“The chief or learned poet explains or exhibits the great extent of his knowledge…by composing a quatrain without thinking, that is, without studying. At this day it is by the ends of his bones he effects it, & he discovers the name by this means. The way in which it is done is this: when the poet sees the person or thing before him. he makes a verse at once with the ends of his fingers, or in his mind without studying, & he composes & repeats at the same time… But … before Patrick’s time… the poet placed his staff upon the person’s body or upon his head, & and found out his name, & the name of his father & mother, & discovered every unknown thing that was proposed to him, in a minute or two or three… Patrick abolished these things (that were) among the poets when they believed, for they were profane rites… & could not be performed without offering to the idol gods. He did not leave them after this any rite in which offering should be made to the devil, for their profession was pure.”
in Technicians of the Sacred, ed J Rothenberg
It was partially because of this story, the fact that the poets of the ancient Celts were not just linguistic acrobats but also sacred dreamers, shamanic workers, and that their words had power according to the rulers, that I devoted my first manuscript of poetry to Taliesin. I read many poets who have composed since then (most of them, really :)) and think that regardless of what ritual is performed, a walk, a cup of coffee, a long stare at a blank page, poets continue to reveal power. Do I want to define that word, that one that comes with so many niggling barbs attached to it? No – I want to read more poetry and shiver, dance and laugh into inspired wonder.