Attended a riveting event yesterday where Martin Shaw retold the story of Tristan and Iseult in one day to an audience of 80 in Dartington’s medieval Upper Gatehouse. With lashings of humour and feeling, Shaw led us into an exploration of how the story conjures the rapture and damage of love. Romantic love thrives on thwarting and the love triangle of Tristan, Iseult and Mark involves such thwarting again and again. Together we tracked the agonising twists and turns of the lovers’ erotic jeopardy and felt how an all-consuming love can become stifling, depleting and vampiric. Shaw kept us rapt to the story’s continuing resonances in the contemporary world and our own lives.
In his preamble, Shaw referenced the poetry of the troubadour duke, Guillaume IX, and the female trobairitz. A few years ago, I collaborated with artist Tania Candiani on a project in the Lot Valley in France. I wrote a song based on a lyric by the Occitan female troubadour, Comtesse de Dia, which was recorded by a local Occitan singer in one of the nearby medieval churches. My adaptation replaced the two lovers in Dia’s song with the Earth’s lament to the human species.
Candiani installed the amplification sculpture pictured here to enable people to listen from the clifftop to the song resonating in the Lot Valley below. You can listen to it here.
The song lyrics are published in English in my book The Water Age and Other Fictions, which is available on Amazon and other outlets.
Martin Shaw and I will be teaching the new MA Poetics of Imagination at Dartington Arts School starting in September 2020.