HILDEGARD WINS: Society of Women Writers by Colleen Keating

Hildegard wins.  This is for Hildegard of Bingen.  I was very excited to see the full page spread in Women’s Ink journal of  The Society of Women Writers

Two wins for her .

Thank you to  the judge Margaret Bradstock for judging  Hildegard’s poetic journey the winner as poetry book

Thank you to the judge Judith O’Connor  for judging Hildegard  the winner as non-fiction book.

These wins are for Hildegard of Bingen and her story may her spirit spread across our land.

 

Guest Speaker at the Moolooboola FAW Group

A Workshop on Writing and publishing Hildegard of Bingen: A poetic journey

for the Moolooboola FAW Writers Group President Renowned and award winning John Egan

MY BOOK

Thanks John. It is lovely to be here. John speaks enthusiastically of his Moolooboola group and I believe, I hope my story will motivate and inspire you all on your writing journeys.

Firstly this is my book, Hildegard of Bingen.  It can be called a verse novel as the story is written in the poetic form . A tricky thing to do as you are aiming to be lyrical and poetic and at the same time driving a story line.

John asked me to tell you something about Hildegard.  the woman who inspired me. 

HILDEGARD

Most people know Hildegard through her music. In 2019  on ABC FM in a vote of the top 100 composers of the Western Musical oeuvre, Hildegard as Composer came 33rd ahead of  many of the full known male names in music. 

Hildegard was a fiery woman and a polymath. (someone of wide knowledge and learning – much done by absorption)

She was born in 1098 just on the turn of the century and she lived  most of her 82 years in the 12th century dying in 1179 . It was a vibrant time of expansion and often called a Renaissance because they had come out of the so called Dark Ages. and in the next few centuries, powerful women were often burnt as witches/heretics at the the stake. She was a 12th mystic, prophet, musician , poet, writer, artist, herbalist and healer and a Benedictine nun where  she lived the Benedictan way of daily prayer, work and  study .

From the time she was 6 she had heard the voice of God speaking to her in visions.  This concerned her parents.  And as she was their tenth and last child they tithed her to God. They thought this life safer for her.  They put her into the care of a wealthy young holy woman called Jutta and  together they entered an anchorage  (a room adjoining a chapel in a male monastery.)   Jutta’s family were wealthy patrons of the monastery and so they were welcome there. Anchorites brought in revenue, food and produce as they had a window to the world to talk and counsel pilgrims. 

Other women joined them and it expanded to a convent and when Jutta died Hildegard became the Magistra . Hildegard felt God was asking her to write down what she saw  and heard she went to the Abbott in charge and said God called her to write her visions. He refused her permission. 

As her wisdom developed she felt confined and began to stand up to the Abbott.  She was kept silent and repressed until she couldn’t take the patriarchy any more. She got very sick and only because he thought her death would be on him  he gave her permission to write and gave her a scribe . . a young monk called Volmar 

She wrote  ‘When I was 42 years and 7 months a burning light of tremendous brightness came down from Heaven and poured directly into my mind. It set my entire heart and being on fire, just as the sun that warms all around it by the strength of its rays. 

Hildegard went on to write :
3 theological books,
the first morality play,
two medical books
77 liturgical songs
3 biographies and volumes of correspondence to Popes, Kings, Emperors and many others.  

Every step of the way she had to overcome the repression of the Church, restriction of being a woman and patriarchy . When she decided to take her women to begin their own women’s abbey the men stopped them for ages as they were used to the women doing the gardening, making the medicines  and doing the counselling and attracting the pilgrims which all bought in the money to the monastery. Even when they left they refused to release the women’s dowries which was another struggle. 

