Although born in Somerset, John Branfield moved to Cornwall in 1961, where he wrote much of his fiction; including titles such as Nancekuke and The Sugar Mouse, Cornish-set novels aimed primarily at adolescent girls. He was a well-regarded author of fiction in the 1970’s and 1980’s, who, like D.M. Thomas, seems to have given up that part of his career sometime c.1990. Where Thomas returned his hand to poetry, his first love, however, Branfield re-emerged in the early twenty-first century as a biographer of the Newlyn School. This book then, could be said to straddle the two phases in his career both literally and figuratively. Written in the 1980’s but not published until 2001, the novel is structured around Newlyn School paintings.

45cb845a15f38_breathEach chapter begins with a reference to a painting – its title, date, artist and a description – as in a catalogue. Words only go so far however and I feel that the book could be improved considerably if the publishers had gone to the expense of printing full colour reproductions of each painting, or a related work, on the facing page at the beginning of the chapter. Perhaps this was one reason for the book’s not being published when it was first written – the expense of both the printing and the acquiring of rights to do so may have been prohibitive and it’s conceivable that any or all of the writer, his agent and publisher may have felt as I do. Today though, the reader may partially circumvent this problem through use of a computer, or any other device connected to the internet: a quick search on the web retrieves images of many of the paintings without any difficulty (although some are fictitious).

These paintings are used to illustrate a simple tale of obsession slowly destroying a marriage. The protagonist, Roger Trevail , is a writer experiencing a creative slump that, we are led to believe, may be a permanent decline, (no doubt the pun is intended anyway but poor copy-editing occasionally renders his name as ‘Travail’). On one hand, Trevail could be seen as a fictionalised agglomeration of the Tangye brothers, Derek and Nigel; writing short stories, Cornish non-fiction and memoirs of leaving London & setting up in Cornwall complete with children & animals. On another though, there are elements which suggest something of a roman-à-clef – most notably, of course, in both Trevail and Branfield’s interest in the Newlyn School.

Rather than shrinking from any such accusations though, Branfield plays with them – Trevail experiences a touch of envy that contrasts the honesty of painterly self-portraits with the subterfuge of writerly roman-à-clefs, suggesting that critics allow painters a greater freedom than they do authors. Later, indeed, Trevail asks ‘who the hell is J.B.?’ in response to one critical review. We do not know either, in the context of the fictional world, but it would be difficult to imagine that Branfield had used his own initials here subconsciously. There is also a curious foreshadowing in chapter 3 when a novel about the Newlyn School is laid aside by Trevail. It’s difficult to know just how much that is a coincidence and how much it is a black joke at the author’s own expense.

The title of the book itself is a reference to a Stanhope Forbes lecture delivered to the Royal Cornwall Polytechnic Society in 1900 in which he described the plein-air philosophy of the post-impressionist Newlyn school as ‘a breath of fresh air’. Although the style is varied in the book here, it would be more than generous to bestow such an accolade upon Branfield. In addition to the catalogue-like entries which begin each chapter, some chapters are comprised entirely of them; others include a brief history of the school, a short story by Trevail, mock newspaper articles,  and his wife’s memoir. Just over fifty per cent of the chapters though, are written in the first person of Trevail with a sort of navel-gazing intensity that matches his character’s obsession.

Trevail cannot understand artists producing work that is average, thinking they should give up, somehow unaware that this is himself. Given the possibility raised above of some degree of autobiography being contained in the story we might wonder if Branfield is himself trying to work out whether or not to persevere with his calling. He invents the Newlyn school artist Denzil Hooper, who burns all of his work in a pique of despondency. Later, Trevail tries the same trick with one of his own manuscripts but he believes fervently that painting is a more delicate record of creation and knows that he has drafts of this manuscript elsewhere. His wife sees the stunt as childish attention-seeking.

It’s difficult, then, to see what this book has to say, if anything, about the Cornish experience. Difficult, indeed, to see it as any more than an artist trying to work out his problems through his art and comparison with other artists. For some writers that might have been the Bloomsbury Set, but Bramfield has a clear passion for the Newlyn School. Very few of the artists in that group were Cornish and their work largely foisted an English bucolic idyll of simple, honest, peasants onto Cornwall. Here, like in those paintings, ‘the trees are in full leaf and block the view of the valleys and hillsides’.

