On Waking Dead, Mad, or a Poet

Cadair Idris

There is a mountain in Northern Wales called Cadair Idris, which means “The Chair of Idris”. Idris is a giant from Welsh mythology, although the name may also refer to a famous Welsh warrior-prince of the 7th century, who once defeated the Irish atop this mountain.

But that is not what interests me about this mountain. What I find fascinating are the legends surrounding it.  It is said that anyone who spends a night beneath this mountain will wake dead, mad, or a poet. So naturally, all aspiring poets are compelled to test their fate at the mountain’s foot.

As you might imagine, this is a theme near and dear to my heart. I was captivated by this tale when I first heard it many years ago in the skillfully woven yarns of modern-day bard Robin Williamson.  The quest for inspiration has always been the single most driving force in my life,  and I could well understand the desire to risk all for poetic gifts.

So naturally I had to write a song about it. :+)

I have been writing this song, in one way or another,  for several years. In some ways, all my songs are this song.  But, after several iterations, a song specifically about this quest has emerged, which we are calling “Fire in the Head”.

I am telling you about this because this blog’s purpose is to chronicle moments of magic. And in the last few days, this song has been a portal for the very magic it speaks of.

Winter and I have spent the last few days in our studio, taking our “Neofolk Romantique” album from “Pre-release” to “Done”.  We plan to have the formal album completed by Faerieworlds. Now sometimes, when you are in the studio, it’s just work. Fun work, but nothing particularly special happens. You just prepare, perform your parts as passionately and skillfully as you can, play them several times and choose the best take. If you are reasonably professional and committed to your craft, you will end up with an album that people enjoy. And it’s all good.

But sometimes you get lucky. Sometimes it seems that a portal opens up and something “other” sweeps in and takes over, a kind of spirit permeating your work and making the hair stand up on the back of your neck. The song flows out effortlessly then, as if it is writing itself and you just stand back, its humble servant.

These are the moments that every artist lives for.

To be able to share these moments with my partner is a gift I cherish above all. It is incredibly bonding, powerful, and humbling, all at the same time.

This was the recording experience Winter and I had these last few days.

Everything you hear about studio magic – and that you hope happens in your own projects – happened on this song. New parts revealed themselves effortlessly, as if they’d been lying in wait all along. A playful creativity permeated each day, and Winter and I  got into that “mind reading” zone that musicians sometimes get when completely in sync –  having the same ideas at once, finishing each other’s sentences, giving each other chills and making each other weep; all that was there.

It felt so magical to me to have this kind of experience while recording a song specifically about the quest for the poetic gift; as if, in that moment, the song was fulfilling itself through us.

These are the moments that make all the sacrifices worthwhile.  The path of indie musician is not the most well charted territory, and really does feel like exploring the Wild West at times. There are few rules, and whoever figures out how to do it and survive, wins. We forego comfort,  security, and stability; we spend long hours on the road, often missing out on community-building opportunities at home; we spend long hours in the studio while others are hosting parties or going to the beach. We hear the word “no” more times than you’d think was humanly possible. We spend years floundering in obscurity striving to hone our craft, with no guarantee that our efforts will ever be recognized. We do all this in the pursuit of inspiration.

We risk our lives for poetry.

And when it comes, it is utterly worth it.

The screaming hag that rides the wind
Will rip the soul right from your skin
The hollow hills will swallow you
And flay apart your mind
To win the kiss of the Gifted Ones
we risk our lives on the mountain front
There’s some wake mad, and some wake dead, 
And some will rise with a Fire in the Head
– Sharon Knight, Fire in the Head

Coming soon on an updated Neofolk Romantique CD near you. 

Got an inspiration story of your own? Care to share it?


8 thoughts on “On Waking Dead, Mad, or a Poet

  1. Waking dead is something of a contradiction, unless you’re talking ’bout zombies.

    Whereas “mad” and “a poet” are synonyms.

  2. I knew a young man who “woke up dead” one morning. He’d been healthy the day before. He was a freshman at Berea College. Very sad.

  3. I’m all kinds of excited to feel, listen, & breathe this new “derge” of a tune matey! ^_^

  4. Waiting on it – impatiently.
    Sounds cool.
    Time to mark that on the list of ‘places I want to go’

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