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Interview With Sian Northey - WCE Online Poetry Competition Winner 2015

2016-01-03
By: AmeriCymru
Posted in: Poetry

AmeriCymru:  Hi Sian. You won the West Coast Eisteddfod Poetry Competition 2015 with your submission - 'Cynghanedd'. What can you tell us about this poem?

Sian: This is one of very few poems that I've written in English. The simple fact that I was writing in my second language gave me the freedom to be somebody else. Not that I don't write persona poems in Welsh, but the language gives an added distance from "me". Last year the Welsh literary scene was, mainly through Llenyddiaeth Cymru/Literature Wales, dominated, for better or worse, by the Dylan Thomas celebrations and I think that made me curious about the thoughts and feelings of Welsh writers who don't write in Welsh and who feel that that tradition, and cynghanedd as it's most extreme and obvious example, is not relevant to them. However the voice in the poem finds in the end that he can't quite escape its power. "Ni allaf ddianc rhag hon" in other words, though I was not thinking of T H Parry-Williams’ Hon at the time. 
 
AmeriCymru: When did you first become interested in writing poetry? Where can readers go to find more of your work either in print or online?

Sian: I wrote in primary school, where I had the amazing, amazing good fortune of having Gerallt Lloyd Owen as my teacher when I was eight years old. There was then a long gap (I'd gone to study sciences and didn't consider myself a writer), but I started to write again as I was approaching thirty. My first and so far only volume of poetry was published in 2013 (Trwy Ddyddiau Gwydr, Gwasg Carreg Gwalch), and was on the shortlist for Welsh Book of the Year.

AmeriCymru: You recently participated in the 'Welsh Enemies' project. Care to tell us more?

Sian: I took part in two evenings as part of this project (there were many evenings across Wales and one in London). Basically poets worked in allotted pairs to fill an allotted time slot, but were given no further guidelines. I worked with Karen Owen, a very talented Welsh language poet, for the evening in Bangor, and, as we both happened to be there at the time, did a slot with my partner, Siôn Aled, for the London evening (I read Cynghanedd that night, though it hadn't been written specifically for that event). Working with someone else always forces you to do something in a slightly different way than if you'd been left to your own devices, which is an odd mixture of fun and scary.

AmeriCymru: In addition to writing poetry you have also written novels for children and a Welsh language novel 'Yn Y Tŷ Hwn'. Can to tell us a bit more about these?

Sian: Yn y Tŷ Hwn was my first novel for adults and I was pleasantly surprised at the positive reaction to it. It was chosen by the Wales Literature Exchange to be in their "bookcase" that year. In other words a book that they promote to foreign publishers as suitable for translation. So far no takers! But they have a description of it on their site if anyone wants to find out more about it  http://waleslitexchange.org/en/books/view/yn-y-ty-hwn

I've written four novels for children, Pwysig, Maestro, Chwaer Fawr Blodeuwedd and Gwaith Powdr, as well as contributing to other books. Gwaith Powdr http://www.gwales.com/bibliographic/?isbn=9781848517028&tsid=3 is the latest, based on an old abandoned explosives factory which is now a nature reserve near my home in Penrhyndeudraeth. When I first went there when I moved here five years ago I knew I wanted to write about it, and I'm not sure if I'm finished with it - it might turn up in something else in the future.

AmeriCymru: What's next for Sian Northey?

Sian: Sometime in the first half of next year there will be another novel for adults published (title still undecided!). It follows a father and daughter who have not been in touch until the daughter is thirty and pregnant. It's taken me ages to write - I was suffering badly from "second novel syndrome"!

For the next couple of months I'll be busy translating Alys Conran's wonderful debut novel, Pigeon, from English to Welsh. http://www.gwales.com/bibliographic/?isbn=9781910901236&tsid=5

Published by Parthian, we think that this is the first time that a novel will be published in both Welsh and English at the same time.

I also enjoy holding writing workshops, for both adults and children, and have recently been informed that I've been awarded some money as part of Literature Wales' celebration of the Roald Dahl centenary to hold workshops with prisoners. I'll be helping them to write stories for their children at home. 
 
AmeriCymru: Any final message for the members and readers of AmeriCymru?

Sian:  Simply diolch yn fawr for the interest shown in my work and all the best for 2016 be you writers, artists, gardners, parents, builders, musicians, carers, teachers, dancers, nurses...  There are worrying things happening in the world but perhaps the small things we do - read a poem in translation, cook a dish from an unfamiliar culture - will create an atmosphere where we can celebrate the differences between us and not be frightened by them. 

 



'Cynghanedd' - The Winning Entry 2015


I never did understand

the Aran jumper rules

that cable knit their lines

in fussy convoluted Fairisle stanzas.

Experts dug through documentaries - subtitled, scratching.

I doubted when they claimed

to have found a piece,

peat pickled,

perfect,

somewhere to the north of junction forty five.

A sweater sleeve

that you or I could wear

they said,

as they stretched it back to shape

on harp strings.

It dripped its dirty water

as it dried,

and in that, the puddles on linoleum,

I saw the beauty.

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