L. W.. ILLSLEY grew up on the west cliffs of Cornwall. At six he lost his father, the founder of Troika pottery, Leslie Illsley. At twenty L.W.Illsley had beaten cancer and moved to London to be a poet and musician. Six years later and working in a supermarket, he began to write Astra and Sebastian on the back of till receipts. It was completed a year later on a bus tour of China.
When L.W. Illsley returned from China he converted the attic of a house into a garret using wood he found on the street. Astra and Sebastian was soon entered for the International Proverse Prize. His epic poem was short listed and subsequently published. No longer in a garret L. W. Illsley now lives in Tottenham, North London. In 2009 he won the Inside London poetry prize. Whilst continuing to write poetry, songs and short stories he is also the Musical Director of award-winning theatre company Sparkle and Dark's Travelling players. Although he has been an avid reader since a boy, it was through music that he first discovered writing.
Astra and Sebastian is an epic poem about love and the loss of innocence. This long narrative poem by L. W. Illsley offers us a modern interpretation of an ancient tradition.
The poem tells of two children, Astra and Sebastian, and their quest to find the water of life. Together they battle beasts and tricksters, visit great cities and lost islands on an epic journey of self discovery. After many trials and tribulations they begin to understand the universe and their place within it, ending their journey as adults. There is a discussion of the mythical symbolism featured in the poem in the author's appendix.
Stories of heroes have been important to the psychology and development of culture throughout history; from Ancient Greece to the islands of Polynesia. In western culture this hero story is often told through epic poetry, as in Homer's Odyssey or Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Yet today, few epic poems are attempted and even fewer published.
Astra and Sebastian takes inspiration from the beauty and power of the epic tradition, but brings the hero myth into the twenty first century by telling the story of two heroes, a boy and a girl. Unusually, for an epic poem, it includes the female perspective and tells of ordinary people treading the tumultuous path to adulthood. A path we all have to follow. They are heroes for everyone. And everyone can be a hero.
EARLY RESPONSES TO ASTRA AND SEBASTIAN
"What a massive grand opera L.W Illsley has maestroed with éclat here. A mighty epic poem rePlete with myth, legend and myth-legend.” -- Vaughan Rapatahana, author of the poetry collection, Home, Away, Elsewhere.
“A poetic saga that strives towards timeless spectacle, through a textual feast for the senses. This is imaginative, phantasmagoric verse on a grand scale.”-- Mary-Jane Newton, author of the poetry collection, Of Symbols Misused.
BOOK BY L.W. ILLSLEY PUBLISHED BY PROVERSE HONG KONG
Astra and Sebastian (Finalist, International Proverse Prize 2010)
To see details of the book as well as purchase information, please see the "Featured Books" page on this site. Click the book covers shown and then the link to the CUHK Press book-detail page.
L.W. Illsley signs his book at the London pre-launch of "Astra and Sebastian", 17 November 2011
On 15 November 2011, Lawrence Illsley, thoughtful writer of the modern epic poem, Astra and Sebastian, held a preview with his talented illustrator, Shelley Knowles-Dixon, in London, England.
Shelley Knowles-Dixon did these beautiful illstrations for L.W. Illsley's "Astra and Sebastian".
Shelley Knowles-Dixon signs the book she illustrated so beautifully
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