Technicians of the Sacred: The Poem as a Magical Event

Technicians of the Sacred: The Poem as a Magical Event

Charge your poems with the ancient power of charm, spell, hymn and hex

If we trace poetry’s history back to Antiquity, we see that certain magical terms – such as mage, witch and shaman – can be used interchangeably with today’s ‘poet’. In this workshop we will explore how, in the words of Rachel Tzvia Back, ‘poetry is a species of magic’. Taking inspiration from Jerome Rothenberg’s seminal anthology Technicians of the Sacred, we’ll follow his ethnographic study of poetry from around the world, to see how the individuals who used poetry in ancient times – whether as hexes, invocations, rituals, hymns, or spells – were thought to possess great power. We’ll read from the earliest known author and Sumerian High Priestess, Enheduanna, who used poetry to communicate with the gods, and the sixteenth-century friar Giordano Bruno, who was burnt alive for asserting an infinite universe in his poems. We’ll also read from contemporary poets writing in magical ways, including Aleister Crowley, Dorothea Laskey, and Rebecca Tamás, amongst others, to how see techniques like structure, symbolism, and sound have been used throughout time to charm, conjure, and curse. Over the course of the day you will complete a number of writing exercises and experiments to generate a clutch of new drafts for your poetry codex. For all writers, witch-identified or not.

Saturday 16 March, 10.30am – 4.30pm

All classes will be in our offices at 1 Dock Offices, Surrey Quays Road, Canada Water, SE16 2XU. The venue is a 2-minute walk from Canada Water Station. Take the ‘Lower Road’ exit from the station onto Surrey Quays Road, then walk straight ahead, crossing over Deal Porters Way, and the Dock Offices come up on the left. The door for the school is at the far end of the building.

More information about how all our face-to-face courses work can be found on the Face-to-Face courses page.

(Image credit: ‘danielle tineiki’)

About Sascha Akhtar View Profile

Sascha Akhtar’s poetry has been widely anthologised and translated. She has performed internationally at festivals such as the Poetry International Festival Rotterdam, Avantgarde Festival Hamburg and Southbank Centre’s MELTDOWN festival London curated by Yoko Ono. She has also been part of poetry protests – Against Rape (Peony Moon, 2014) and Solidarity Park Poetry – Poems for the Turkish resistance (Ed. 2013). Her most recent collection is 199 Japanese Names for Japanese Trees (Shearsman, 2016). In 2017 and 2018, her fiction has appeared in Storgy, The Learned Pig, Tears In The Fence, BlazeVox and Anti-Heroin Chic. She is currently working on a book of translations of the work pioneering feminist Pakistani fiction writer Hijjab Imtiaz for Oxford University Press India, due to be published in 2019, alongside a book of poems as a Tarot pack, entitled Only Dying Sparkles (ZimZalla), with original art by John Alexander Arnold. For 2019, she has been invited to be a judge for the Streetcake Experimental Poetry Prize.

‘For me, the fact that Poetry School is about writing practice and process is incredibly valuable. So much else is focused on the finished product and publication, that a space which is so much about learning, craft, sharing and development is vital & unique.’

– Spring 2018 survey response

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