Songs for Gaia

Brian Lee

Listen to a sample track:

  1. Songs for Gaia clip2 0:55
  2. Songs for Gaia clip4 0:40
  3. Songs for Gaia clip3 0:51
  4. Songs for Gaia clip5 1:18


Brian Lee

A cycle of poems celebrating the spirit of the earth. The poetry grows out of the imagery of indigenous cultures, the rhythms of jazz and blues and the language of dreams. The album has two versions of the poem, one just spoken word and the other accompanied with the music of flautist, Paul Cheneour.


Track Listing

Total 51:26

1. Spoken Word 23:23

2. Spoken Word with music 27:36

This is the digital mp3 version of the original CD – your download will be available on your Account page after purchase.

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About the poems

“Songs for Gaia” is a cycle of 51 poems: songs, hymns, praise poems and laments for nature personified as the living being of Earth. They belong to no religious tradition but weave elements of many different times, traditions and cultures. There are echoes of Jewish and Christian liturgy, and forms and cadences borrowed from Sufi poems and Hindu devotion. There are elements from various oral traditions as well: African praise poetry, European folk traditions, Native American song, Siberian and Eskimo cultures and others.

These traditions seem to rub along together as best they can in whatever fashion they can. I am happiest with a piece when it seems unidentifiable (it could be from anywhere almost) or seems to hold two traditions in an impossible simultaneity so that maybe something else can be born.

Sometimes a piece may be in the voice of a particular character. There is a child, a thief, a priest, a scientist, a jazz musician, a fisherman, a shaman and an alcoholic among others; all wanted to sing their praises, make their complaint or have their say.

“Songs for Gaia” was written in London during the winter of 1998-1999. A section was published in Resurgence Magazine (issue 201 July/August 2000) and later another section was published in Caduceus Journal (issue 60 Summer 2003).

About the Music

Poetry on the page is one thing. Poetry spoken is something else. It returns us to the ancient roots of poetry as oral recitation. On the CD there are two versions of the poem. First, just spoken word. The second version is with music by Paul Cheneour, a composer/flute player who works in a wide range of styles from jazz to middle-eastern to classical.

The music on the CD was produced by Paul during his time in Mexico and brings a fascinating palette of moods and energies that weave through the reading of the poems, complementing or counterpointing the words.

Some may find that the music enhances, others may find it a distraction; we’re all different in that regard and so we have given you a choice – to listen to the poems with music or without.

Reviews (5)

5 reviews for Songs for Gaia

  1. benbelinsky

    Victoria Earle – 23rd October 2015:

    Caduceus Journal – 8th December 2015:

    Reviewed by Victoria Earle From Caduceus issue 69. Autumn 2006

    Songs for Gaia is a potent and haunting cycle of poems that celebrate the spirit of the Earth and the divine feminine. A series of songs, prayers and laments, it is essentially one poem woven with diverse threads from ancient and modern worlds, from real and mythological realms.

    Poet Brian Lee, formerly the music reviewer for Caduceus, is influenced by many paths, particularly shamanic and folk traditions from around the globe. He draws on myths, such as that of Sedna, the Eskimo goddess of the Waters, yet while the poem embraces familiar archetypes, it remains fresh and raw.

    One of the aspects I most loved about Songs for Gaia is that it places Mother Earth firmly in the modern world. Indeed Lee wrote the poem in London so it is fed by the sights, sounds and smells of that city. Though it is filled with images of nature and the elements. Gaia is equally present in the traffic systems and she is in the weather patterns.

    for you are there our lady
    in every telephone number
    in every bud
    in the silence at the heart of every waterfall


    yours is the city,
    its signs
    carved in light

    its jewelled shop fronts
    of mercury and sodium,
    amber and neon

    our lady
    the very air is your skin
    dancing with raindrops

    Lee’s work seems to have an important message here: that we do not have to seek out Nature to experience wildness or to sense spirit. She is everywhere, animating everything – including streetlights and subways – if only we can stop and notice.

    Songs for Gaia explores the current ecological crisis. Lee refers to ‘lost forests’, ‘absent birds’, and ‘skies ever duller’ while humanity exists in an ‘arid semi wakefulness’. However, it is by no means an ‘eco-doom’ piece. Its aim, he says is ‘not to preach but to remind people of their connection with Nature, of their own dreaming, to remind ourselves that we are in fact part of Nature’.

