Over recent years, Susan has been collaborating with a wide selection of artists under the guidance of Veronica Gosling at Studio 36 in Exeter. Last year’s September show was Mind Flight, which featured a murmuration of stick puppet starlings and, also, a pompoko hoops dance interpretation of two of Susan’s poems.
These shows are a joy to produce as they involve a fair amount of very free-ranging and spontaneous discussion at the studio prior to the assembly of each cabaret-style night at the wonderful St Sidwell’s Community Centre.
Arts Live is an arts group based in South West England. It promotes the arts through photography, digital imaging, poetry and music.
Their most recent show, Sea Songs directed by Carol Ballenger, featured poetry and song by both Susan and her husband, Simon Williams.
Journeys, a previous Arts Live project, included a quartet of digital artworks of seasonal labyrinths by Carol Ballenger, which were teamed with Susan’s poems inspired by the images. See below for these.
Labyrinth - Spring
Nothing better to spin a colour wheel
than the whirring cogs of spring;
deep in their humming core,
an unsettling mask of green
and wreathed about this, flowers of fay:
red madcaps of fritillaries,
the blustering blue and every-white of anemone.
They stretch their palettes outwards, upwards;
every-way-wards offering pollen
in pouting mouths of perfume.
This is the craziest, most alluring spectacle,
a jig of life and love the swan of Avon
caught forever in his rhapsody,
I know a bank whereon the wild thyme grows.
A storm of daisies stares out the sky
waiting for night to fall, take over
their vigilance of heat’s heyday.
They’ll fold away in ruffs of pink to chill,
as the evening star breathes out a little white
and night creatures think to blink and stir.
Now dew has drenched the cushioned grass,
first owl calls float out on the green,
soft-flighted, as if made of flowers.
A golden thread joins daisy heads
by all their yellow bellies.
They love the sun, they love it not;
their’s not to choose, our’s not to care,
we’ve laid our paths across their open eyes.
Labyrinth - Summer
Labyrinth - Autumn
Autumn organises revolution,
dipping the red hands of maple leaves
into furrows on the pool’s face.
What energy is left in each dropped token
burns gaudily, floating flower-like
in day’s quickening fade.
Summer has sighed itself away
on the falling breaths of each tree.
Fruits are picked and put on the shelf.
The sky is walking on water,
whirling in hypnotic ripples,
which deepen to mauve
as dusk lays over the dreaming path
into a beckoning labyrinth.
Labyrinth - Winter
Winter comes with many small announcements,
plus a four square sense of cold
through single panes of glass.
Hibernation makes sense to the bats
and hedgehogs, while the deer slow down, rest,
tucked in insect-slender remnants of their hideaways.
Woodland shows its vein as red,
when turquoise snow comes dithering down
into stretched out nets of undergrowth.
Crystal fields of January cast their spell,
but beware in their silver labyrinth:
moles aren’t asleep, their hills rise here and there
and rabbit holes lie in white, in wait,
as in the dream of Alice.
Bone Song began seven years ago, when a group of four women performers where swept along by a story tide from the Arctic Ocean and a very special ocean dwelling skeleton, who comes to life in a magical Innuit tale recorded by Clarissa Pinkola Estes in her book, Women Who Run with the Wolves. Under storyteller Jade Moon’s direction, a new multi-faceted performance was born – The Story of Skeleton Woman and it toured a number of venues in the far South West of England, where the ocean is never so very far away.
A rich and creative collaboration - thought-provoking, evocative and beautifully crafted. An evening in soulful realms.
I’ve seen a whole lot of poetry shows, as I live in London, but I come down to the South West peninsula and then… there’s this!
The next show was La Loba Enchanting the Wild, a legend drawn from the heart of the same book by Pinkola Estees. It’s just a wee fragment of a story, as it stands, but had a peculiar power to draw Bone Song into its mystery and wildness. Bone Song was, at this time, a trio with Susan and Jade as leading voices.
In her new poems, Susan bravely invented a back story for La Loba, the wolf woman loved by many real live wildish women! She has drawn from wolf lore and wolf conservation from the Americas and Europe to colour her words and realise her ambition to call La Loba forth on stage.
Currently, she is putting the final touches on a new solo version of the show, which started life at Glas-Denbury Arts Festival in 2019. Click here for more details.
Reclaiming the Myths of Dartmoor
Over the years of living on Dartmoor, both Susan and her partner, Simon, have each built up a fairly substantial body of work about moorland life, whether human, animal, vegetable or mineral. Susan isn’t sure that her pixy poems fit exactly into any of these categories, but, nevertheless, feel that they capture much of the moor’s historical and folk traditions in an unusual and whimsical way.
In 1997, Susan launched a poetry collection called Crossing Time. This volume contains all of her writings to that date, inspired by her meanderings through books on Dartmoor folk story and, in particular, The Tales of the Dartmoor Pixies, by William Crossing (1847–1928).
This line-up eventually evolved into MythRhythm, which produced a more expansive Dartmoor show, with more gothic and spooky tales from the tors adding shade to the mix. Susan continued her study of folk tales and song, aided by a Tarka Country Millennium Award and the new material became Reclaiming the Myths of Dartmoor, a show which toured many venues across the moor at the time and is occasionally revived – with fresh material added – for festivals and other events.
The original tour was recorded live at both Great Torrington and Okehampton venues and is available as a CD here:
A grand launch of the volume was planned to coincide with the celebrations of 150th anniversary of William Crossing’s birth and it took place in the ballroom of The Two Bridges Hotel. Susan and Simon were joined by musicians, Julia Thomas and Howard Frey, who also knew their fair share about Dartmoor culture and traditional music.
The project began on Dartmoor, as many good things do. Simon Williams and I were invited to perform at one of Jackie Juno’s evenings at The Globe in Chagford. Among the performers was Peter Farrie, a talented singer songwriter. I can’t remember if it was February, but both Peter’s songs and our poems on the night focussed on the theme of love.
On the moonlit drive home skirting around Hey Tor, Saddle Tor et al, I was thinking how different the material we had presented was… so I approached Peter about the idea of putting together a show and Adjusting the Contrast came into being.
We quite soon realised that what we needed, for balance, was another female voice, so we were delighted when our second singer songwriter, Katie Whitehouse, agreed to join the group. We’ve performed mainly in South Devon and Cornwall and, perhaps oddly, haven’t taken any shows back onto Dartmoor... yet(!)