Getting Claimed in the Age of Amnesia
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In Scatterlings, Martin Shaw walks the myth-lines of seven stories based in and around his homeland of Dartmoor, England. Rather than the commentaries on such tales being primarily balanced against other literary sources, Shaw uses what actually occurs on these walks as the main source of information on the tales. The swoop of raven, the swamp, the thinking that moves through him, all form a knot of relationship between the land and the story. As he walks he tells the story of the place back to itself.
This is a highly unusual move for a mythologist, an aspiration to use speech as form of animistic relationship, of binding, of praise to a place. In a time of rapid migrations and climatic movement, Shaw asks: how could we be not just from a place but of a place? When did we trade shelter for comfort? what was the cost of that trade? What are the stories the west tells itself in private?
Scatterlings also takes us on a wonder through the wild edges of British culture, a story of secret histories: from the ancient storytelling of the bardic schools to medieval dream poetry, from the cunning man to animal call words, to Arabian and steppe Iranian influence on English dialect. Through its astonishing journey, Shaw reveals to us that when you gaze deep enough into the local you find the nomad, and when you look deep enough into the nomad you find the local. Scatterlings is a rebel keen, a rising up, to bend your head to the stories and place that claim you.
Reviews / Endorsements
“Urgent and necessary, Scatterlings is told in a way that makes it unlike any other book I have read.” –Paul Kingsnorth, author of The Wake
“Scatterlings will tear away the veil that has separated us from our past and our future. It will rekindle hope and an infinite trust in our being and becoming.” –Anne Baring, author of The Dream of the Cosmos: A Quest for the Soul
“Martin Shaw is, without exaggeration, the most powerful writer of prose that I have read, and I read a lot, some 100-200 books a year, and thousands of stories both fiction and non-. In Scatterlings Shaw casts off the domesticated language with which we have been inundated since our birth and something wild, ancient, intelligent, and incredibly strong enters his words. And as those meaning-filled words penetrate us, deeply sleeping parts of the self begin to awaken. We see again with luminous eyes, hear again the shimmer of Earth in language; a portal opens and the power of out there begins moving through the in here. A wild light begins to gleam in our eyes, our hair grows long, our language begins to shift, and in some inexplicable way, as humans long ago understood we could, we begin to become old growth ourselves.” – Stephen Harrod Buhner, award-winning author of 21 books, including Ensouling Language and Plant Intelligence and the Imaginal Realm
“I will say this about Dr. Martin Shaw: I wish him protection from the saints and something like a pardon from the Lucid Gods. He is now as much and as good a teller as there probably is among us adorned and afflicted by the English tongue, and he has lingered a while in the old caves, as he says. He knows that things can happen when the word is nailed to a tree, to be read. Things do happen. And he’s done it, and done it so very well, and so much in thrall to the chant that you can hear him. It may be wisdom he’s done here. It may be something wiser.
I know that if had to choose kinship, Dr. Shaw the dowser and scriber on my left, or the Old Gods of Song who have granted me my tongue and my days on my right, I’d be pressed. Hard pressed. Probably I am.
So hail this Scatterlings, this treasure. Barley and love for its burdened, heathen son, the one who’s come down from the hills with this Relic From the World Tree and from it has carved his plume and a way home. Would that this plea for a better day and its maker be granted not the cliff face but the long road, and peace for his earned, learned days. Homeward, now.”–Stephen Jenkinson, author of Die Wise