In my quest to get my children’s adaptation of Beowulf put on the big stage, this weekend I realized I had to get big names to endorse the poem.
I wanted one of the names to come from someone very familiar with the original text, and my search for who that might might be did not take long: almost immediately, I thought of Benjamin Bagby. I emailed his USA contact last night, who responded by telling me he forwarded the email on to Bagby, and this morning I got the email I was hoping for.
For those who don’t know who Benjamin Bagby is, let me fill you in: this guy memorized the first 1000 lines or so of the original text — that is, in Anglo-Saxon and not a translation of the text — got hold of an Anglo-Saxon harp by hiring someone to recreate the harp based on archaeological finds, and he tours around the country performing live in an insanely awesome one-man show. I highly recommend seeing his performance, if you ever are able to. It’s pretty incredible.
So, this endorsement is pretty big. Here is what he had to say of my poem.
Joshua Gray’s poetic re-telling of the Beowulf epic as a tale for children gets to the essence of the action with a use of modern English which is accessible and clear for young minds, listening while busily building their own image-worlds. My own experience is in telling this story to adults in a language they no longer understand, but I have the sense that this new text may well encourage very young listeners, years later (after their bedtime stories are a distant memory), to recall this tale with pleasure and to discover a vibrant curiosity to know more about the doings of Hrothgar, Grendel and Beowulf. It will serve as a wise and entertaining investment in keeping this important story alive and well in our culture’s memory, as oral poetry and a fertile field for imagination, in both children and those who read to them.
Benjamin Bagby, performer of Beowulf in the original Anglo-Saxon
So where are we with the children’s poem? I saw some of the images that Sean Yates has come up with, and I have to say I am super psyched by what he has come up with. The book should definitely be for sale in January 2012.