The Guardian review of Helen Dunmore’s latest novel, which focuses on a soldier returning to Cornwall following the first World War, can be found below.


The Lie by Helen Dunmore – review | Books | The Observer.

Port Eliot Festival 2014Tickets have already gone on sale for the 2014 Port Eliot Festival, available on a first-come, first-served basis, numbers are limited. Now in its 10th year, the Port Eliot Festival has begun to attract some major literary figures and has become something of a feature on the British (Londoner?) festival circuit. It would be nice to see a little more Cornish focus from the festival organised by the man who once lead Cornish interests in parliament though (also unsuccessfully urging Cornwall for Parliament in the war of the five peoples and amicably leaving it to the Royalists thereafter).


In my first post here, in a wide-ranging editorial, I wrote that “Cornwall became famous for its art in the nineteenth and, especially, twentieth centuries largely through the effect of incoming (mainly English) artists.  Over time, there were Cornish artists among their number too, such as Walter Langley (John Opie is probably the most famous Cornish painter, but predates this period and worked largely outside of Cornwall as a portraitist).”

Well, not all of those portraits were entirely unconnected with Cornwall. A new(?) Opie painting was recently discovered and, concerning a Cornish subject, will be exhibited at Falmouth Art Gallery for two years from April 2014, thereby allowing the public free access to it. David Carter has written a short book concerning the discovery and restoration of this important Cornish portrait by Opie. The sitter, about whom little was known, came from Falmouth and led a very interesting life, spanning the 18th and 19th centuries. The blurb for the book describes it thus:

An enigmatic gaze from a young girl in a neglected portrait, obscured by a veil of yellowed varnish, reached out to a dealer in Cornish art when it was spotted in a Midlands saleroom. The artist was John Opie, the 18th century self-taught "Cornish Wonder", who was famously described by Sir Joshua Reynolds as being "like Caravaggio and Velazquez in one". This monograph describes the exciting discovery and careful restoration of a portrait which can now rightfully claim it’s place as a Cornish masterpiece. It reaches into the murky depths of history to shed light on the remarkable life of the sitter, Lydia Gwennap, and takes us from her humble roots in Cornwall to the fashionable environs of London during an age of important social and cultural reform. Lydia was a true daughter of Falmouth, and finally, some 240 years after her birth, her story can be told. . .


Finally, it’s been a while since we’ve run with the image below, or repeated our plea but it does bear repeating.



Amazingly, little more than eighteen months into our existence, Cornish Literature now gets visited daily by people from across the world. We’re lucky to have several people who write freely for the website but they are all busy with other work and cannot give up any more of their precious time than they already do. It has always been the intention of Cornish Literature that it should be community driven – fostering a community of people to promote and debate the written word in Cornwall. This can be done in the comments under each article but we also always welcome new writers of news, feature and review pieces.

If you would like to write for us then please do get in touch via the instructions on the ‘About’ page. In particular, if there is a book that you would like to review for Cornish Literature then please let us know; we’re quite often offered copies of books for review, including the Carter book mentioned above, that we sadly have to decline owing to the constraints of lives and other work.

Golding and Thomas won critical acclaim for their fiction in the twentieth century, but their lack of direct engagement with Cornwall in their work means that few even realise that they are Cornish.”1

So I wrote in March last year.  In the 1980’s, for probably the only time, Cornish writers were the recipients of critical acclaim and sales recognition as never before or since.  It was during this time that Rosamunde Pilcher made the break from Mills & Boon writer to international bestseller, with the widely praised The Shell Seekers, a book later adapted for television in several different countries.  The Cornish setting of that book was overt but the Cornishness of D.M. Thomas and William Golding, despite each writer’s very real pride in their roots, could easily escape the attention of any reader.  Both writers were as commercially successful (give or take a million or so books!) as Pilcher and yet they met with even more critical acclaim than she did.  Golding, still most famous for his debut – Lord of the Flies, won both the Booker (for Rites of Passage) and the Nobel prizes in that decade while Thomas was also shortlisted for the former with his novel The White Hotel.

