New Writing

Eve Retold 

Celia Johnson

(This is a reappropriation of an old story.  It was created to tell on, and as part of, a site responsive walk made at Queenswood for HEnergy week in October 2017.  It began in the orchard.  

Received wisdom suggests that Eve is the original bad girl and that, for her transgression, she and Adam were expelled from Paradise.  But I prefer to imagine that she had her reasons.)

A very long time ago and in a place that’s far from anywhere, there was a woman:  she was the first woman and she was very wise.  Her name may have been Eve but she could have had many other names.  She lived in a beautiful garden, a perfect garden, but it was separate from the world and, because she was wise, she longed for the world beyond the garden; she longed to be part of it.  And her longing made her hungry.
She lived in the garden with a man who was probably not called Adam.  He was the first man and she longed to love him.  With her whole being, and to touch him.  But touching wasn’t allowed in the garden though she didn't know why, and she didn't know who made it so.  And her longing made her sad.
And, because she was wise, she knew that touching was good and that the garden should not be apart from the world; that life is not contained and could not be kept, like her, in this separate place.  And she knew that the garden was not perfect and that only by leaving it might it become so.  She understood that change was coming and that she would bring it.
And, because she was wise, she was scared: she understood the vastness of the task before her and that she needed to be brave to leave the garden,  so that one day she might return and make it beautiful.
So, she searched for help in the garden and found the serpent shedding her skin.  The woman whose name was probably not Eve recognised the snake, and the snake changed her face into a childs to show the woman what she longed for, and then the woman understood that she was the mother of the world.  She cried and was hungry for the love of the family she knew she would start.
Knowing her hunger, the serpent took her to an apple tree in the garden, and gave her the food she needed.  You may have heard that the fruit of the tree was forbidden in this garden but it wasn't; the tree had only been hidden from those who were scared to look for life.
And when she ate, everything was changed and she wasn't hungry any more.  And she took some apples for the man in the garden so that he would understand, and so that she could love him.  She made clothes for them both from the leaves of a tree (it may have been a fig tree) because she knew it would be colder beyond the garden.
And, shaking the dry earth of the garden from their feet, and with hardly a backward glance, they left the garden in search of paradise.  And apples were in the belly of the woman and life was in her womb.

New Poems by Sarah-Jane Crowson.

Sarah-Jane is Scholarship Development Manager at Hereford College of Arts. Her most recent publications include articles on Scholarly Spaces, developing research in Further Education, and the use of less-formal learning spaces. She is currently a member of the editorial panel for The Scholarship Framework, part of the Learning Skills Report Network task force and on the judging panel for the Association of Learning Technologists annual award.

Sarah is studying for a PhD at Birmingham City University, where her research considers creative arts education as a critical space. In 2015 her poem, ‘The Surrealist’s wife’ was shortlisted for Canterbury Festivals ‘Poet of the Year’ competition.


Sarah-Jane Crowson

Lace tastes of burned paper.
Widows pinned steel
to skeleton spaces, wound mourning
nests for wealthier widows.
Lace is context,silk, sun-
shear through thread to skin.

A thousand machines pattern-call
‘lace, lace, lace’ .
Iron birds spin
fabric sheer as

Lace whispers 'parlour'
so quietly that the stories
of a thousand women
who pinned and pieced
and sold slip
knots, thread.
Mouth the word ‘doiley’,
it’s full of holes.

The witch-wife

Sarah Crowson

I have tools to catch
a witch. I'll pinion
her wrists in silver
clamps, use pins,
and scissor shuttles
from her bones for lace.

And then I'll wait, until her nails curl round
like furling leaves from sycamores
and snip them short to carve a gauge.

I'll shear her hair to knot a net,
and fashioned from this net will be a cap
to catch myself a husband
who will feed me comfits.

Words are a rustle in the minuet de cour

Sarah-Jane Crowson

Articulated butterflies
of paper, ivory and abalone.

The language of wings
is etched with lapis and azure. 

The language of wings
stalks courtship in the space between monture and leaf.

The language of wings
grows palaces, clouds and peacocks
that spin with the dip and gutter of the candle flame.

We are animals in the dream garden.
The room is heavy with smoke and heat.
We dance.