Slate Voices: Cwmorthin & Islands of Netherlorn is a collection in two voices exploring change in two extraordinary locations. Observing the metamorphosis of both land and culture, this dual collection builds into a powerful psycho-geography of place and people in relation to the poets sifting through ruins and remnants. Once thriving industrial centres, characterized by harsh lives, premature death, and loss, Cwmorthin and the Islands of Netherlorn also thrummed with strong traditions, flourishing cultures and local language. Today Cwmorthin in North Wales and the Islands of Netherlorn off the coast of Scotland are rural havens. The slate remains; stacked in stark and remote peace around the lake at Cwmorthin, littered amongst tiny, far-flung communities in the islands. The harsh life has gone; Cwmorthin in no longer ‘the slaughterhouse’ where twelve year olds worked by candle-light; Belnahua is no longer the unforgiving home without the ‘luxury’ of fresh water and the constant pounding din of the pumps. But so much else has gone too: incomes, culture, tradition.
In these locations of startling contrasts two poets sift through the wreckage and the paper trail to find echoes of life and death that is transformed into a series of formally inventive poetry sequences. Using prose poetry, lyrical glossaries, found material, the patterns of nursery rhymes and the rhythms of liturgies, Slate Voices resonates with compelling narratives and a visceral sense of place in poetry that is fresh and precise, enhanced by black and white photographs that chart the changes.
Jan Fortune was born in Middlesbrough and read theology at Cambridge. She completed a doctorate in feminist theology and has worked as a teacher, priest (ordained at the first ordination of women to the CofE) and charity director. She is the founding editor of Cinnamon Press and has edited around 300 books, led numerous creative writing courses in the UK, Spain and France, and mentored writers who have gone on to publication. Her previous publications include non-fiction titles in alternative education and parenting; the novels: The Standing Ground, Dear Ceridwen and Coming Home; and four poetry collections, including Slate Voices (a collaborative collection with Mavis Gulliver), Stale Bread & Miracles, Edge (a companion to Adam Craig's Year W), and Turn/Return, a pamphlet inspired by Brian Eno's Oblique Strategies cards. Her most work is the Casilda Trilogy of novels, This is the End of the Story, A Remedy for All Things and For Hope Is Always Born, and their new follow-up, Saoirse's Crossing.
She lives in the wild wet foothills of the Moelwyns in North Wales, beneath the abandoned slate village of Cwmorthin.