Congratulations to Tony Mitton who last month won the CLPE award, for his wonderful epic poem, Wayland. This beautiful poem, a retelling of a little-known northern tale brought to Britain by the Vikings, is accompanied by stunning illustrations by John Lawrence, created through engravings on vinyl. Awarding the prize, the CLPE judges said: ‘Wayland was chosen for the mastery of the form, its epic nature and its beauty as a complete piece of art, poetry and legend. This verse retelling of the legend of a master blacksmith who fashions such ‘wonderful ware’ that he is captured by a king is a tour de force.’

The story of Wayland, his faithful love for his swan wife, his skill as a craftsman, his years of servitude under King Nidud and his glorious flight to freedom are compellingly conveyed in this gem of a book.  Cover, end-papers, page design, type-face have an intrinsic gloss and richness that compel a reader to turn the title page and enter the story.


Original print for Wayland by John Lawrence. © John Lawrence
Told in resoundingly rhythmic four line stanzas, using a mix of archaic and modern forms of expressive language, Wayland is a story of love, hope, greed and vengeance and as such it confronts readers with some grisly situations and some adult themes. In setting out to uncover ‘the perennial truth’ that underpins this ancient tale Tony Mitton does not compromise readers by side-stepping its unsettling elements or subduing its tough impact. Believing that ‘moments in traditional tales cry out to be harnessed to contemporary issues’ he implies in the ardent tone of his writing that parallels can be drawn between the greed of King Nidud and aspects of present-day behaviour:

And greed will breed harshness and cruelty.
And wealth is a maze to confuse.
Once a person is warm and well-suppered,
 how much of such wealth can they use?


Original print for Wayland by John Lawrence. © John Lawrence


Words and images work in tandem to such striking effect that the energy and creativity of Wayland’s forge seem recreated in this present day partnership of wordsmith and illustrator.


Tony Mitton's notebook in which he drafted his ideas for Wayland

Earlier this year Seven Stories was delighted when Tony chose to donate his archive, including his original drafts of Wayland, to the National Collection. We were also thrilled when John Lawrence gave a selection of Wayland prints as well as his preparatory sketches, to add to our already substantial collection of his work. Together this fantastic material offers a wonderful insight into the work and creativity that has gone into making this stunning book of poetry and illustration.


Tony Mitton's notebook in which he drafted his ideas for Wayland


Tony first began drafting ideas for Wayland years before the eventual 2013 publication (an earlier, shorter poem ‘The Heart Song of Wayland Smith’ is included in the book). The notebooks in Tony’s collection here at Seven Stories offer a glimpse behind the scenes of this labour of love, giving a wonderful insight into the work that goes into revising and refining a poem of such scale.


In 2011 David Fickling chose to publish Wayland (it was to be one of the first books published by the newly independent publisher) and John Lawrence was approached to illustrate the book. John’s beautifully detailed and crafted vinyl engravings suited the poem perfectly. The early sketches and layouts in the Seven Stories archive show John’s careful process laying out every page in order to create images that match the scale and tone of Tony’s words and turn the book into a visually stunning work of art and poetry.

Rough illustration for Wayland © John Lawrence


By Catriona Nicholson (Seven Stories Trustee) and Kristopher McKie (Seven Stories Archivist)


If you want to find out more about either of these collections or about any other of our archives then
email: collections@sevenstories.org.uk, phone: 01914952707 or visit: http://www.sevenstories.org.uk/collection.

You can buy a copy of Wayland from the Seven Stories Bookshop (http://www.sevenstories.org.uk/shop).