Thomas stopped writing novels at the end of that decade and returned to his first love, poetry.  Recently perusing his website I was interested to see that he had embarked on a project in 2010 to read all of his own novels: something which he had famously never done for any of them since publication.  Imagine my surprise then, on reading this sentence in his overview of the project: “Pleasant surprises: The authentic working-class Cornishness in ‘Birthstone’ –far from the imported ‘Cornishness’ of a Du Maurier”2Birthstone was only Thomas’s second published novel and certainly not his most famous, perhaps that is why I had missed it?  Thomas goes on to say of his his reading:

“My first attempt at a novel, after 20 years of poetry only. Fearing I wouldn’t be able to fill up 200-odd pages, I threw in all my obsessions, like a mad cook. They included: Cornwall, ancient stones, sex, psychoanalysis, Cornish dialect, stockings, suspenders, my mother, my father, my sister. (Well, the last three aren’t obsessions, only memorable figures in my life.) The resultant dish I still like.
Perhaps strangely, it’s my only novel where I’ve ‘explored’ Cornwall and Cornish characters and speech.
I revised it for the Penguin paperback edition. My editor had said there were too many ‘bodily fluids’! There are still quite a few.”3

S1421072o, what to make of it?  In light of Thomas’s revisions, I should first make plain that the copy I read is the revised edition, although oddly published by Gollancz and not Penguin.

There are, indeed, still quite a few bodily fluids – blood, piss, sperm – you name it, it’s here. It has to be said that there’s also a hell of a lot of rather kinky sex, although not written to titillate. Both these aspects feed into the Freudian aspect of the novel, which is strong. The protagonist is schizophrenic, often losing several days at a time to one of her many other personalities. These consume her consciousness, leaving her with no memory of her actions (or, rather, of her alter-egos’ actions) and an inordinate amount of Irish-Catholic guilt. Yes, the novel may be Cornish but the protagonist is not. I’ve noted in past reviews that the outsider is a familiar and useful character through which to explore notions of identity and here we have several. Given Thomas’s comments, above, perhaps it’s fairer to read this novel in those terms than the last time I did so. Here, there are several outsiders and each contributes to the novel in a different way.

The protagonist I have mentioned – she is our window into this world and the vessel through which we explore ideas of psychological problems and Cornishness. A second, minor, character is an Oxford academic who is presented as starchy and aloof – a clear contrast to the other characters that helps to underline ‘the otherness of Cornwall’, to borrow a phrase from Bernard Deacon and Philip Payton. Superficially, this character and the next two I’ll mention could be taken to be lazy stereotypes but they’re saved from this fate by superb writing: even the smallest dramatis personae come to life on the page, made substantial by Thomas’s prose. The final two outsiders are arguably the two largest and most important members of the cast beyond the protagonist: an American tourist couple with whom she stays. From Grass Valley, the Bolithos are here to visit ‘the old country’:

‘We’ve been pronouncing our name wrong all these years! According to the registrar – who’s a real dish – it’s Bol-eýe-tho! Would you believe it? Don’t you think it sounds nicer, honey? From now on we’re Mr and Mrs Bol-eýe-tho. Okay?’

The Bolithos, of course, represent a distinct aspect of Cornishness – the diaspora. Although earnest they are not so much seeking their roots as embracing them – they sing the same hymns after all. From their point of view, they are Cornish and see no impediment to their fitting in locally and having a good time. The diasporic theme is further explored through the character of Frank Wearne, who has travelled the world, working down the mines of almost every white settler state and Mexico – a country recently keen (long after this book was written) to promote its Cornish heritage (museums, diplomatic visits and heritage ties) – whose impacts are explored briefly but touchingly. The visitors are staying in Pendeen and, at this time, there was of course an active mine still offering employment in the village. Geevor, though, remains a shadowy presence in the novel – glimpsed but not explored – and most miners present in the text are either dead or retired as if, in the 1970’s, Thomas is acutely aware of the shift that is taking place in the Duchy from heavy industry to tourism as a principle source of income.

Nowhere is this  better represented than in the Polglaze family: Arthur Polglaze also travelled the diaspora in his youth but is now a successful local builder looking towards retirement in a bungalow of his own making. His wife, Elsie, is that prototypical Cornish mother: a blur of activity as she chatters and bakes; cooking, washing and cleaning for half the village and tourists alike, twenty or even ten years later she’d most probably be running a café or a B&B. When we first meet them it’s for Sunday dinner, followed by a service at the Methodist chapel where their son, Tom, is a steward. Tom is a product of this changing Cornwall (indeed, at one point the protagonist describes him as a ‘changeling’ – a word she uses to describe her own condition) – at once the perfect Cornish son, a lighthouse officer and rugby forward as well as a Methodist steward, he is also a popular figure in the pub, where he drinks and smokes with the best of them, and with the ladies – he’s not afraid to take advantage of the tourists. Like all the locals here, he exhibits an earthy humour – good-naturedly playing on people’s misconceptions.

