The Nine Realms
9 months, 22 poets and writers, 22 Artists, 3 composers, 1 Viking boat: a magical reworking of Norse Mythology for contemporary audiences
Poems and Writing inspired by the Norse realm of Asgard
Shirley Golden, John Mansell, Lydia Allison, Ross Beattie
by Shirley Golden
So here am I: ancient, wise and eternal. Rooted in the heart of Asgard, I channel into lower realms. Above, my canopy extends as a shield for all creation. Always was and is and will be, so they say. You might imagine that one of my standing would claim attention and be heeded. If only. Ra-ta-tap, ra-ta-tap: paws scurry along bark and branch from source to crown, conducting a berserk exchange. Together. Apart. Deep in the soil, Nidhogg’s scales abrade my knotted foundations. His teeth rip and tear, keen to unearth. Deer and harts snack on my shoots before I have time to unfurl. I’m gnawed and chewed upon, hung from, and tapped for sweet knowledge. But it’s never enough. Trouble is the gods aren’t so gifted to keep calm, listen or reflect.
Look at him, running around with his stunted hammer, trying to wield notions of equality, and him a god. Granted, he has a stout heart and likes to keep things in order, but why oh why can he never grasp when he’s being tricked by those frost giants? And the Allfather with his all-seeing eye? Pah! I mean, how often does He neglect to observe the rascal’s antics? Time and again the shape-changer creates chaos, and with his wheedle words slithers out of predicaments, slippery as a fish. Will they never learn? How many times can one make amends with ill-gotten gifts? I blame the eye. Sacrificed for wisdom, but He failed to appreciate the value of depth perception.
Is that harsh? I’m old, too old and cranky. If it wasn’t for the Norns and their care, I’d have rotted long ago. I tire of the gods and their games. It’s all act, act, act; treks to other realms, tests and trials. Who’s the toughest or the swiftest? I do my best to give sound counsel but I’m unconvinced that they hear me. All they sense is a susurration of leaves, lifted by the breeze, from which they seize a sketchy message and thunder ahead, regardless.
The wind gusts his ice-breath and my joints creak and moan, but I’ve seeds to sow and trust that one day they’ll take. Understand that I’ve considered on countless occasions what I might say (if only I could articulate their words, and if only they’d be still and mark my warnings). And the best advice I could offer?
“Whatever you do, don’t listen to Loki.”
by John Mansell
Slaked emptied the meaded-horns.
The soothsayer’s runes yield their redden field.
The smoke coil-feast entwining the bowed heads of Long Serpents
bobbing with rimmed-eyed-red.
The feast for slaughter to wed the lost to death.
Grim battle carrion shredded bannered.
The disjointed stride of deed beneath the beak.
Splashed vivid and dripping the echoes of dawn.
War hounds draped in the grim spoils between the broken weaponry.
The shattered bodies sprawl by jewel tipped shaft.
By Bifrost span the heralded torn from earthly womb.
The golden shrill shouts of the choosers of the slain.
Renewal of strength, rearmed and armoured
by the wall of spears and the shielded roof.
Aesir-dwellers in brine enactment of that perfect fate.
The daily spectacle before Geri and Freki by their Master’s feet;
by Huguinn and Muninn at the godly ear.
And man’s desire to repeat his seething deeds,
rehealed and re-aled beneath the folds of Frigga’s sky,
reveals no boy returning from whence only men filed.
Far below, the earthly funeral lights the dimming horizon.
Adorning glory. The warriors muster and poets sing.
The brutal ferocity glad against the breast of night.
And in humble earth-wood home the hero’s woman
beside another who soon will taste the meaded-horn.
And all men by their camped fires recite the lists of dead.
Who line abreast four score by ten the many rounded doors.
The quieting scene. The poet eyes the distant moraine.
And hums in rhythm and fighting rhyme
His battle hymn to those aloft in eternal praise.
Poem read by Nicky Mortlock on John’s behalf.
they never said
by Lydia Allison
dying is travelling
a light-year in a second
in a sense you have never felt before
not in dreams or worship
or bleak nights.
I was part of the writhing mass
the storming spreading attack
part of the dance between me and that
man that other warrior that superior clan
I was part of that
company, closer than everything
and when I look back
his face was the face of my wife.
did he look away out of shame
for my weakness shame
for his own life shame
for how tenderly my body leaned to his blade.
here is the look of oil on water
like heaven’s reflection you can touch.
as a child I chased rainbows
made idols from glass refractions,
stooped in the road.
I see thickly, this space shimmers with moving light
violet edging faces I know
and I mourn my rainbow
revising memories of blood
the sun, fresh leaves, and sky,
pure darkness, and white light of ash
and I weep clear tears
laced with the pigments of the dead.
they never said it’s just like living,
seeing one colour
and searching for your own heartbeat.
and when you go it’s more like
everybody you’ve known is falling
away, leaving you to grieve in morbid hope that they
would not, that they would stay.
Lydia on her poem: ‘One of the things that intrigued me most throughout the reading was the idea of light a rainbow/bifrost, acting as a bridge to Asgard’.
MP3 to come.
by Ross Beattie
Stand beside me brother and together we can begin again.
Only through death can we break the existence in which we suffer.
We will wash our exhausted hands in the blood filled rivers, before growing strength again to walk fearlessly through the doubt.
Will we ever know if we are too afraid to try ?
I see the palaces in my mind, huge hallways and gold walled rooms, beauty in our control from the sacrifices we choose to make.
Wisdoms waits at the end of the battle, and even though we cannot see what lays ahead we mustn’t turn our heads now from fear as that will make this an ending instead of the beginning that it stands to be.
So stand strong beside me and we will cover the ground in flesh, and build every single mountain from the bones we will rip away from the deathly cold that controls all we see.
And from there we can create all that I know is possible.
You can read the overview of Asgard here
Find out more about Shirley, John, Lydia and Ross:
Watch out for more Asgard poetry next week!
As always, thank you for your interest.