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207 E pi l ogu e The Stanley texts are not the only Cheshire-area works with a popular presence in the twenty-first century. Moreover, many of these modern versions maintain a distinctly regional identity, even when presented to national and international audiences. Writing in the Times, self-described “native of Cheshire” Alan Garner rejects W. S. Merwin’s 2002 translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight as “a limp Gawain that portrays a suburban America rather than a Pennine English North.”1 Garner prefers a translator with personal knowledge of the poem’s local landscape: “whoever takes on that job should know the feel of the light of those hills and have the speech of millstone grit on the tongue.”2 The dust jacket for the British edition of West Yorkshire poet Simon Armi­ tage’s 2007 version follows Garner’s lead, describing Armitage’s work in overtly regional terms: “It is as if, six hundred years apart, two northern poets set out on a journey through the same mesmeric landscapes— acoustic, physical and metaphorical—in the course of which the Gawain poet has finally found his true and long-awaited translator.” In his introduction , Armitage characterizes his work as the deliberate reclamation of a regional text from extraregional appropriation: “although my own part of northern England is separated from Lud’s Church by the swollen uplands of the Peak District, coaxing Gawain and his poem back into the Pennines was always part of the plan.”3 The Cestrian performances discussed in this book are also culturally active. While Robert Amery’s 1610 triumph remains defunct, the St. George’s Day race he helped to inaugurate is still run on the Roodee today, albeit in May due to the calendar reform of 1752.4 The Whitsun plays were revived in Chester in 1951 as part of the Festival of Britain and have been produced every five years since then.5 I saw them performed in a moving two-part musical version by director Robin Goddard at Cathedral Green in 2003. The official website for the modern 208 Epilogue cycle promises that Goddard’s upcoming 2008 performance “celebrates once again Chester’s unique cultural heritage and demonstrates its special place on the world stage.”6 The plays literally went global in 2001 with the stunning Wilton’s Music Hall production of Yiimimangaliso: The Mysteries in London. Making use of an abridged text of the Chester cycle, Yiimimangaliso stages the plays not only in Modern English, but also in Afrikaans, Xhosa, and Zulu—the four major languages of South Africa, home to the performers. The production’s multilingual script acknowledges South Africa’s regional divisions, preserving the cycle’s Cestrian localism in spirit if not in letter. All of the above are instances of the survival and continued cultural relevance of individual Cheshire texts. For the Cheshire myth, the county’s sense of itself as a separate and distinct community, we need to look elsewhere. The Cheshire County Council coat of arms (discussed in the introduction) is one piece of evidence for the persistence of some form of palatine culture. We might also consider fiction and poetry. For example, the stories and novels of Merwin reviewer Alan Garner—from his 1960 children’s fantasy The Weirdstone of Brisingamen to his 2003 mystery Thursbitch—frequently take a trans-temporal Cheshire as their setting, shifting from past to present and back again as a means of emphasizing the power of place and landscape to connect otherwise distinct epochs.7 More recently, Andrew Rudd of Frods-­ ham made the community-wide composition of specifically Cestrian topographical poetry the keystone of his tenure as 2006 Cheshire Poet Laureate.8 He outlined his plans for a virtual anthology entitled Lines on the Map in a 6 March 2006 entry on his blog: The idea of this project is a simple map of Cheshire, with dots to represent places. As the mouse moves over these dots, the place name appears. When clicked, the name brings up a poem— normally with some kind of introduction. I would like to see this build up into a comprehensive “poetry map” of the County. I can imagine all kinds of conversations when a resident of Twemlow Green, for example, has a look at the poem connected with their place. It may give unique insights into the way people perceive places, and encourage local poetry.9 Epilogue 209 The 101 poems Rudd collected are now available online as part of...


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