Hildegard never gave  up  . . .  biding  her time and moving forward. She planned a way to move her  now 20 sisters to a new place down on the Rhine River  where she built her Abbey creating a place for housing 100 sisters, with an infirmary, hospice, herbarium and apotheke, a scriptorium, for scribing books remember there is no printing press as yet so every word , every note of every song had to be scribed. introduced her sister to running water  verifying her healthy life style.  SShe not only wrote but took on preaching tours up and down the Rhine

Building a second convent on the other side of the Rhine, her sisters caring for the people there and they were loved. Hildegard visited them weekly by row boat.

 Her music, her writings on caring for earth and environment,  health and well being and healing speak to us today very powerfully .  She was one of the first to call the earth mother  and she said we need to care for her as she nurtures  and nourishes us. 

MOTIVATION

My interest in Hildegard began in 1996 when I picked up an illustrated book of her life and work. 

As I came to know her more it became a passionate pursuit. 

On a sabbatical in 1998 I went in search of her. This meant physically a lone pilgrimage to her country, her land along the Rhine River in Germany. I walked in her foot steps sat in the ruins of  the monastery where she lived for forty years and I found myself listening.

I wrote a poem  of that journey which  was shortlisted and commended  in the Mary Gilmore Poetry Competition Women Speak for W omen.

That could’ve been it . Then  after I retired, I saw a 3 week Benedictine retreat to be given in English in her country, Germany and live in her spirit.  That is the  daily three pillars  of prayer, work and study. So this  motivated a new urge in me to write more.

GETTING STARTED

I began taking a few poems of her early life to Norm’s writing group. and to the Women Writers Network  at the NSW Writers Centre. At Norm’s group some enjoyed them but generally they got panned.  John always wrote encouraging things. Told me not to listen to the whingers.  Decima kept me going

However  from that I learnt a lot . First person present tense even past tense was not working and could not be sustained. My  usual type of poetry without punctuation looked weak for a verse novel. Allelua. 

I learnt a lot and found moving into third person present worked. And using punctuation made it more accessible.

In the afternoon Women Writers Network, many looked forward to my next poem and that kept me on a roll.  Some were actually outwardly excited when I had a new poem about her. They all came to love this woman. 

So they energised me to write  . . .all of us wanting the next piece. I felt  I was bringing this 12th century woman  into the present day.  But even with that a heck of a lot of research was needed. 

Sometimes I would think of the season and research the birds migrations nests winds and what the river was up to and the herbs and vegetations -vineyards etc. and research more and read and read put her music on and then the rest happened as I put pen to paper and so often the seasons mirrored her moods.   That was an acclamation of one of the judges . How the landscape became a metaphor so often for her journey.  

VISUALISATION

At this stage they were poems but then I did a one day workshop with Jan Cornell. Busting out your novel. I think it was called.  She got us to map out what was inside us .

This was practical. It needed a title, it needed a cover . It needed direction,  story line, chapters .  We used butcher paper  . . some of you might’ve tried this, even cut pictures out of magazines .  to get characters . It was a fun day.  I went home and put it all in the drawer.  But as I looked back I had done something special that day.   An intention was there. There was a new seed planted.

I had drawn a cover with the title 

Hildegard of Bingen by Colleen Keating.

In a way it was using the secret.

What is ‘The Secret’? “The Secret” is simply the “law of attraction.” Essentially, the law of attraction states that whatever consumes your thoughts is what you will eventually get in life.

I visualised Hildegard in a book, my book .

And over the next few years she unfolded into a wild and woolly first draft.

read pg 57 

THE SECOND DRAFT

All of you as writers are familiar with the draft.

It is advised, recommended to put aside the first draft for a few weeks.  Then,  4 things  need attention. 

Characters. 

Structure. 

Dialogue

Thread of themes

PAUSE AND A NEW PERSPECTIVE    

So Michael and I packed up and set off for Bingen .This time I had Michael with me an enthusiastic offsider. He loved Hildegard and as we walked in her footsteps his step was very light. It happened to be late Autumn which gave me a whole different perspective 

from summer and spring  of my last journeys. different but no less beautiful. 

This time I knew German scholars of Hildegard to meet with and be guided by .

