The ancient story of The Green Man has always fascinated me. Whenever I visit a new church or woodland, I always look for his face. When I recently found him in Manchester, on the cover of a poetry book in the middle of a stall at a publisher’s fair, I knew I wouldn’t be leaving him behind.
The Green Man Awakes: Legends Past, Present and Future is a wonderful collection of verse published by Stairwell Books. Edited by Rose Drew, the collection covers the myth, symbols and stories associated with the ancient pagan forest deity.
are some beautiful poems in this anthology. I enjoyed how each poet
expressed their own vision and interpretation on the myth. Some
investigate old Norse rituals or ancient belief; some offer a more
recent interpretation. The Green Man by Andy Humphrey is one of my
favourites in the collection. A present-day setting for the ancient
Each evening, his labours at an end,
the green man
catches the number ten bus
and makes his silent way
through the glistening, lamplit streets.
I like how this poem sets the Green Man living in the now, and I love how the poet describes looking at him.
…I sneak a glance
when he’s not looking, try to make out
stray twigs poking
from under the cap, the stubble-fuzz of lichen
on his jowls, the weatherbeaten
crags of brows.
Some poems relate to a darker, deeper presence. Green Man by Pauline Kirk, describes the still powerful god trapped, not only in stone, but also in our collective memory.
You barely glance upwards
but your ancestors knew me,
changed me to new faith, and into stone…
Kirk encourages the reader to keep searching for the lost in order to rediscover forgotten knowledge.
…Look up! towards arch
and ceiling boss. Find me,
and I will show you what lingers still,
deep in the groves of your mind.
Another of my favourites in this collection is The Green Man by Dave Gough. In it the god speaks directly to us. And he’s waiting. His world was cleared for stone buildings. ‘Let them come,’ he says, because he knows the power he holds over people, and that one day he will return.
I moved the hand that carved my face…
..The great forest will return
with the seasons and the stars
the sun and moon and rain.
Poems about superstition and forgotten history also weave through this collection. Midsummers Eve, 1840 by Tanya Nightingale is a magical poem, with beautiful descriptions of friendship and youth.
It describes two young girls walking through a graveyard to perform a ritual to help them find husbands.
Suddenly they are both circling, spinning,
Throwing fern and hempseed
And saying words
They don’t believe in and have always heard.
Boxing Day by John Gilham examines how we perceive and remember ancient earthworks. Although we can never truly understand the true meaning of such monuments, Gilham concludes that we should accept
…that the gift of God is the land and the people
and the voices whispering through the last leaves.
If you enjoy reading about myth and legends, and have a passion for poetry, then this collection is definitely for you.
The Green Man Awakes. Legends, Past, Present and Future is published by Stairwell Books.