Wise Woman's Life in Religious War; POET Bob Beagrie Answers DAVID WHETSTONE'S Questions about the Seer Sung Husband, Which Was Inspired by a Visit to Old Mother Shipton's Cave in North Yorkshire

Article excerpt

Byline: DAVID WHETSTONE'S

WHAT was the spark of inspiration that brought this book to life? While visiting Mother Shipton's Cave and Petrifying Well with my daughter a few years ago, I started wondering about her life. It's a very atmospheric place and I scribbled a few notes.

When I learned she was married at 24 to a carpenter called Tobias, it really whetted my curiosity and I wondered what it must have been like for him.

Very little is known about him so he seemed to be a perfect candidate to use as a possible narrator. That's how the poem started, and as I read more widely around the period I realised that their lives coincided with the Henrician Reformation and the Pilgrimage of Grace, an uprising that briefly threatened Henry VIII's power, and their calls for a Northern Government, and wondered how it affected by them.

Have you always been interested in history? Yes, but the problem is that it is too often presented as "other", something that doesn't belong to us. I think fiction and poetry can break down that barrier and allow readers to identify much more with figures from the past, as well as to see their own lives as part of history.

Tobias and Ursula Shipton lived in turbulent times of radical social change and a shift in ideas around faith, identity and belief. I was interested in how differences in world view and spirituality that co-existed and clashed could be explored through these characters.

What is it about the verse epic format that appeals to you? I like the way it draws the reader into a rich narrative, allowing a story to unfold, while also employing poetic effects and heightening the musicality of the language. Listening to epic verse becomes quite hypnotic and spellbinding.

I wrote The Seer Sung Husband in verse rather than prose because it was a natural progression from some earlier poems I had written using specific historical voices for epic style verse, such as a crewman on James Cook's first voyage which I published as Endeavour: Newfound Notes (Biscuit Publishing, 2004).

What would you like readers to take from the poem? Firstly I'd like readers to enjoy the story and the play of lyrical language, but I'd also like to think they would take away a flavour of the period. Because the poem shifts between realities, on a deeper level perhaps readers might go away with a sense that we all simultaneously live in a multitude of realities defined by the narratives we create from our own lives. …