We love your commitment, good luck with week 5



Something new and exciting to add authentic Saxon flavour to your writing : the KENNING. We are doing this here because the KENNING works extra-well with writing about sea and ships.

(i) What’s a SIMILE? (google) It’s when you say ‘blah is LIKE blah’ – much used in poetry.

examples :               he’s got a head like a ball/has hair like a bird’s nest

                                 she smokes like a chimney/runs like the wind

(ii) What’s a METAPHOR (google : tricky this one) It’s when you say something IS something else.

examples :                         the cradle of civilisation (not really a ‘cradle’ but the metaphor works)

                                            the fire of youth / the picture of health / the autumn of life

(iii) So who cares, let’s forget about them and introduce the KENNING : something described by TWO things, and the thing itself isn’t there – only the two things. Hm.

examples :                 the birds’-field    =           the sky

                                   the ships’-way              =             the sea

                                     the iron wheat                   =             thicket of spears

                              the face-fungus     =           beard

Using these has a brilliant effect on the sound of a poem : almost a mini-riddle, and with a genuine Saxon and Skaldic ring to it.


(i) try some : do KENNINGS for a pillow (headcloud?), fork (foodcrane?), trees (earthgiants?), cactus, beer, dragon, mug, shield, knitting. Look round you and use things you can see from where you are.


Now use some KENNINGS for a small ship/sea poem.

(i) choose a sea-going vessel (steamer, yacht, galleon, quinquereme, tugboat, longship, junk)

(ii) choose weather (hot, cold, calm, tempest, dark, bright)

(iii) choose the journey/purpose (carrying cargo, fishing, war, pleasure)

example : I’m going for KAYAK    ICE/CALM    FISHING

(iv) Write your small ordinary prose bit 50-100 words.

example : kayak floating on freezing water / man lets down his line (I’m alliterating already!)/ will the fish bite / clouds low overhead / icebergs in the distance / a few silent birds / creaks of ice and the plastic hull of the kayak / waiting

(v) Write your little poem : remember half-lines, alliteration and a KENNING. With these 3 weapons you will have all the armoury you need to write super-good Saxon poems.

example :

floating on the freezing                     fishes’-field

Loopy lets down                          his long line

clouds cluster                                       calm and colourless

in the birds’-way above                                  Bergs break and crack

the kayak creaks                                                waiting for a catch


You are now a poet, Saxon-style. This would sound good recorded/videoed. And look good drawn/painted/calligraphized.

Next week, Week 6 is a bit optional. The Christian element of Anglo-Saxon poetry isn’t liked by lots of people – but as we owe all the surviving poems to monks and copyists like them, it isn’t surprising they turned things their way as they went. So we’ll do a Saint-poem.

Remember to send any work that you would like looked at to john.gallas@btinternet.com