Thoughts on HellWard from Fiona Agombar

James Sale has written an epic poem which describes the wild energy of hell we all find ourselves in now, if only we are brave enough to look – and look we must for without insight, we remain trapped in the systems of greed and selfishness. His poem takes us on a journey into the darkness of our psyche and it is not until the end that we glimpse the possibility of paradise, which can only be reached from the realisations gained from hell. With Dante as his wise seer and guide, Hellward is a deep insight into human nature – what we have created both as individuals and collectively – our false philosophies and idols which have led us astray and betrayed us. 

‘….They built one tomb
Called planet earth – polluted, warmed and dying’

Indeed self-deception is one of the great themes of this masterpiece and how this leads to the hell of our own undoing and misery. The tale therefore lays before us the warning of how important true discrimination and truth are because without them we are: 

‘Like scorpions perishing from their own stings’ 

His wonderful imagery encourages the reader to reflect on the nature of reality. If something is only an idea in the mind, how has it the ability to take us into chaos and is this at our own hand? In this way our role as victim is challenged.

A hospital ward where Sale is dying of cancer becomes the portal for his prescient vision. Guided by Dante, rather like the Ghost of Christmas Past, he is taken back through life, starting with an unbearably sad meeting with his mother and the realization that he was unacknowledged by her and that this cannot be changed. Journeying on, he meets an ex student, then an ex boss, another poet and others which lead into reflection of the state of humanity and how we created the Iraq war and Brexit. From this we may see the corruptions of the system:

Debris, - slight remnants of surgical mess,
Adhering sticky plasters, blood clots, skin
The horror of humans undone, undressed.

The writing is superb – the poem grabs you by the throat and takes you on a journey through your own psyche triggering all kinds of insights – just like good poetry should. The imagery is beautiful and I cannot recommend Hellward highly enough. This is a poem for now – for post-pandemic – as we reflect on the new world we want to rebuild. Will it be kinder with smaller communities sharing love and connection – or will we be ruled by a few corporate global oligarchs who control us through fear and greed? That’s what I have taken from this anyhow – and that it’s for each one of us to decide. Buy this amazing poem and let it inspire you too. 

Fiona Agombar is an author and advanced yoga teacher in the Krishnamacharya Tradition, with a specialised focus on fatigue. More information about her practice can be found here:

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