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Poet Damian Walford Davies visits MPW

Posted by: Jack Darlington - 06 October 2020 - MPW London - Read time: 5 Minitues

On Monday, the 28th September 2020, MPW held a virtual, socially distanced English Literature talk with Damian Walford Davies, an English author we’re studying in our A level, who wrote Witch, the incredible poetical cycle, published in 2012.

Due to the severity of the coronavirus pandemic and the safety guidelines at these times, we have not been able to have the privilege to see plays for the course, so it’s been an absolute pleasure to be treated to the extremely rare opportunity of being able to talk to the poet.

He gave us the invaluable opportunity to share with us the true interpretations and meanings behind his poetic style and narrative. Damian, an author, poet and librettist, kindly spoke to us of his influences such as the English Civil War in the 1640s, which was a key decade that surrounded the horrors of witchcraft, with the demonisation of women and men. He used this time period and the brutal hangings of thousands of men and women, as inspiration to help him advance on his narrative.

Damian wanted the opportunity to be able to animate history, excavating those voices such as the two only female characters in Witch, who were accused of being ‘Witches’ by the main protagonist called Nicholas Strelley. Strelley blanks his son’s true identity, not perceiving him as weak and effeminate, and therefore blames his son’s weakness on a labourer, Clemence Addy, who he’s convinced, has hexed his son and has therefore condemned him to death.

Davies’ poems are full of spiritual war, optical illusions, sexual bating and are set in an east Anglian village between 1643 and 1644, inspired by a post 9/11 world of surveillance. Damian kindly read out one of his poems, which was a monologue from one of the two female characters in Witch.

We got to hear the voice of Alyce Addy, who was suspected of Witchcraft within the narrative, who only got one poem to voice her opinions and concerns towards Nicholas Strelley, who later gets her mother executed due to being convicted of witchcraft. What was most of interest was that the English civil war has more resonance today in a post-Brexit UK than it had at the time it was published.

A Q&A session with Damian was held whereby our head of English at MPW, Richard Martin posed many a question of which answers were left pretty ambiguous in the verse novel. Damian treasures the essence and depth of ambiguity, so lots of us students took the rare opportunity of getting answers from the author himself, which most students don’t have the privilege of doing nowadays, due to the fact that most authors we study in English Literature, such as the famous Shakespeare and Chaucer have been dead for centuries.

We were incredibly thankful for Damian Walford Davies’ for coming in to talk to us, and this just shows that despite our education being impacted by the coronavirus, we still prevail.

By Jack Darlington, MPW London’s Student Reporter