    Despite being a serious work it has a light and joyful quality and also contains some delightful flashes of humour:

    our lady I do not ask for your forgiveness
    only mists to hide me
    and a bottle of something
    to take the edge off
    for a short while

    and I would be yours then
    yours to serve you

    just until the end of the month
    when my cheque comes

    Lee became inspired to write Songs for Gaia during a short period between 1998 and 1999. Despite keen interest from publishers, he chose to wait.

    This turned out to be a wise move for in the intervening years the publishing industry and printing technology made a quantum leap and he was able to self-publish the work through his company Naked Light. This meant he could present the poem exactly as he envisioned it. It is beautifully produced and illustrated and is accompanied by a CD on which Lee reads the poem in two versions, one with and one without music.

    This is an inspired idea because Songs for Gaia is equally powerful as a spoken work. For the music Lee has collaborated with Paul Cheneour, who is influenced by many musical and spiritual traditions including Middle Eastern, Sufi and Mexican. The flutes evoke and enhance the poem’s imagery beautifully without overpowering Lee’s voice. I was fortunate enough to see Brian and Paul perform together live in London recently and it was a magical experience: if you have the chance to see them, go!

    Humanity has a deep need for beauty but it must be relevant to our lives or it is meaningless. For many people poetry is hard to grasp because it tends to be insular and far removed from their own experience. Brian Lee demonstrates how poetry can fulfil our need for both beauty and connection. By placing the Goddess in the modern world and the mundane, he awakens the reader to the fact that She is with us always. This timely and inspiring work deserves a wide audience. Reprinted with permission from Caduceus issue 69. Autumn 2006

  2. benbelinsky

    Jan Morgan Wood – 23rd October 2015:

    Sacred Hoop Magazine – 8th December 2015:

    Review in Sacred Hoop #54
    Winter 2006 Reviewer: Jan Morgan Wood.

    This work is a gentle evocation of the ancient sacred goddess embodied in the modern world. She is viewed from many perspectives: from technology (‘whose airplanes circle endlessly over an eternal sunrise’), from practicality (‘the miracle of your umbrellas’), as well as from acute natural observation (‘the skyhouse of the eagle … the spiral dance of shells …’)

    Throughout it all Brian Lee weaves hypnotic and deeply loving, often wistful, and sometimes whimsical songs that leave me with a sense of the vastness of creation, of the constant flow of change, and of an endless capacity for miracles and wonder. His reading of the poems on the CD adds another dimension and is uncluttered, unpretentious and speaks directly to the listener.

  3. benbelinsky

    John Moat – 23rd October 2015:

    from John Moat, poet, novelist, painter and founder of the Arvon Foundation.

    Dear Brian, I’ve at last made time or in the event treated myself to time with your recording of your poems. I was apprehensive to be honest – poets doing their reading to music is usually their treat and other people’s embarrassment. But to my astonishment, I found this entirely successful – even persuaded it was an entirely augmentary, even ideal presentation.
    You, in the first place, read them with such directness, such absence of histrionic (that vice of actors that, with only the rarest of exceptions make vomit of the verse!) and simplicity and pace that allows the artful innocence of the poems to register without waxing too sweet. And the accompaniment likewise is unstrained, very engaging in its own right, and genuinely integral. Really well done.

    Thank you so much. The poems ring with the solace of lyric, the no nonsense of wisdom and the encouragement to be here for life.

  4. benbelinsky

    Kathleen Raine – 23rd October 2015:

    “Thank you for sending me your Songs for Gaia. I find them very beautiful. I do not know your work – in fact I don’t read poetry for pleasure and my heart sinks when I see a thick envelope – but your poems really have given me delight. The soul is musical and you have the gift, rare among contemporary poets, of musicality. It is cosmic poetry and that I believe is the vision this time has to discover – or rediscover. Religion is a spent force, but the sacred lies in Gaia and the unbounded Universe. I like the way you include cities and saxophones and hotels and the flashing lights of aeroplanes. These too are her children. According to the Vedic hymns a mark of inspiration is beauty and joy (ananda) and poetry should flow like a luminous river. I feel that you have that gift of receiving Inspiration from its unknowable mysterious source. … Thank you for sending me your poem and for the enrichment it brings and renewed hope in this dark time that there is a pattern still weaving itself in this dark world.” Kathleen Raine

  5. benbelinsky

    Kaviraj George Dowden – 23rd October 2015:

    Your reverent & wise Gaia poems with the repetition of “our lady” plus earthly images &c echo certain ancient Indian mystics. Nice quiet poems to permeate the consciousness of the reader (and with the CD, the hearer – & you have an excellent uncomplicated reading voice & the music is effective). A fine uncommon unusual outsider addition to the contemporary poetry scene.

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