This pause was incredibly helpful process.

Firstly there was time away from the draft. 

Then in Bingen each evening we talked about getting a bird’s eye view and  refined the vision as we discovered the close up.

CHARACTERS   

The character each needs to be given a lot of thought . Each needed an arc of development . Each need to be themselves not pawns I push to make the story I want.  Volmar had to develop from a shy monk to be a maturing academic chosen for his ability in the scriptorium and he had to connect soulfully with the young girl Hildegard who was excited about everything. Sometimes the character of Hildegard reminded me of  a 12th century Alice in Alice in Wonderland, curiouser and curiouser and often Scarlett O’’Hara in Gone with the Wind – fully alive and impatient to be about life  with her arc in her maturity determined she will never be hungry again.  And her close antagonist  Abbot Kuno who like many acted out the patriarchy of the church.

Read young Hildegard First writings   p87/88

STRUCTURE

When I was writing the first draft,  as many of you know you are so immersed in detail and events that,as the writer , sometimes  you don’t have the space to look at the big picture. That was fine . 

For the journey is the journey. The road has been slowly making itself as I write.   I can ask myself if I chose the less worn fork in the road, or whether I should have taken that particular scenic route, or just pressed on over the mountain. 

It’s a bit like the Irish joke about asking directions: ‘Well, I wouldn’t start from here’.

It was at that point I felt it needed to begin at a later stage in her life. I chose a very painful pivot forming a Prologue and then flashing was able to flash back. Many have like that idea. I’ll read you the first poem.   Read page 17.

After that I follow thru to the inevitable end so that after you have been on her journey  I want you to sit silently in her honour at the end with hopefully a tear in your eye for the beauty of this life. One who stood up for women with

courage even as  the odds were against her she never took a backward step. 

 

DIALOGUE 

You can see from my readings the interweaving of dialogue 

In the second draft you will find scenes that can be put into dialogue. Often it pulls the reader into the experience, it quickens the pace of the scene,  gives variety, portrays characters more into reality. My hint for success is to read it aloud over and over .

Always aloud. If possible record and play back all the time getting it a dramatic and as real as possible. Iphones make this easy. 

p 198/199 on A visit from the Canon of Mainz.

THEMES

 Now it was needed to find the themes that thread through the story and note if they have been sustained. 

For Hildegard this included 

  1. her music, singing
  2. her healing  – plants  well being 
  3. environment, mother earth  nature  greening
  4. her writing,  mandalas
  5. her belief in the ability of women
  6. Veriditas  – greening power,  vital green life in a plant moistness, verdancy vitality, growth, greenness, fecundity, lushness .
  7. Suppressed from writing, from setting up her own Abbey.  They kept hold of her  dowries. they used all the tactics to make the women fail. 
  8. They silenced her music in the last year of her life  because she refused to do what they wanted .   She taught her women to find the song inside her heart and have the power inside themselves while she wrote a treatise on music  . . . how it was the song of the angels and sang in Heaven and the only one that would silence it belongs to the devil and Hildegard played on the fear and superstition of the day  and they gave her back her power and she died peacefully

WORKSHOP.

WRITING FOR 10 MINUTES ON A TIME YOU HAVEL FELT REPRESSED.
There were many well written and very interesting specimens writings shared.

John Egan thanked me for coming and Muchael for abeing there to support me and we received a wonderful bottle of Shiraz which Michael and I look forward to enjoying.

 

 

A 12 day pilgrimage trek without blisters by Colleen Keating

 

 

 

A 12 day pilgrimage trek without blisters

Covering 85 miles ( 137 kms.) in the Rhineland Germany, over 12 days
with stops along the way to listen to scholars on Medieval life, writing and  Latin translations, on music and healing and creativity and cosmology is no mean feat . This has been part of my past 12 days as I shared with 150 pilgrims walking in the footsteps of Hildegard of Bingen.. And without blisters for in this pandemic time unable to be in Bingen, Germany,  it was a Virtual Pilgrimage through modern day technology of Zoom. What would Hildegard think?

