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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Saturday, March 13, 2004
    The Hare That Hides Within
     
    The thing about Wales is that it's big enough to have a vibrant life and culture, small enough for that life and culture to feel, um, accessible, embracing; human-scale, like family (O yes, like family where families sometimes dysfunct, disagree, but also sometimes gel, meld, support, share).

    Which gave me another little thrill during last week's wanderings - on picking up in a Caernarfon bookshop the newly-published The Hare That Hides Within: Poems About St. Melangell. Why?

    It's inspired by Melangell, who saved the hare from the huntsman. A saint whose tale is "a story of fundamental conflicts, power and acquisition, the hunt, and refuge and peace, the praying women ... human abuse of nature, male abuse of women, power's abuse of prayer ..." (as Rowan Williams writes in the Foreword);

    Rowan Williams writes the Foreword; that formidable Welsh theologian/poet, mystic/politician, Archbishop of Canterbury, his character forged in places like Pennant Melangell, where the saint's story unfolded;

    It supports the church at Pennant Melangell, a place of great beauty and solitude, "a numinous threshold" (Anne Cluysenaar), a true pilgrim site I've been to often and written about from time to time [blog :: article];

    It's co-edited by Norman Schwenk, my tutor in English at Cardiff University in the mid-1980s. A creative man keen to share his enthusiasms with his students, keen to engage and learn with them, a poet in his own right, someone whose paths entirely diverged from mine - till yesterday.

    Not only that, the poems are very good indeed. I shall not reproduce any here, but will chance the frontispiece, an extract from R.S. Thomas' 'The Minister' (which also references a Mabinogion tale):

    God is in the flowers
    Sprung at the feet of Olwen, and Melangell
    Felt his heart beating in the wild hare.