In advance of Julian Week (6th-10th May), Louise Øhrstrøm, co-ordinator of Julian Week, blogs about the upcoming event with Mikael R Andreasen and Edwin Kelly. 

Two international guests will be visiting Norwich for the upcoming Julian Week (6th-10th of May). Danish Mikael R Andreasen will be playing songs he has composed on Julian’s lyrics. Irish Edwin Kelly will be reading from his experimental translation of Julian’s writings. Louise Øhrstrøm has asked the two artists what they find fascinating about Julian of Norwich as a writer.

In 2010 Mikael R Andreasen’s Danish band Kloster released their critical acclaimed fourth album, The Winds and Waves Still Know His Voice, which holds songs based on Julian of Norwich’s Middle English lyrics. Kloster was booked for Roskilde Festival (the biggest music festival in Northern Europe) in 2011 because of that album and has played at a number of venues in Europe.

Mikael R Andreasen heard about Julian from a friend and soon learned that Julian’s words somehow seemed really easy to put into melody:

“It was as if the passages contained some sort of inner melody themselves. Later, when I started reading Julian’s complete work in English, I noticed, that also just by reading, the text seemed very rhythmic and had an almost melodic ease or flow to it”, Mikael explains.

Edwin Kelly became interested in Julian when he did an MA in Poetry at University of East Anglia. He currently works on an experimental translation of her texts, inspired by an ancient tradition of editing manuscripts:

“I work with Julian’s texts in a way I feel it has been worked with throughout the last 600 years or so – simply as an engaged reader who wants to know more. In medieval times this engagement may have been mainly looking for devotional and spiritual guidance. In an academic context, this engagement may look at the production of the text itself. Personally, I’m most interested in the emotional power of the text and how this has been maintained through the centuries. I work with the text as a document of the experience and as a physical object”, Edwin says.

Personally, I’m most interested in the emotional power of the text and how this has been maintained through the centuries.

Both artists find that there is something about Julian’s voice that makes her writings relevant even for a modern reader.

Edwin explains: “The texts themselves are consistently surprising. Just when I feel I have categorised them, something in their style will lead me to question my assumptions. I think Julian’s texts are, to some extent, taken a little for granted. Often, interest is in relation who she is rather than what she wrote. I think people will be pleasantly surprised if they take the time to read and respond to what she wrote. It will deepen their appreciation of a fascinating and surprising figure”.

Mikael R Andreasen particularly likes the way in which Julian talks about suffering and love:

“Today it seems like whenever love hurts a tiny bit, people tend to throw it away in search for any kind of new ‘suffer-absent-love.’ It is as if we have created a culture where we are trying to avoid suffering at all cost. In such a culture, I find it both interesting and provoking to read how Julian almost asked for an experience of suffering in order to understand what love is all about.”

Meet Mikael R Andreasen and Edwin Kelly at Julian Week at the Comforting Words event.

For more info, please visit the Julian Week website.