Thank you to all the players who had the dreams the visions and did the hard work to bring this experience to us  that especially is Michael Conti (film director and producer) famous for The Unruly Mystic: Hildegard of Bingen and more recently The Unruly Mystic: John Muir  and Dr Annette Esser,  foundress and director of the Scivias Institute.

Just a poem of one day :

Day 4  

It is a virtual pilgrimage . . . maybe
but today ice and wind, fire and snow
brings us into real time
with no power for some connections.
Yet our view is not hindered.

With senses alert
it is even more tangible.
Our pilgrimage – an Emmaus Story.

Pressing forward
with the resilience Hildegard taught us.

We walk together on zoom
sharing about everything Hildegard.

Shanon gathered us,
Lauren shared enthusiastically
of Hildegard’s morality play
Ordo Virtutum
Shanon gives a treatise on Wisdom
Beverley captures us in her learned way
where one just wants to sit and listen
as she reflects on the gift of preaching
many others tell of activities
retreats and events that honour
Hildegard at this time of her feast.

Our virtual walk
through the Land of Hildegard<
from Kiln to St.Johannisberg
where Annette speaks Hildegard’s words
on the Living Light
and into the village of Weiler.

And as we reflect
Hildegard seems ever present
Do we not recognise
in each of us her many gifts?
The miracle is we each walk alone
but together with a oneness and intimacy
of being in each others presence
across time zones, weathers and seasons.

Hildegard our focus.
Our eyes are opened
our hearts burning within us
while we accepted again the gifts she gives us
to share with our broken world.

 

 

 

On our 12 day Virtual Pilgrimage called Saint Hildegard Speaks
we joined each day via Zoom at one of the stations along the way.

Our pilgrimage took us through the fields, forests, hills and vineyards of the Nahr Valley (Nahr is a Celtic word for ‘Wild River’) a beautiful and rather undiscovered landscapein the heart of the Rhine . Dr Annette Esser after she  completed the Camino  a few years before was inspired to create The Hildegard Way 

And today the 17th September is our final day.  This is Hildegard’s Day. We give special memory to her this day the anniversary of her death on the 17th of September 1179. Here at the Hildegard House with  parish priest Rev. Shannon Sterringer, Fairport Harbour, Ohio
celebrating

 

Many call this her Feast Day.  It  is a Catholic tradition to make people saints. Hildegard holds the record for the longest time between a death and canonisation.. Part of me steers away from this after all the enormous effort that went into making Mary MacKillop a saint . The miracles that have to be proved  to be a saint is very confusing.

As far as I am concerned Hildegard was a saint at the time she died because the people made her a saint. Later I will quote from my book how the people loved her and how she gave herself to them. When papers were sent to have this declared in the next years  after her death it was refused. And a few hundred years later when the Benedictan sisters tried again the papers were ‘lost.’ 

Hildegard has returned at this time in our world to help restore us with her cosmic and feminine  theology, her creativity, music and healing knowledge and  to help us find balance in our lives and on our planet

  The Vatican has  jumped onto the cause now  (2012). and has given Hildegard the status of Sainthood and Doctor of the Church.

For me the most beautiful portrait of Hildegard is this one below.  I feel such compasssion in it.Compassion is what we need today in this broken world.
Compassion for our planet
Compassion for humanity
Compassion for ourselves.

 

The idea was planted like a seed is planted, like a whisper heard , like a dream dreamt, Dr Annette Esser  is inspired to create the Hildegard Way. I am so proud that a poem of mine set in Disenbodenberg the place where Hildegard lived for 40 years of her life  is translated into German and included in her book  on the pilgrimage trail

Pilgerbuch: Hildegard von Bingen Pilgerwanderweg

 

And this is how my poem slowly came back into English and became part of the Saint Hildegard Speaks Virtual Pilgrimage  and I became part of this whole amazing experience

 

Saint Hildegard Beer : An amazing surprise!