His old man, he played in the band. Music is perhaps the most overt manifestation of Cornish culture in the book: songs and hymns are sung not just by the choir and by the Bolithos but at every gathering and the brass band is never far away. Perhaps that is a side of Cornish culture, perhaps on the wane, visible only to insiders: I remember seeing an interview with Jack Shepherd once in which he discussed his direction of a Wycliffe TV episode (‘Standing Stone’), he noted that brass bands were a theme in W.J. Burley’s novels but he felt that a folk band was more authentic and appropriate. Music is a powerful symbol. It’s probably fair to say that if music is associated with Cornwall at all these days it’s not the communal activity that it once was. Music is though, something to which the poet can relate. Birthstone is clearly written by a poet: Thomas’s prose is bewitching; conjuring images and playing with words and references effortlessly. It’s also an occasionally difficult but richly rewarding read, dealing adroitly with many of the themes identified in the ‘New Cornish Studies’ (as well as Freud) before ever that term came to be used in a way that is both insightful and light-handed whilst remaining relevant.


  1. 1. Broderick, L.G., 2012. Whither Cornish Literature?.  Accessed 4/11/12.
  2. Thomas, D.M., 2012.  Novels.  Accessed 4/11/12.
  3. Thomas, D.M., 2012. Novels – Brithstone. Accessed 4/11/12.

Last week saw the final date in the short tour that promoted Murder of Krows 2.

With audiences averaging around 15 per night (excluding performers!) Abigail Wyatt and I felt that


the tour was a great success.

A few Cornish Lit readers have suggested that people might be interested in a brief explanation of how one goes about organizing the production of a poetry anthology and tour.  So, if this is something that you are thinking of doing yourself, read on….

The first hurdle you may need to get over is the one of self-justification.  This is something that I have addressed in the “Afterword” of Murder of Krows 2.  The two fundamental questions are:

  • Is my work/ the work of others that I like or respect worth publishing?
  • Is publishing my own work “vanity” publishing with all the negative connotations that go with that word?

This depends on several factors: many respected poets begin by publishing  their own work; many small poetry presses are run by one or two people yet command a great deal of respect from lovers of serious poetry (examples include Barque Press and Punch Press).  Often these operations are just a couple of people with a passion for language and the means of production.

What makes you any different?

The flipside of the argument is that there is an awful lot of poetry out there.  There is also an awful lot of inadequate or poorly edited poetry out there. There is also an awful lot of poetry as therapy.  Are you going to add to what is essentially poetic detritus or does the work you stand behind have something to say which people may be interested in?

Don Paterson (who I don’t always agree with) states:  “serious poets, I should say, don’t start off amateurs, but apprentices – just like any other vocation”.  Therefore, it may well be wise to heed this when considering putting work out there.  Just because you’ve written it/ read it and liked it doesn’t mean it’s ready.

So how do you know its ready?  You don’t – not really.  Having said this, here are a few ways in which you could gauge whether there is sufficient interest in the work you have produced or are representing.

  • Have you performed it at open mic nights/poetry readings?  Do people give you feedback?
  • Have you made contact with more established poets who you respect and asked them what they think? Many are prepared to do this although obviously not all of them.
  • Have you published any of your poems previously?  Where?  Did your receive any reactions?

So now I have discussed the issues of whether to publish, let’s consider how.

Murder of Krows 2 looks reasonably professional (so people tell me!).  It was designed on a MacBook using Microsoft Word 2011.  This is hardly ultra high-tech.  Therefore, I would suggest some kind of visual eye and common sense are all you need to design a reasonably good looking poetry pamphlet.  Hopefully, so far you have noticed my repetition of the word “design”; making the hard copy of a poetry book can be a little more challenging as well as expensive.

When it comes to producing hard copy you have two options: amateur or professional – both of which have their advantages.

