'Malkin' by Camille Ralphs: A Cultural Report!Appetite Cultural Reporter Susan Hackney reviews a new book of poetry by local writer Camille Ralphs, 'Malkin'
This little book of 14 poems about the Pendle Witch trials takes you on a journey back in time to hear the sounds and live through the experiences, thoughts and feelings of those accused.
Written in poetry with unorthodox spelling which reflects the language as it may have been expressed at the time, Camille Ralphs gives an insight into how they may have felt and why they were accused.
Often from poor families and sometimes with mental health problems that were not recognised at the time, the voices of the accused come through the pages to tell of their individual story.
Jane Bulcock’s narrative of the tortuous trials performed on them to prove their guilt hits you with the words used about trial by drowning - if you drowned you were innocent and if you didn’t it proved you were a witch, ‘we’re damned if we do; and we’re certainly damned if we don’t’.
Once accused it was very difficult to prove innocence, especially when so many were eager to come forward and give evidence. The last poem is about Jennet Device, who at the age of only 9, was a key witness to the trials and testified against her own family to save herself.
The simple illustrations throughout by Emma Wright, are also in keeping with the times and the starkness of the accused people’s situations.
Within these poems you can hear their voices and feel their fear. You can’t help but lament for them going through their ordeal in this dangerous and often ignorant time.
You can find out more about 'Malkin' published by The Emma Press here.
by Susan Hackney
Appetite Cultural Reporter
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