Yes this is real . A can of beer called St Hildegard.

What a surprise when my son-in-law sent me a iphone photo of a St Hildegard can of beer.

He was at a hotel for a celebration and was so excited when he saw this can. I think everybody quickly became aware his mother-in-law had research and written about this woman and this was exciting news for Brendan to relate to me . Then for my birthday the family  bought me a carton  of Hildegard beer !!!!and it has been good for toasting the wonderful milestones my book  Hildegard of Bingen: A poetic journey has achieved.

This beer celebrates Saint Hildegard – who I know as Hildegard of Bingen.

I see Hildegard an inspiration but am just learning young people in pubs are celebrating her as the  first person to describe hops in a scientific manner.

The  back of the can reads:
Brewery: Hawkers Beer
Style: American Pale Ale
Format: 375ml Can
ABV: 4.6%
This beer celebrates Saint Hildegard, the first person to describe hops in a scientific manner. During her life, she was a brewer, mystic, prophet, composer, and prolific writer on religion and the natural world.

Mel’s hop-forward XPA predominately features Yakima Chief Hops’ Pink Boots Blend, consisting of a well-rounded mix of Pacific Northwestern hop varieties including Loral, Mosaic, Simcoe, Sabro, and Glacier.

A portion of the profits from this beer will be donated to Pink Boots Australia and the Asylum Seeker Research Centre.

Hawkers/Pink Boots/ Cryer Malt Saint Hildegard XPA

A collaboration with Pink Boots Australia.

Mel’s hop-forward XPA predominately features Yakima Chief Hops’ Pink Boots Blend, consisting of a well-rounded mix of Pacific Northwestern hop varieties including Loral, Mosaic, Simcoe, Sabro, and Glacier.

A portion of the profits from this beer will be donated to Pink Boots Australia and the Asylum Seeker Research Centre. This made me very excited that a beer called after Hildegard was helping asylum seekers. 

Hildegard and Hops

Wild hops had long been consumed by ancient Romans and used medicinally in different parts of the world for their anti-microbial, anti-spasmodic, and sedative qualities. So her observations of melancholy were apt, albeit arguably a bit shortsighted.

“Hops are the soul of beer.” – Jim Koch, Founder, Boston Beer Company

But given that hops had not been used in beer-making previously, and they were a long way from being ubiquitous or oft-cultivated, it is not surprising that the many benefits of hops had eluded Hildegard.  However, knowing Hildegard’s fondness for bitter tasting foods, it makes sense that she be the one to include this naturally bitter flavor in what we know of today as beer.

Some pointers I picked up from healthyhildegard.com  the wonderful informative website.

Health benefits of beer according to Hildegard

In her book,Causae et Curae, Hildegard wrote: “…[beer] positively affects the body when moderately consumed…beer fattens the flesh and…lends a beautiful color to the face.”

As it turns out, she was right on all accounts. Particularly regarding moderation. While far from a health tonic, beer does offer some unique qualities that have proven beneficial when consumed in moderation as part of a healthy lifestyle. Moderation is important.

  1. Increased bone density
  2. Anti-Inflammatory
  3. Cancer fighter ( the flavonoids in hops contribute to the health benefits of beer including preventing cancerous cell growth.
  4. Cardiovascular Health ( of course in moderation and discretio
  5. Reduced risk of kidney stones
  6. Digestive health
  7. Reduced risk of alzheimersAs the long shadows of autumn cue us to bring in the harvest and prepare for the coming winter, get outside and enjoy the turning of the seasons. And if you are so inclined, find a long table in a park or a local brewpub and hoist a beer with friends and family, fatten your flesh (just a little), and don those rosy cheeks. In moderation or discretio, of course.

    Prost!