An amateur collection can be produced on a photocopier for next to nothing.  If you can recruit some friends who are half way decent artists then you can even make it look quirky and interesting in a 1970s “Sniffin’ Glue” kind of way.  This is a perfect if you want to get your work out there and sell it cheaply.  There are also independent bookstores that, if you are polite and gracious, may be willing to stock it sale or return.  A few pieces of advice: don’t make the mistake I made with the first Murder of Krows by making the writing too small or copyrighting each author’s name under the poem which is entirely unnecessary.  Look at other poetry collections to get an idea of style and layout and what to include.

The professional option is only appropriate if you have a lump of spare cash, complete belief in the work and a relentless energy when it comes to promoting it.  Abi and I decided to “publish” Murder of Krows 2 with higher production values because we believed in the work (not to denigrate any contributors to the first one) and felt that this was appropriate this time.  In addition to this, we had managed to persuade some well-established writers who we respected to submit.  This meant that we were able to use this to potentially sell more copies than we would have done otherwise.  This is an approach well worth taking but I would only suggest approaching people whose work you genuinely admire, (and that you are able to substantiate this admiration) otherwise your opportunism will quickly become apparent.

If you are still keen to go down this route, you need to make contact with a printer.  At this point I will give Booths in Penryn a completely shameless and unasked for plug as they did an excellent job of our anthology.  Local writer, illustrator and publisher, Chris Odgers of Sawhorse Books, also uses them and the production values apparent in his work are also to their credit.  Another factor to consider in depth is how many copies you should produce. My advice would be 50 unless you know you have an insatiable fan base.  Make sure you see a proof before printing and that you check it carefully otherwise you will have 50 inaccurate copies that you are legally obliged to pay for.

The penultimate stage in this process is promotion.  Realistically, you are not going to sell any books to people who are not friends and family unless you promote very thoroughly.  The reading for the first Murder of Krows attracted thirty plus people but it was promoted on this blog, the local papers and Radio Cornwall.  In addition I sent “press packs” to every bookshop in Cornwall as well as putting up posters everywhere and e-mailing and texting everyone I knew or had ever met.  I also asked Alan Kent to read which added an established name to the event.

A quick reminder: all of this attracted thirty people.  Don’t misunderstand me: thirty keen and enthusiastic supporters of the anthology but it was a lot of work getting them there!

A final point regarding promotion: please do not think that Facebook is the world just because you use it.  In my opinion, although it is valid – it is only one form of promotion and not an exceptionally high impact one at that.  Ask yourself: which is more striking – a well designed poster in a bookshop that you frequent or a Facebook update?

Of course before you promote your event you will need to have arranged venues, dates and have list of reliable performers (even if you are promoting your own work, you will need a “Support Act”).  Here are a list of venues that I have found to be supportive when trying to put on events:

In short go for local independent places but remember that they are doing you do the favour.  Don’t expect them to welcome you with open arms – do your homework and make sure people come otherwise their time has been wasted.

That’s about it.  I won’t give you my guide as to which are the most appropriate wines to go with a Sestinas (written in quadratic hexameters) as that may well be a bridge too far.

I hope this has been useful.  Please feel free to re-blog, re-post, re-quote or downright challenge or disagree with this advice.  However, I would appreciate being notified at

Finally (you knew it was coming) there are only 15 copies of Murder of Krows 2 left…..please buy them and make the world a more poetry loving, literate place.  Copies can be bought by e-mailing me at:

Q for stories. October 7th at Mylor Theatre, in Truro College, starting at 19:30. With an Arthur Quiller-Couch (Q) theme, recitations of original work and Q’s writing. To quote the HfC page on Q for Stories tickets and info (qv) :


There are four good reasons to know about the ginger-haired, freckle-faced doctor’s son from Polperro, who had a taste for loud check waistcoats and jackets, and became known as ‘Q’. As Chairman of the Cornwall Education Committee (set up as a result of the 1902 Balfour Act) Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch was instrumental in the spread of state secondary education in Cornwall; something we take for granted today. He edited The Oxford Book of English Verse in 1923, and remains its best-known editor to this day. Q encouraged young writers including Daphne Du Maurier and was Professor of English Literature at Cambridge. Most importantly, he was himself a practising writer of verse, essays, short stories and novels, including the well known Troy Town.

