Slate Voices: Cwmorthin & The Islands of Netherlorn – Mavis Gulliver & Jan Fortune
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.
After a career as a teacher and botanist, Mavis Gulliver lived on the Isle of Islay for many years, travelling extensively throughout the Hebrides, before moving to Shorpshire. A regular contributor of illustrated articles for Scottish Islands Explorer magazine, her poetry has appeared in many magazines and anthologiess. In addition to Slate Voices, her solo collection, From One Island to Another was published by Cinnamon Press in 2015.
Jan Fortune was born in Middlesbrough and grew up in Redcar. She read theology at Cambridge and completed a doctorate in feminist theology at Exeter University. Jan 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 400 books and led numerous creative writing courses in the Wales, the UK (including courses for Arvon and Ty Newydd), Spain, France, and online. She mentors writers from beginners to highly experienced, across genres and hosts a writing community, Kith, that includes weekly prompts, courses and inspiriation for the writing life via her site Becoming a Different Story.
Her previous publications include non-fiction titles in alternative education and parenting and the major book book for writers: Writing Down Deep: an alchemy of the writing life (available as both hardback and paperback editions) ; the novels Dear Ceridwen and Coming Home. Her previous poetry collections include Particles of Life (BlueChrome), 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 recent 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 the spin-off, stand-alone novel Saoirse’s Crossing.
Her cross-over novels re-envisaging the Arthurian legends in a near-future authoritarian UK are The Standing Ground (originally published in 2008 and being relaunched in a new edition in autumn 2021) and The Roots of the Ground, written during the first UK lockdown as a live project with a group of writers as daily audience for first draft readings, and also due out in autumn 2021.
She is currently working on a haiku and lyric sequence tracking the seasons of a forest.
Jan studied aromatherapy with the Well School, is a yoga nidrā teacher with the Independent Yoga Nidrā Network and is training as a medical herbalist. She lives in a surviving area of ancient forest in Finistère, Brittany.