The Powys Society Conference 2022: Speakers

Louise de Bruin

Louise is a long-standing active member of the Powys Society. For many years she was contributing editor of the Powys Journal and for even longer she has been one of the organisers of the Powys Conferences. She also edited two volumes of extracts from Mary Casey’s diaries, A Net in Water and Under the Shadow of the Oath, and for the Sundial Press a short novel by Philippa Powys (aka Katie Powys), called Sorrel Barn. She currently shares her time between Haarlem in her native country, the Netherlands, and Mappowder in Dorset where she lives in the cottages in which Gerard, Mary and Lucy used to live. Louise was introduced to the Powys family by Gerard Casey, son-in-law of Lucy Penny, née Powys, the youngest daughter of the Reverend Charles F. Powys and his wife. He picked her up in Kenya in the early 1970s when she and her companion were hitch-hiking through Africa and introduced her first to Will Powys and sometime later to the writings of the brothers Powys. In 1977, he invited her to join him for a Powys conference held in Weymouth and to meet his mother-in-law, his wife Mary and other members of the Powys family.

Louise writes “Katie has very rarely spoken for herself. This I hope to let her do in my talk on her diaries which I rescued after Lucy’s death from damp and silverfish. Katie started to keep a diary in August 1903 when she was 17 and with long gaps here and there kept it up until almost the day of her death. In her diaries she pours out her many passions: sadly enough, most of these unfulfilled. One of them was for writing: diaries, poetry, novels and one play. But having had no formal education, her writing life was one long struggle with grammar, syntax and spelling. When she picked up her diary once more in 1927 on the advice of brother Theodore, she wrote miserably: 'I have done some writing but my farming has failed; and as I am slow and uncertain in my writing it is of no commercial value. Thus the good of my life is to humankind is NIL.' Being the extraordinary person she was, that was of course not true at all, but apart from that, The Dial published part of her Driven Passion under the title chosen by John, Phoenix, and in 1930 her novel The Blackthorn Winter came out. That same year also saw Driftwood, a small volume of her poetry, in print, both under her writer’s name Philippa Powys. Posthumously The Powys Press reissued Driftwood with some heretofore unpublished poems. And in 2011 the Sundial Press released a volume with two of her short novels: Sorrel Barn & The Tragedy of Budvale. Especially Sorrel Barn, as always with Philippa, a dramatic love story, set in a beautifully described Montacute of the early nineteenth century, is in my biased opinion a gem, which adds as an extra bonus a glimpse of quite a different side of life in the Montacute vicarage as pictured by her brothers John, Littleton and Llewelyn.” 

Michael Grenfell

Michael has held Chair positions in Scotland, Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland and the University of Southampton, UK where he is now based. His background is in French Studies and early research projects included French Catholic non-conformist intellectuals’ response to dechristianisation in France. His academic career also involved extensive research and publications on language, education and linguistics, as well as a close association with the French social philosopher Pierre Bourdieu with a focus on biography, music and the fine arts. He has a personal interest and involvement in a range of esoteric philosophical traditions and disciplines, and has worked closely with the ideas of J G Bennett and associate connections. He was committee member of the William Blake Society of St James in London in the 1980s and 90s when he was their Press and Publicity Officer. He also edited the Blake Journal. His special focus has been on Blake and Gnosticism. He is the author of some 20 + books and several research papers on these topics and others. See: Michael writes: “John Cowper Powys and William Blake - This talk will explore the literary and philosophical links between the works of John Cowper Powys and William Blake. I shall begin with some account and comments on JCP’s own writing on Blake and the elements he identified in it. I shall extend these with consideration of the core philosophy at the centre of Blake’s work. What that philosophy is, is of course highly contested. However, I shall address my own perspectives on Blake with respect to Gnosticism, or more accurately Gnosis, and the kind of relationship to the world it implies. How this is pertinent to JCP will be discussed with respect to Blake’s view of creativity, nature, Christianity, and indeed human consciousness. I shall explore these themes in terms of areas of ‘overlap’ with reference to a selection of the fiction and non-fictional work of JCP. Ultimately, I am looking for points that may be regarded as a ‘common vision’, or at least an appreciation of what they shared and how they differed. Referents will be drawn from both philosophical and literary traditions in order to articulate the extent of their mutual metanoia.”

Felix Taylor

Felix works as a librarian at The Queen's College, Oxford, and has recently written a DPhil thesis on the reception of Welsh mythology & folklore in the novels of Arthur Machen, John Cowper Powys and Alan Garner. Felix’s lecture will give an overview of JCP's use of the Four Branches of the Mabinogion in his novels and wider philosophy. It will argue that in Owen Glendower and Porius, JCP reshapes and rewrites Welsh myth to suit his own strange theories about the Welsh people and their psychological 'peculiarities'. 

Morine Krissdottir

Morine was Chair of the Powys Society between 1987 and 1996. She was curator of the Powys Society collection at the Dorset Museum before items were transferred to Exeter University. Morine has published articles in the Powys Society Newsletter and the Powys Journal - Foreword to Vol. 1 (1991); Introduction to the diaries of JCP, 1932-1933: A Selection on the Writing of Weymouth Sands’, Vol. II (1992); ‘The Twig in the Crystal: Phyllis through John’s diary’, Vol.III (1993); The diary of a Man Who Walks, Vol.VIII (1998); a review of book by Janina Nordius ’Myself Alone’, Vol. VIII (1998) and Missing the Middle, Supplement Vol. XXXI (2021); Morine also edited the six deleted chapters of Wolf Solent for the Supplement, Vol. XXXI (2021)). She is also the author of John Cowper Powys and the Magical Quest (1980), Petrushka and the Dancer, the Diaries of John Cowper Powys, 1929-1939 (1995), The Dorset Year (with Roger Peers) (1998), Descents of Memory: the Life of John Cowper Powys (2007). Morine is the co-author of Shielding: People and Shelter (1985). Morine writes: “As well as giving a brief description of the challenges met in preparing the deleted chapters of Wolf Solent for publication, I would like to discuss more generally the difficulties that editors, past and present, have encountered when faced with JCP’s prolixity.”

Charles Lock

Charles recently completed his twenty-sixth year as Professor of English Literature at the University of Copenhagen. Among his recent publications: Anne Blonstein continuing, to mark the deposit of the poet's archive at the Poetry Collection, University of Buffalo; “A Symphony of Concessions: Cables, Railroads, Orthodoxies in Harbin and Beyond” in Japan’s Russia: Challenging the East-West Paradigm, eds O. Solovieva and S. Konishi (Cambria, 2021); and “Thinking on Location: An Essay in the Vulnerability of the Subject” in the Journal of History and Theory (December 2021). Forthcoming (with the late Magnús Snædal) is an extensive study of the sixth-century manuscript in the Gothic language known as the Codex Argenteus (or Silver Bible, held at the University of Uppsala, Sweden), and of the circumstances under which it was first printed in 1665. Charles is a regular contributor to the Powys Society Conference and Powys Journal – he was Editor of the Journal from 2011 to 2020. He presented a lecture at our conference in Street in 2018 which was published in the Powys Journal in Vol. XXIX, 2019 under the title, Diversions and Digressions: What happens in the reading of A Glastonbury Romance. Charles contributed an obituary of our late President Glen Cavaliero in the Powys Journal, Vol. XXX, 2020. Charles writes that his lecture will “consider the differences that the recent availability of the deleted chapters might make to our understanding and appreciation of Wolf Solent. This will involve questions of editorial principle and the aesthetic implications of challenging the unified wholeness of a literary work.”