20 writers who have come together for Q For Stories are all practising their art and to a greater or lesser extent involved in educating. They also share with Q a strong sense of place. Their combined credits include: Radio Four, Feature Film, The National Theatre, Hampton Court Palace, Kneehigh Theatre, Wildworks, just about every theatre and village hall in Cornwall, folk venues from here to Japan, and numerous publications (books and CDs). Seven of them will be recognisable from Scavel an Gow which toured stories through the length and breadth of Cornwall in the 90s. Six of them are Bards of the Cornish Gorsedh. Seven of them are musicians as well as storytellers. Five of them are writers from The Writing Squad Kernow, a county-wide programme for talented young writers.

They will be sharing not only their own work, but also the work of Charles Lee (believed by Q to be the greatest exponent of the Cornish dialect): Charles Causley; and Q himself. All of them are known widely in Cornwall … never before have they all shared the same stage at the same time!

They are: Anna Murphy, Amanda Harris, Mercedes Kemp, Simon Parker, Stephen Hall,  Paul Farmer; Dew Vardh (Bert Biscoe and Pol Hodge); Boiler House (a cappella group: Rick Williams, Grevis Williams, Stephen Hall, Dave May, and Luke Murray); Pete Berryman (guitarist); Pauline Sheppard; Simon Uren (actor); Will Coleman; and Writing Squad Kernow (5 students from Truro College).

The Hypatia Trust have recently released a version of King Arthur’s Wood exclusively for iPads. King Arthur’s Wood was written and illustrated by renowned Newlyn artist Elizabeth Stanhope Forbes and published 109 years ago, in 1904. Only 350 copies of this beautiful book were ever printed. In recent decades it has been much sought-after by collectors, especially those interested in art and the Newlyn School.

Personally, I think it’s exciting to see this work by the Canadian-born “Queen of Newlyn" made more widely available but, not having the relevant device, I’ve had to decline the publisher’s kind offer of a review copy. If anyone reading this would like to take on that task for Cornish Literature then please let me know so that I can put you in touch.


The Godolphin Arms in Marazion will host a free two day feast of spoken word and music on Thursday 3rd and Friday 4th October, called ‘Marazion Ickle Feste’. Ickle Feste has been created by Jak Stringer and writer, poet and Cornish Literature contributor Abigail Wyatt, who have programmed a full creative event which will include something for everyone. Abigail and Jak are proud to have the support of poet and Cornish Bard, Dr. Alan Kent (pictured left), who will be performing on the Friday evening alongside other much loved local poets.

This event will commence daily at 12 noon with an ‘Ickle Bit of Lunch’: a session of poetry and acoustic music. Further sessions include authors talking about their books, children’s sessions, a workshop for people with disabilities, a Cornish film showing, a lit quiz, limerick competition plus bands ‘Goodbye Joel’ and ‘The Man Who loves you’.

Godolphin Arms Manager, Robin Collyns says he is delighted to be hosting the first Marazion Ickle Feste and he hopes that in years to come, this event will include other venues in Marazion. A full programme is available from The Godolphin Arms Marazion or can be found on their website. Cornish Literature would like to wish the organisers the best of luck with the event and hopes that it will be a popular and fun occasion.


Finally, in what threatens to become a tradition of very later reporting here on Cornish Literature, the aDiving Bellesnnual Holyer an Gof awards ceremony took place in the Truro branch of Waterstones, in July.  In arguably the award of most interest to us here at Cornish Literature, Diving Belles, by Lucy Wood, won the adult fiction category ahead of Rainbows in the Spray, by N.R. Phillips, and A Perfectly Good Man, by Patrick Gale.

Welcome beltaneThe poetry prize, meanwhile, went to Briar Wood’s collection Welcome Beltane and the award for best Children’s book was given to The Messenger Bird, by Rosanne Hawke, ahead of Migrants & Pastes by Janeta Hevizi.

Non-Fiction books always dominate the entry lists for the Holyer an Gof and so it’s never a surprise to see a book in that category scoop the overall award. This year it went to Wade-Bridge: Notes on the History of the Fifteenth Century Bridge by Andrew G. Langdon.

    New Releases Round-Up 16/9/13

    Posted: September 16, 2013 by Lee in fiction, new releases, non-fiction

    Several authors have been in touch with Cornish Literature to inform us of their new books, in addition to those covered in the last ‘Round-Up’.

