At a time when we are all confronted by not one, but many crossroads in our modern lives―identity, technology, trust, politics, and a global pandemic―celebrated mythologist and wilderness guide Martin Shaw delivers Smoke Hole: three metaphors to help us understand our world, one that is assailed by the seductive promises of social media and shadowed by a health crisis that has brought loneliness and isolation to an all-time high.
‘When I started reading Smoke Hole, I noticed the hair on my body growing faster. Midway, my fingernails needed to be clipped sooner. By the end, my voice had dipped from a Barry Gibb falsetto to a Barry White baritone. If you dare...read with care.’―John Densmore, The Doors; New York Times bestselling author of The Seekers
‘Through feral tales and poetic exegesis, Martin Shaw makes you re-see the world, as a place of adventure and of initiation, as perfect home and as perfectly other. What a gift.’―David Keenan, author of Xstabeth
‘I read this book in one sitting. It was impossible not to. Enthralled by the first story (‘The Handless Maiden’) much as I might have been enthralled at face value by a childhood fairy tale, I read on. I began to delve deeper, drawing at first from his understandings and truths, then accepting his invitation ‘What are you going to do with it?’ (the story) to search for my own truths.
‘Every now and then a book comes along which turns your world view inside out, and upside down. This is such a book – at once beautiful, enchanting, compelling, disarming, sobering –but ultimately liberating and enabling. Martin Shaw is a powerful storyteller, and what a story (of our times) he has to tell. We would do well to listen.’―Brigit Strawbridge Howard, author of Dancing with Bees
‘“The mess out there is because of a mess in here.” With this, the fundamental teaching of all true paths, Martin Shaw launches into his great theme: what the wild, and the myths it gives birth to, can tell us about this baffling, broken moment. There is no way out without a return: maybe here you could find a story that will rescue you.’―Paul Kingsnorth, author of Alexandria
‘A beautiful, quietly radical book. Shaw opens the world of ancient mythology and applies it to modern life, offering the reader a poetic olive branch to help reconnect with – and, crucially, re-enchant – the fabric of life itself.’―Harry Sword, author of Monolithic Undertow
‘In Smoke Hole, Martin Shaw magnificently demonstrates how we need old stories to guide us through the very modern perils we are all now facing, from the pandemic to social media. His storytelling and use of language are dazzling, and through the prism of entrancingly poetic and vital tales of challenges and great testing, he illuminates the power, comfort and absolute necessity of the old stories. This is an important book: thought-provoking, heart-healing and life-enhancing; showing us how myths and metaphor can reconnect us to the wild, help us rediscover a sense of awe and find startling beauty in the strangest and most terrifying of times. Stories are always for those at a crossroads, says Martin Shaw, and as we all find ourselves at a monumental crossroads now, we need to look back to the old stories and let them show us the way forward. Martin Shaw enables us to see how if only we can learn, once again, to listen to the vital teachings and old-world wisdom held within ancient stories, they can, quite literally, save our lives. This is a book with a deep magic and a crucial message for our troubled times. To read it is to be taken on an enriching journey, to gain a new perspective, or maybe an old one. I absolutely loved it.’―Fiona Mountain, author of The Keeper of Songs
‘Ontological dynamite. Cutting through the techno-utopian verbiage of our age, Martin Shaw’s husbandry – his appreciation and respect for the power of modern tools; his awareness of their limits and dangers; and his instinctive reverence for the timeless, the essential and the vital – will awaken the tamed metaphysicist itching to run wild, who sleeps in even the doggedest technologist. A rare kind of modern-day bard, he walks a tight rope, guiding us to that very special place where we can learn to be wiser, worthier, more generous ancestors without failing to show ourselves to be more humble, sensible and compassionate descendants.’―Felix Marquardt, author of The New Nomads
‘In language as resonant as his human voice, master myth-sayer Martin Shaw summons us away from our frantic distractions to that wild place where the answers arise, crows in their hair. Smoke Hole gives us the sight to recognize them. Seize this book. It will be the deepest and most delightful reading you do this year.’―Sarah Chayes, author of Everybody Knows and The Potomac River
‘Is it possible for a small book to contain the vast wild? Can its pages hold the cool breeze, the rustle of small things, the secret history of the earth and of your own face? Can a book help to break the spells holding us prisoner? This book can. Our time is one of breaking and breaking open, and Martin Shaw’s tales help us to reimagine our world so that we can rebuild on the ruins of our untenable civilization.
‘Martin Shaw is that rare teacher whose soul is a harp string strung between the urgency of heartbreak and the joyful ferocity of hope. The music he makes is deeply moving and challenging in the best of ways. The stories and lyrical teachings you will read in Smoke Hole help guide us to a more ethical, a more lucid future.’―Ariel Burger, author of Witness
Dr Martin Shaw is an acclaimed teacher of myth. Author of the award-winning Mythteller trilogy (A Branch from the Lightning Tree, Snowy Tower, Scatterlings), he founded the Oral Tradition and Mythic Life courses at Stanford University, and is director of the Westcountry School of Myth in the UK.
He has introduced thousands of people to mythology and how it penetrates modern life. For twenty years Shaw has been a wilderness rites of passage guide, working with at-risk youth, those who are unwell, returning veterans as well as many women and men seeking a deeper life.
His translations of Gaelic poetry and folklore (with Tony Hoagland) have been published in Orion magazine, Poetry International, Kenyon Review, Poetry magazine and Mississippi Review. Shaw’s most recent books include The Night Wages, Cinderbiter, Wolf Milk, Courting the Wild Twin, All Those Barbarians, Wolferland and his Lorca translations, Courting the Dawn (with Stephan Harding).
His essay and conversation with Ai Weiwei on myth and migration was released by the Marciano Art Foundation.