ESSAY Jay Griffiths

NWR Issue 98


The storm was ripping off branches, flinging slates from the chapel roof, and tearing at the ancient abbey stones like a ravenous god. I lay wrapped in tarpaulin, in my sleeping bag, inside a hollowed-out yew as the gale drove through the cemetery where this tree marks the grave of the medieval poet and harpist Dafydd ap Gwilym. Some years before, lightning had struck this yew and the fire which followed had, with uncanny precision, transformed the tree into the shape of a harp.

Everything is cut down to the quick, to the living. Deadwood is swept away in storms: only necessity and will remain. I admit I was scared. Nothing was untouched in this storm-changed night, drumming its imperative: transformation. Storm is a catalyst of havoc, a twister in the plot, a tornado turning and turning time forward in the story. Demanding with Lear that things must change or cease, storm is a kinetic trickster. In ‘A Tempest’, a political retelling of Shakespeare, Aimé Césaire added the Trickster to Shakespeare’s cast of characters: Eshu, the gatecrashing and border-crossing god, a force of turbulence against Prospero’s rule.

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previous essay: Castro’s Capitol
next essay: Along the Unthank Road


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