Poetry and Storytelling

Storytelling: an ancient art form and a valuable form of human expression

Storytelling, intertwined with the development of mythologies and folklore, predates writing. The earliest forms of storytelling were usually oral, combined with gestures and expressions. Some archaeologists believe that rock art may have served as a form of storytelling in some ancient cultures.

When it is done well, storytelling involves a two-way interaction between the storyteller and the listeners, where the responses of the listeners may influence the way in which the story is told. Some storytellers use body movement extensively to help to convey the meaning of the words and to increase its dramatic impact.

Indigenous Rock Art

“Gehyrst þu, sælida, hwæt þis folc segeð?
Hi willað eow to gafole garas syllan,
ættrynne ord and ealde swurd,
þa heregeatu þe eow æt hilde ne deah.
Brimmanna boda, abeod eft ongean,
sege þinum leodum miccle laþre spell,
þæt her stynt unforcuð eorl mid his werode,
þe wile gealgean eþel þysne,
Æþelredes eard, ealdres mines,
folc and foldan. Feallan sceolon
hæþene æt hilde. To heanlic me þinceð
þæt ge mid urum sceattum to scype gangon
unbefohtene, nu ge þus feor hider
on urne eard in becomon.
Ne sceole ge swa softe sinc gegangan;
us sceal ord and ecg ær geseman,
grim guðplega, ær we gofol syn.”

“Do you hear, seaman, what this people are saying?
They want to give you spears as tribute,
deadly spear-points and ancient swords,
war-equipment which will not help you in battle.
Sailors’ messenger, take a message back again:
tell your people a much more hostile reply,
that here stands undaunted an earl with his company,
who intends to defend this homeland,
the land of Æthelred, my leader,
people and ground. The heathen shall
fall in battle. It seems too shameful to me
that you should go to your ships with our money
unopposed, now you have come
so far into our country.
You shall not get treasure so easily;
spear and sword shall settle this between us,
fierce battle-play, before we pay tribute.”

An extract from The Battle of Maldon – an Old English poem

The oldest poems are the epic poems derived from the oral traditions of ancient civilisations.The word epic comes from the Greek for word, poem or story.

Beowulf is one of the the oldest and longest Old English poems and dates from around 700-750 although the earliest known English poem is a hymn on the creation, attributed by Bede to Cædmon (658–680).

The Battle of Maldon is an important Old English heroic poem describing a skirmish between the East Saxons and the Viking raiders in 991. It is incomplete now, having lost both the beginning and end sections. However, the poem is regarded as important by historians as it gives an insight into the culture of Anglo-Saxon England.

Storytellers and poets give recitations alongside the singers and musicians at many of the Folk Clubs and Singaround sessions.

Groups and Individuals specialising in Poetry and Storytelling:

Southend Poetry Group
meets in The Naval and Military Club,
20 Royal Terrace,
Southend-on-Sea, SS1 1DU
at 8:00pm on the 2nd Wednesday each month.
This is a members club, so ring the bell to get in.
John Debenham 01702 474673 www.southendpoetry.co.uk

Tales at the Fold
meets at The Fold Arts Centre
72 Laindon Road
Billericay CM12 9LD
on 4th Thursday of each month at 7:45pm
Carl Merry 01268 767770 carl.tale-spinner@blueyonder.co.uk

Leigh Storytelling Circle
meets on the 2nd Sunday each month at Leigh-on-Sea Sailing Club
at 8:00pm
John Barr 01702 558139

Hedingham Fair
Karen and Colin sometimes give performances of one of their ‘shows’ with songs and readings at Folk events

An Evening of Tall Tales and Short Stories
Shane Ibbs 07709 904053 www.storytellershane.co.uk

Essex Storytellers
Carl Merry 01268 767770 carl.tale-spinner@blueyonder.co.uk