    B.D. Hawkey was born in Cornwall and can trace her Cornish roots as far back as the 18th century. Her first published work, the short poem Taken, was in Bright Voices: South West England, Channel Islands Edition by United Press Ltd in 2003. Her debut novel Old Sins, Long Shadows is available in paperback and kindle formats: at the time of writing it’s available as a free Kindle download. Speaking to Cornish Literature, Hawkey said:

    “It is a Cornish Victorian romance set against the backdrop of the magnificent Bosvenna Estate, with eccentric rural characters and the sweeping hills of the dramatic Bodmin Moor. Janey Carhart’s story is a tale of obsession, jealousy and love.”

    R. Rushforth Morley, meanwhile, described his new book to us as “a comic historical novel that attempts to deal with issues of Cornish identity”, it concerns events in a remote 19th century Cornish fishing village that are interwoven with tales of the Celtic saints, narrated by the lonely Parson Mudge. The Gift of Honey is published by Indigo Dreams in paperback and an extract can be read at the link above. Morley, too, is a published poet and helps run the Poetry on the Lake festival in Orta, on the Italian Lakes. The author received an Arts Council Grant to assist the completion of The Gift of Honey.

    Like Morley, Sydney Higgins has experience of living and working in Northern Italy. Born in St. Ives he has been a lecturer at the University of Camerino since 1992. His book Theatre in the Round: The Staging of Cornish Medieval Drama is due to be published on 15th December. The importance of Cornish Mediaeval plays are well known to students of Cornish Studies and to Celtic linguists but Higgins argues that they are also important to understanding the development of theatre more generally in Britain.

    As usual, anyone interested in reviewing any of these books for Cornish Literature should get in touch with us so that we may be able to provide you with a review copy.

    Redruth writer Abi Wyatt has news of a second Murder of Krows Anthology, co-edited by Abi and Duncan Yeates, which is due to be launched in the autumn at The Melting Pot in Redruth. Along with special artwork, poems include offerings by Dr Alan Kent and Les Merton, and other poets in Cornwall. It will be a limited print run ! Copies are sure to be snapped up so get in touch with Abi, perhaps via Poetry24 or by Red River Poets facebook page.poetry24

    Co-edited by Abi, in addition, is the international, news-inspired poetry web site Poetry24, and Abi is keen to encourage submissions from poets based in Cornwall. If you are a poet in Cornwall and would like to contribute, scoot over to Poetry24 and have a look . . . If you don’t yet feel up to contributing (yet), why not scoot over to Poetry24 and have a look anyway at today’s muse on the news.

    Of Abi’s own work, her poem ‘The Long Falling Down‘ is included in a recent anthology of poems ‘Journey to Crone‘. This is one of the five star reviews:

    Excellent and moving poetry. The Poems are original, insightful, well crafted, and distinctly female. The voices resonate long after the reading is complete.

    Ashley and Eileen Ludgate organised a mini-folk music festival at the Bath Inn, Penzance, where Abi performed more of her poems, including the haunting and soon-to-be-anthologised ‘Dozy Mary‘. It’s good that music and poetry are mixing at events in Cornwall.

    Staying in Penzance, a new writer’s group called Writer’s Cafe is set to meet every other Tuesday, at 2pm, in the Lost and Found cafe, Chapel Street, Penzance. The 9th July 2013 is the next meeting, that’s this Tuesday coming !! And from the 17th to the 21st July is this year’s Penzance Literary Festival, with dozens of excellent events – have a look at the website and browse through the schedule – too much good stuff to list here (and much of that is Cornish in composition and/or content – the usual suspects and some interesting others (including music) . . .).
    Passio Cristi page from Scawen
    One of the talks at Pz lit fest is presented by the Penzance Conservation Community Interest Company – in May they took delivery of William Scawen‘s original manuscript of his Antiquities Cornu-Brittanic 1688, and also his Observations on a Cornish Manuscript entitled Passio Christi i.e. the poem Pascon Agan Arluth. Cornwall Record Office also contracted Pz Conservation CIC to restore William Borlase’s 1750 Memorandums of the Cornish Tongue original manuscript. (These historically significant Cornish manuscripts might be held in the proposed Redruth archive centre, which was recently awarded a £386 thousand heritage lottery grant towards the price tag of around £15 million. It would be nice if these manuscripts above were fully digitised for public viewing before too long. Mar plek.)
    Williams Llawnt
    In 1865 Rev Robert Williams of Llawnt Ugha (Lawns Ughella / Upper Lawn) in Wales published Lexicon Cornu-Britannicum, which was perhaps the first modern Cornish dictionary. Now, Cornish cultural writer Derek R Williams has authored Williams: The Llawnt – a biography of the Welsh minister and linguist, published by the excellent Y Lolfa.
    Looking to Cornwall’s east, another publication brought to our attention is Theatreworks, a collection of plays by Charles Causley, edited by Alan Kent and published by Francis Boutle. Included among 11 librettos and other dramatic works are The Doctor and the Devils (inspired by the work of Dylan Thomas), The Ballad of Aucassin and Nicolette, first performed at the Exeter festival in 1978, and The Tinderbox,which Charles Causley wrote for Kneehigh Theatre in 1990. Alan himself drekly will have published his new books Towards a Cornish Philosophy and a book for children, Surf Dogs.