Silver Nautilus Award for Hildegard of Bingen: A poetic journey

 

 

Congratulations to Ginninderra Press. Excited to announce Hildegard of Bingen: A poetic journey  by Colleen Keating has received a Silver Nautilus Award: Better Books for a Better World.  Hildegard of Bingen was published late last year and launched in November.

 

Nautilus Award 

 

Nautilus Book Awards recognizes and rewards books that celebrate and contribute to positive social change, spiritual growth and conscious living. Its winners have included the likes of the Dalai Lama, Thich Nhat Hanh, and Marion Williamson. It’s truly an honour to be a part of this award-winning community of writers. I have always loved the idea of the Nautilus shell with its Fibonacci pattern and am thrilled to have this award.

 

Congratulations!  You are a Winner in the 2019 Nautilus Book Awards program!

Your book has been selected as an Award Winner in the category shown below.

Title:    Hildegard of Bingen: A Poetic Journey     

Author:   Colleen Keating  

>  [email protected]

Publisher:   Ginninderra Press   

Contact name & email:   Stephen Matthews

>  [email protected]

Award:      SILVER 

Category:  Lyric Prose  

We heartily welcome you to the Nautilus Book Awards family, comprised of highly esteemed authors and publishers from across the USA, and from over 20 nations around the world. You can be especially proud of your book’s selection as an Award Winner this season, which attracted a record-number of entries and included a magnificent diversity of high-quality books.

We are grateful for the chance to help promote and celebrate your book by increasing its visibility as a Nautilus Award Winner. And, we are truly encouraged by the new perspectives these books present with which to co-create a better future, individually and collectively. Changing the World one Book at a Time.

LYRIC PROSE

Hildegard of Bingen: A Poetic Journey
Colleen Keating
Ginninderra Press

We have developed our judging process over the past twenty years, and continue to expand and improve our parameters and our system of evaluation. It is our purpose and intent to seek, review, identify, and celebrate books that we feel best support the co-creation of a Better World.  Our goal is to offer life-affirming options with imagination and possibility to a world that longs for a new story.

Gold and Silver Awards, and one Grand Winner Award are given to print books of exceptional merit that make a literary and heartfelt contribution to spiritual growth, green values & sustainability, high-level wellness, responsible leadership and positive social change & social justice, as well as to the worlds of art, creativity and inspiration.

 

‘The Earth is our mother ‘ Hildegard reminded us 870 years ago

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Hildegard of Bingen envisioned a time when human activities would harm our Mother Earth. “The earth sustains humanity,” she wrote. “It must not be injured; it must not be destroyed.”

Hildegard further writes,  “The earth is the Mother of all, for contained in her are the seeds of all.” She recognised and revered the notion that we are one with everything in our living, breathing, glorious universe.

Reading Hildegard of Bingen: A poetic journey,  at this time is highly recommended as a foil for fear and anxiety at this time of crisis and as very relevant today for Earth Day after the devastation our earth has suffered. 

 

Hildegard of Bingen is called the founder of the environmental movement.  She is an early eco-warrior aware of the need to care for the earth and for how it gives us all we need.

Hildegard spoke of how we are one and part  with the earth how we are interconnected and interdependent on each other.

Earth Day is slipping past this 2020 with all the concern on covid -19 and with the call for physical distancing meaning it is not possible for much promotion. 

Hildegard von Bingen  lived in the 12th century, during a time when there was no inkling of the devastation, destruction and pollution that humans would wreak on our planet. She cherished the natural world around her. She lived in a veritable garden of Eden, surrounded by verdant forests, fertile river valleys, and the clear running waters of the Rhine, Nahe, and Glan rivers.

Finally a beautiful poem by Hildegard:

     I am the one whose praise echoes on high.

     I adorn all the earth.

     I am the breeze that nurtures all things green.

     I encourage blossoms to flourish with ripening fruits.

     I am led by the spirit to feed the purest streams.

     I am the rain coming from the dew.

     That causes the grasses to laugh with the joy of life.

     I call forth tears, the aroma of holy work.

