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Archive for March, 2013

Anneliese (Emmans Dean) and I had a truly fab night last Friday, performing our new show ‘Flying High’ in the York Literature Festival, a medley of her poetry and my storytelling.  Jacob’s Well was packed to the rafters with both children and some unaccompanied adults, and plenty of bird enthusiasts. 

Anneliese’s new bird poems are – as ever – strong on character and fond observation of her animal subjects.  They are also, more so than her other work, full of opportunities for audience participation.  So the audience became a flurry of sparrows in a hedge, chirping in three-part rhythmic harmony (yes, really!), twisted their tongues around the words of her portly ‘bullfinch with a belly’, and whinged along with the poor bluetit fledgling who still felt that ‘nest is best’!  They also had to gauge the breadth of a herring gull’s wings – would you believe, it’s about five feet!!Image

 

Before each poem, the audience had to identify which bird was coming next by the sound of its song, and pick it out of an identity parade – a process which was greatly enjoyed and became quite ‘lively’ at times!  So it was good that the story I had chosen – Lugalbanda and the Anzu bird – was a meaty one full of visual imagery.  With each instalment of it, the room seemed to breathe, and I got plenty of my favourite feedback of all: people staring into space. 

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This rhythm of moving from high energy, to inner absorption, and then back again, seems to be a good recipe for us. 

Lugalbanda is a truly wonderful epic, possibly the oldest ‘book’ ever written on clay tablets, in Sumeria over 5000 years ago.  VERY briefly summarised, it is a rite of passage story, in which the child Lugalbanda must be left behind by his brothers in the desolate mountains, as he is sick and they must march on to war.  He is saved by their kindness, the power of the gods, and then by his own resourcefulness and courage.  He is brave and cunning enough to win the help of the fearsome Anzu bird, a creature so big it eats bulls for breakfast and can block out the sun when it soars.  Eventually he not only finds his brothers and their army, but manages to bring a message of peace to them, and to bring beauty and skilled craft back to his own city-state of Uruq.  If it has a moral or theme, it is that beauty and success come out of conquering one’s own fears, not through domination of others.

I was in two minds as to whether to bring a picture of what the Anzu bird is said to have looked like.  In the end I didn’t, preferring to leave it to the audience’s imaginations, and I was so glad that I hadn’t!  The following week a four-year-old girl, Astrid, who’d been up well past her bedtime for the show, and had listened with wide eyes, brought me a beautiful painting she had made of the climactic scene of the story.

She was kind enough to let you see it!  The Anzu bird is top right, swooping in to his nest in the mighty tree at the top of the mountain of Inana.  Lugalbanda is hiding behind a rock bottom right, and waiting to visit the Anzu chick to honour it with rich food and decoration:ImageI nearly shed a tear as she described what was what!

 

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Anneliese and I being ‘bullfinches with bellies’

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