    Sadly for its workers as well as for the future of book production within Cornwall, MPG Books of Bodmin has gone into administration in the last month with the loss of more than 50 jobs.

    Written, and with photographs collected, by motor engineering aficiando Ernie Warmington of Redruth, Cornish Road Transport Through Time, published by Amberley Publishing (Amberley in Sussex being the resting place of ASD Smith/Caradar, by the way) traces its subject from Murdock’s engine, and horse drawn vehicles of various kinds to internal combustion motor vehicles used, and produced in Cornwall.
    Road transport Cornwall

    sniveslitfestThe St Ives Literature Festival 2013 is running from Saturday 11th – Saturday 18th May. (NB That’s this coming Saturday folks ! :-)) A host of events are to be held at St Ives Arts Club, St Ives Library and Café Art. Books by festival authors are for sale from Harbour Bookshop.

    • Book Launches, Readings and Workshops.
    • Poetry And Music In The Square – daily in Norway Square.
    • Free Speech – Open Floor – daily at Café Art.
    • The Big Frug

      • On Friday 17th May. Local duo Tir ha Tavas, Delia and Dave Brotherton, have teamed up with guests Vaughan Bennett, Peter Burton, former Grand Bard of the Cornish Gorsedd Mick Paynter and fluent Welsh speaker Gareth Parry for an evening of words and music starring the Cornish language, Kernewek, with a tasty serving of Welsh alongside.

        “We will be presenting our personal selection of prose, poetry and song in the old Celtic tongue,” said Delia, “a language almost lost in the mists of time yet one that lives on in the daily life of West Penwith and beyond.”

        Featuring many original compositions, this special evening will be held at the St Ives Arts Club starting at 9pm and marks the first of several events over the coming months to raise the profile of the Cornish language in a performance.

        “The Celtic language of Cornwall is once more being embraced as a symbol of her historic past,” added Delia, “reviving from ancient roots, while ever changing in the hands of the next generation who cherish the old culture and nourish the new.”

        Tickets £6.50, or 5 for £30, are on sale now from Café Art in St Ives, tel 01736 799450, or from the St Ives LitFest organiser on 753899 or from Dee on 799305. There is a full programme with more information on the St Ives Literature Festival website

        John Phillips was born in St Ives. His poems pose questions about how we perceive the world through language and the senses, deftly weaving together details of the external world with reflections on the thought processes and on the nature of words. At the St Ives Arts club at 15:00 on the opening day of the festival, Saturday, the 11th May, he will be reading poetry from his work so far.

        His publications include Language Is (Sardines Press, San Francisco, 2005) and What Shape Sound (Skysill Press, Nottingham, 2011). He work has appeared and been reviewed in a variety of magazines in this country, the U.S., Australia, Austria, Japan and Israel; it can also be found in the following anthologies: From Hepworth’s Garden Out (Shearsman Books, Exeter, 2010), Haiku in English: The First Hundred Years (W. W. Norton & Company, New York, 2013), and Succint (Broadstone Books, Frankfort, Kentucky, 2013). He runs Hassle Press, which has published a range of poets.

        Tickets £ 5.00 from Cafe Arts, tel 01736 799450, at the door or ring Jasna Phillips on 07969727040.