Riddlecraft: From Kenning to Canting (Masterclass)

Riddlecraft: From Kenning to Canting (Masterclass)

Time-jump a millennium to poetry’s dawn in Anglo-Saxon riddling

‘I’m a wonderful thing,        cannot say a word

or speak for men         though I have a mouth’

– fragment from The Exeter Book of Riddles

On this course we shall be looking at the roots of Anglo-Saxon English poetry as situated in the riddle, the kenning, the language of medieval back-street and hedgerow cant. Referencing poets such as Bill Griffiths, we will explore the earliest English secular poetry to find the origins of its texts on and in objects; create ‘riddle creatures’, meditate on Anglo-Saxon gargoyles, dream poetry and find inspiration in the hill forts, settlements and tracks still evident today. By the end of this Masterclass you will have gained concise insight into the workings of the Anglo-Saxon poetic mind and how the influence of charm and riddlecraft can be imbued into your own work. Additionally, we will trace those poetic inheritances through the work of Shakespeare and Milton, Blake and T. S. Eliot, having acquainted ourselves with aspects and elements of ‘The Dream of the Rood’, Beowulf and The Exeter Book. Utilising the prosody of riddlecraft – which aligns with the Old English Verse structure (which is four beats and alliterative) – we will write a poetry which enables us to correspond with Anglo-Saxon magical language.

Masterclasses are an expanded version of our Interactive and International courses, with a much deeper consideration of technical craft and critical theory. These 12 week courses (maximum 10 places) are for advanced students only, and fluency with poetic language and ideas will be assumed. There are no regular live chats and they are suitable for UK and International students.

More information about how all our online courses work can be found on the Online Courses page.

Image credit: Janet McKnight

About MacGillivray View Profile

Kirsten Norrie writes poetry under her matrilineal name, MacGillivray. She is the author of three poetry collections: The Nine of Diamonds: Surroial Mordantless (2016) and The Gaelic Garden of the Dead published by Bloodaxe in 2019 and The Last Wolf of Scotland published by Red Hen in the US, 2013. Her non-fiction work Scottish Lost Boys is published by Strange Attractor Press/MIT in Spring 2019. She is a tutor at the Poetry School, London; New College and WSAP, Oxford and in 2018 founded The Oxford School of Poetry. Norrie has read at venues including the EIBF, the Southbank and the Scottish Poetry Library and her work has appeared on BBC Radio 3 Late Junction and The Verb. Norrie has worked in translation, collaborating with Latvian poets in Riga for Latvian Literature, was one of three featured Scottish poets for the Queensland Poetry Festival and has received numerous Creative Scotland awards for her writing which has appeared in Test Centre, Magma, The Scotsman, the New River Press, the Poetry Review and many other publications. In 2019 she is a writer in residence at the Fondation Jan Michalski, Switzerland working on her fourth collection A History of Optics: The History of Ghost and researching the world’s oldest lunar map at Crathes, Aberdeenshire, for poetry titled Nightless. Her poetry will be translated into Spanish for 50 British Poets Since 1950, published by Circulo de Poesia, Mexico City and in Modern Poetry in Translation. With an interest in Elizabethan magic, pattern poetry, cant and Jung, Norrie has written site-specifically in Orcadian, Norn, Shetlandic, Scots and Gaelic. www.kirstennorrie.com

‘The tutor on the last Poetry School course I attended was outstanding – well prepared, socially skilled, self-aware and good at holding the group together. Her classes were a joy – reawakening my enthusiasm for writing. Her suggested approach to daily writing has become a welcome habit – a pleasure to complete each day.’

– Summer 2018 survey response

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