in which religious paranoia amplifies local grievances to fever pitch. Witch is a damning parable that chimes with the terror and anxieties of our own haunted age.

REVIEWS

REVIEW by Laura Wainwright, Wales Arts Review

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

‘My garden borders on the deadfold / where they murder down the lambs’, Thomas Love, a priest living in an English village in the mid-seventeenth century, ruefully confides in the opening section of Damian Walford-Davies’s brooding book-length poetic sequence, Witch. In this fascinating and deeply unsettling work, Walford-Davies vividly recreates the world of the Suffolk witch hunts, where scores of women and men were persecuted and brutally punished for allegedly practicing witchcraft. The largest witch trial in English history – an event that culminated in the execution by hanging of eighteen people – took place in the Suffolk village of Bury St Edmonds in 1645.

Set two years prior to this, from February 1643 through to March 1644, in the midst of the English Civil War, Witch records the events and exposes the social climate of hypocrisy and suspicion, and zealotry and corruption, that feeds malicious rumours about a mother and daughter and leads to their indictment as witches.

Its seven parts, in which the characters at the centre of the hysteria all put forward their conflicting, subjective and often skewed accounts – from gossiping, superstitious villagers to the Witchfinder General-like Francis Hurst, ‘Discoverer of witches’, and Valentine Lind, the ‘Judge of Assize’ – lend the book an irresistible narrative drive. ‘She came / towards me on the causeway’, Nicolas Strelley, an influential local gentleman, claims, for example:

flaunting spears of loosestrife

from the marsh. My horse

shucked, stammered – pitched

me into rippling weed.

From the brink she offered

flowers. Sodden, I saw

my wife again, a woman

on a slender lip of land

drawn shrill against the sky.

Her purple petals dazzled. Love!

I tendered. Then I said it: witch.

Walford-Davies maintains the taut couplet form of the above lines throughout, eloquently reinforcing the poems’ interrelated themes of fear, obduracy and control. In its exploration of these themes and, of course, in its historical subject matter, Witch cannot escape comparison with Arthur Miller’s dramatic portrayal of the more famous 1692 witch trials in Salem, Massachusetts. Just as The Crucible spoke to the realities of McCarthyism in 1950s America, however, Witch has a similarly ‘shrill’ parabolic quality, warning against ongoing intolerance, discrimination and abuses of power in our twenty-first century world.

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Review from New Welsh Review

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"...Witch is a well-crafted work of historical fiction, a vividly imaginative and intelligent collection that makes one look forward to more." New Welsh Review

12/12/2012 - 11:52

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Anonymous's picture

Review from New Welsh Review

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No votes yet

"...Witch is a well-crafted work of historical fiction, a vividly imaginative and intelligent collection that makes one look forward to more." New Welsh Review

12/12/2012 - 11:52
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