John is a St Magnus Festival Orkney Poet and Fellow of the English Association and has had many poetry books published, examples include Star City, 52 Euros, The Song Atlas, Fresh Air & the Story of Molecule, 40 Lies and The Little Sublime Comedy, most having being published by Carcanet. John is also a librettist, which we hope to benefit from, and a translator, tramper, cyclist and FOX (or Leicester City Football fan to you and I!) He has also joined the Sutton Hoo Ship’s Company as a volunteer to write poetry about the ship and the project, some of which will be shared via the Newsletter.

John will be delivering two interactive workshops over the weekend. These can be attended individually or sequentially.

Write like a Saxon (Part 1) – How we know and have a go (Friday 2 June)

After a short introduction looking at the composition of a Saxon poem, spotting half-lines, alliteration, compounds and kennings John will guide the group to collectively write their own poem based on the treasures found in the mound at Sutton Hoo before looking at creating and solving some riddles with your fellow group.

F1: ‘Write like a Saxon – how we know and have a go’ with John Gallas, 6 – 7 pm in The Longshed, Woodbridge – Bookings closed

Write like a Saxon (Part 2) – Singing of things (Saturday 3 June)

After a quick introduction to half-lines and alliteration John will work with the group to choose a Sutton Hoo object on which to base a poem. By moving the individual 4-line creations around the group and emphasising the ‘hero and horror’ element the poem will develop into a shared piece of work. After which the art of riddle-making will take centre stage.

S5: ‘Write like a Saxon -singing of things’ with John Gallas, 4 – 5 pm in the Longshed, Woodbridge – Bookings closed


Write Like a Saxon – a little taste of what the workshops are about

Hwaet, Ic swefna cyst                           secgan wylle

(Listen up, and I the best of dreams       will tell you about)

Amulets, spear tips, brooches, harps, helmets, shoes, pots, ship remains, swords, fish hooks, shields, we have by the thousand. But where are their voices?

The voices lie in the 30,000 lines of Saxon poetry that survives, written down with pen and parchment, and of course in us.

Come and give your voice to the Saxon world – from the smallest cloak pin to the angry ocean and windy sky – in the Saxon way. And then look at our own world, now, anew.

In 7 small workshop-tasks, we’ll hammer, nail, cleat and plane WORDS to set the Sae Wylfing on its way to the sound of its Singing Spirit.

Not a poet? Every folk is a poet. Our work will be done together, as in the Longshed: you will not ‘ana gonge’ (walk/work alone). By easy stages we’ll look at how the Saxons wrote poetry on the page, what tricks and wonders they used to make things shine … and then give voice to anything we choose.

From the smallest mobile-phone to the biggest truck, from a splinter to the sun.

The Old English poetic tradition is yours – none of this newfangled, private, Romantic rhyming and sonnetting – and once you know it, you can do it, and once you can do it, you can tell the world (or keep it quietly, and proudly, to yourself).

This is poetry as Work- unselfish, co-operative, and purposeful. We

wille woÞcræfte        wordum cyÞan

(will speech-craft                 with words relate)

A little pre-workshop challenge:

Take your knife, fork and spoon. Look at them longtimes. Think about them as something else. Write down your thought. Then change a few words so that there is some alliteration (ie. the first letter of some words is the same).

Now you’ve put your first toe in the Saxon poet-water.


(Just in case you’re stumped, here’s an example:

Knife – an oar waiting to be used? – (becomes) – an unused iron oar (note: all vowels alliterate together)

Fork – a metal tree without leaves? – (becomes) – a silver sapling shorn by winter

Spoon – a pathway and a pool ? – (becomes) – shiny path to a pewter pool


Wes Þu Hal!

(Be you whole: All the Best!