     I am the yearning for good.

taken from a wonderful website  set up by Sarah Riehm a devotee of Hildegard or one of our family of Hildegardians who speaks of and about Hildegard with a  gentle mixture of very scholarly research and with a voice  of Hildegard accessible for us in the 21st century.  . .how I like to think Hildegard would be writing and speaking for us today

In  Hildegard of Bingen: A poetic journey I have Hildegard saying these words at different times including in the poem Viriditas. But it is beautiful to see it as a poem by Hildegard.

Sarah Riehm, Curator

[email protected]

www.livinghildegard.com

 

go

Hildegard’s Encouragement in a time of a Pandemic

 

 

Hildegard always encouraged:

Live simply

Live in the moment

Live in beauty

Her way of healing, –  individuals, groups, the world is going to the cause of the problem and working towards  healing the cause, compared with today’s medical model of treating only the symptoms not working towards the healing the problem.

This is like putting a blanket on a fire to smother the symptoms with out putting out the actually spark of fire.

The golden guidelines from Hildegard:

  1. Viriditas   literally “greenness,” a word meaning vitality, fecundity, lushness, verdure, or growth. For us today in isolation and social distancing draw energy from nature’s life force.

This can be found by sitting in a park or observing a tree or listening to the birds. one friend took 53 photos from her window and it was fulll of colour and movement. Just be present to what you see. and the delight of nature is there for you.

  1. Healthy and balanced nutrition found from food’s healing powers

     3   Regenerate strained nerves with healthy sleep, exercise and good food.

4.   Find a harmonious balance in your day. Make a routine – stretching,   walking,  drinking plenty of water,  doing what ever activity possible.

    5       Be vigilant . Wipe down delivered shopping.  Wash fruit and vegetables.  

    6    When stress arises:         

(a) name it, face it 

(b) accept it

(c) flow along/float 

(d) Let time pass

(e) Remember no feeling is final

(adapted from Healthy Hildegard.)

 

Hildegard always writes and speaks about the interconnectivity  of all things

we are interrelated and interdependent on all things and it is only when we bow down to that and become stewarts of our earth will we be healed.  Thank you Hildegard.

Book Review: Hildegard of Bingen: A poetic journey by Colleen Keating

Hildegard of Bingen by Colleen Keating is, as the author subtitled A Poetic Journey based on the life of the saint Hildegard von Bingen (1098 – 1179).

 

BOOK REVIEW      Women’s Ink Magazine  www.womenwritersnsw.org

Hildegard of Bingen – A Poetic Journey

COLLEEN KEATING

Ginninderra Press

ISBN 978 1 76041 766 6

Reviewed by BEATRIZ COPELLO

For those who do not know about this saint’s life, let me tell you she was an incredible and fascinating woman who lived in the Middle Ages in Germany. She lived an intense life dedicated not only to religion but also to science, art, music, politics and philosophy. Hildegard founded two monasteries and maintained active correspondence with kings, emperors and popes. During all her life this mystic had visions which she attributed to divine inspiration. 

In the forward of Hildegard of Bingen, Keating says she fell in love with Hildegard when she read a book lent to her by a friend. That love is evident in each page, in each poem, in each line. Through Keating’s poetry we get to know Hildegard, her life unrolls like a magic carpet. Poem by poem the reader finds out about her dreams, hopes, aspirations as well as her frustrations. 

Keatings’s poems come alive with sensory experience, her words are confident in range and depth and they are utterly clear and articulate. The poet could have been a witness in Hildegard’s life, she knows her, she breathes her, she has a familial intimacy with the philosopher. The author undertook a journey into the mediaeval world, the poems are factual and the events meticulously researched. They contain very vivid descriptions, we can see in our mind’s eye what Hildegard saw, like in

 

‘Arrival’

Disibodenberg, high in the forest
sprawls in the clouds.
The last mile steeply uphill
Secluded. 

A white butterfly dips and lifts.
Hildegard’s gaze follows it up
catches the glint of the sun
on the first stone wall.

Stoic buildings unfold
cloistered around a cobbled garth.
Their Benedictine monastery.

A monk in cinctured black robe
walks from signposted infirmary.
From beneath his blinkered cowl
he extends a welcome.
They dismount
Jutta falls on her knees in gratitude.

In Hildegard’s life the days pass coloured by monotony and sainthood and as the days pass so is her strong and determined personality developed. Poem by  poem the reader becomes wrapped in a mantle of words, words that tell us of revelations, mysticism, determination and sainthood. Keating puts herself in Hildegard’s shoes and cleverly she is able to recreate the angst, the bravery and the defiance of this incredible woman. We enter her abode, her orchard, we get to know the sisters and her godly visions. We hear two strong voices Hildegard’s and Keating’s the poet. Writing is a labour of love, the writer not only poured her love for Hildegard in the poems but also her skills and knowledge.

Intuition, growth, earthiness, inner strength, passion, justice, wisdom, art are all words that describe what emerges from Keating’s poetry. What a great way to learn through reading poetry! The poet has not spared any detail about the life of Hildegard neither has she left out information about her sources. This fascinating book contains an Epilogue, a Chronology, a Glossary, Notes and a Bibliography. In the final notes Keating says: ‘A Poetic Journey seeks a middle ground between an accurate scholarly presentation of Hildegard and a personal interpretation of her story.’

I believe the writer has achieved her purpose offering us  the opportunity to get to know a mediaeval feminist of extraordinary creativity. Colleen Keating has created a masterpiece. 

Women’s Ink! Magazine   www.womenwritersnsw.org    March 2020 p19

Viriditas and Hildegard

 

Thanks to Healthy Hildegard for the photo and the idea to feature Viriditas.

 

Viriditas

After the rains
Hildegard tends the garden
knee deep
in wet grass,
up to her elbows in soil,
worms, snails 
and ruff of leaf compost.

Marvels at the ramble 
of a young squash vine,
a stray seed gone free.

Lingers in the fragrance
of chives and basil,
coriander, lavender and mint,
and the smell of parsley.

Savours their bouquet.
Being jubilant
with the flirt of white moths,
and the canticle of bird song
from an oak branch above.

Dwells on her knees
as if in prayer.

Hildegard stands
her hands on her lower back
stretches and arches
skywards.Wisping clouds
ruffle. Light whispers,

I am the breeze that nurtures all things green.
I encourage blossoms to flourish with ripening fruits
I am the rain coming from the dew
that causes the grasses to laugh
with the joy of life. 

Fearful of her own mystery
she clams shut this Light
into the tight knot of her gut.

*Viriditas means “greenness” – vitality, lushness, verdure, fecundity, growth.   It has its earliest connection to Hildegard von Bingen. 

It seems a perfect expression of the living green captured by the soul as the light dances over grass and leaf life.  

With the term Viriditas, Hildegard of Bingen meant to describe a fundamental force in nature and the cosmos that binds people with animals, minerals, and plants.

Viriditas, the power of nature

A greening power, as Hildegard described it, exists in all things and is the basis for all healing in people and of the earth.

This greening powere exists as a symbol of prosperity and vitality, with plants blooming, growing, germinating and bearing fruit.

We lose our greening power through apathy, monotony and stress in everyday life.

We lose our greening power when 

However, we quickly restore and preserve it through prolonged time and movement in nature.

Spring explodes
like a paint box come to life
spilling across
the browned winter-wearylandscape.

In Australia we wait for regeneration after the unprecedented fires we have experienced . We observe the tiny moments of  viriditas return.

I give thanks to all the wonderful people who are being proactive to save species that are threatened. eg the rare life of the green Corroboree Frog from the Snowy Mountains. My daughters who send hopeful photos of new life and promise me the trees will recover.

New life  bursting into our lives.

The Blue Nib reviews Hildegard of Bingen by Colleen Keating