Blogs




‘Nawr Yr Arwr/Now The Hero is a multi-artform, site-specific project created by Swansea born interdisciplinary artist Marc Rees for 14-18-NOW. This bold and exciting commemoration of WWI will take place in and around the Brangwyn Hall, Swansea during Harvest, September 2018.’

The website introduces me to the performance. My problem was that I didn’t have the humility to research the project before hand.

‘Harvest’ why Harvest? Now I know. The connected ‘Graft - A Soil Based Syllabus’ curated by artist Owen Griffiths has been going on for months in and around the city. The plants of Sir Frank Brangwyn’s commemorative artwork have been grown and gathered in for the making of a cawl. As an audience we will ingest the panels. We are part of the process. We are part of the commemoration.

‘I’m not hungry,’ I said when my mate asked if I fancied some soup!

‘Look Eddie’s coming down the tower. Wow!’

Eddie Ladd, The Peace Protester, travels through the experiences and images presented to us with a message of peace. She commentates/narrates throughout, a ball of energy at all times.

Performed to a dystopian soundscape, she digs, traces in the sand the aerial view of trenches, spills black earth onto them God like, child-like playing in the sand. Black earth? Scarred earth? Black blood? Bad blood? Or was it just mud?

This is my problem. I see an action: a scene, a tableaux I’m asking questions. The finale has her abseiling forward down the clock tower. No mean feat! Why? Is it for effect or is there a meaning behind the statement. Is it her? It’s got to be! Is it a stunt? Perhaps it would have been more impressive the other way?

The siren wails, calls our protagonists to action. Three warriors, aboard a power boat enter the stage. The three interlinking stories through the evening are introduced: the Celtic warrior, the Great War officer the modern day soldier. The poem ‘Y Gododdin’ reverberates through the night. The seventh century battle of 300 Celtic warriors is evoked.

The promenade performance follows Eddie through the streets of the city. The Home Front, the war work of women supporting their men. Shrouds for the dead soldiers. A WW1 tank made of coal doing the rounds fund raising, only to buy more tanks.

The last time I was at Brangwyn Hall I charged the doors as a teenager to watch the glam rock band, Slade. What was I thinking? Now Modern young soldiers charge screaming at the doors as if in bayonet practice, racing to war.

I now walk reverently into the beautiful arena of blood red trenches, adorned with Brangwyn’s panels. The wonderful Polyphony choir patiently bide their time on the stage for us to find our seats. The impressive Celtic Warrior has an authentic aura. He also waits. We settle, silence, the light show begins dramatically and the music centrepiece of the performance begins. I find myself transfixed by the choir and the bellowing sound of the organ. A lengthy dance of death as the dead warrior is swallowed by the bloody earth. The introduction of young men performing a very slow macabre dance as they, likewise, are swallowed into the graves of the bloody trench mud. I just wish I could see a bit more.

I’m woken from my libretto trance by a public announcement: 30 minutes to look round the hall and then the finale will take place.

The different rooms of the Brangwyn are adorned in tableaux and scenes from the three stories. More questions bounce around. Why is the soldier crawling? Why are the women slowly walking the length of the room with a fluorescent light travelling over the soldier’s head? Does the light represent bullets? Is the soldier a tunneller? Why are there women? Did they send the soldiers to battle? And on it goes. A peace room, a wedding room, a wake room, a locker room, t.v. installations etc etc.

We are called out, the finale begins. Nearly 500 people queue for the harvest fare and the unveiling of a flag. I think it was Eddie’s peace banner but the weather had been too kind. There was no rain. There was no wind to unfurl the flag. After post performance reading I now wish perhaps it had rained.

I’m still asking questions. I’m still discovering, as a Welshman, who I am and where I’ve come from.

Marc Rees’ Nawr Yr Arwr/Now The Hero is epic but it doesn’t answer all my questions.

by Andy Edwards

The Day We Went To Maupin


By Ceri Shaw, 2018-10-01


Out And About In Oregon (4)






I am not normally one to press my holiday snaps on others. Too many glazed eyes and polite stifled yawns over the years have convinced me that it is unwise. If, however you have a few seconds to spare please check out the pictures of Maupin in the gallery above.

Maupin in Eastern Oregon is an undiscovered gem and apart from kayakers and anglers it is largely ignored by visitors to the state who, understandably concentrate on Mt Hood, Crater Lake or the beautiful Oregon coast. In my opinion Maupin is well worth a visit and provides an ideal venue for a quiet weekend away and a superb  base from which to explore the surrounding countryside. Both Shaniko and the Tyghe Valley are within easy, and spectacular, driving distance. Mt Hood and the Columbia Gorge are easily reachable on day trips.

Over the years on AmeriCymru we like to think that we have enticed many Americans of Welsh descent to make the 'pilgrimage' to the old country. But what about Welsh visitors to the US? Sure you can visit New York, Chicago, L.A. etc but everyone visits those places. Why not go somewhere off the beaten track and get a real taste of rural America? Maupin ( and Oregon ) will not disappoint.


Posted in: Lifestyle | 0 comments

In The Museum of Peace


By Paul Steffan Jones AKA, 2018-09-26

I pledge peace not knowing where it is

as fighter planes roar through the valley

I am deaf beneath

behind their slipstream

their scorched air

feel the change inside

don’t know if it’s going well

it’s too stony for me to cry

keys fall down a drain

fast-moving mountain streams

flow back on themselves

the commodification of

the remembrance of

our war dead

the steely eyes

smart uniforms

glinting bayonets

the choreographed floral tributes

one of the things we do best

the massive architecture of cathedrals

oppresses with displays of power

the building blocks of victors

of looters

of liars

I have become acclimatised

to the idea of conflict

even though I never joined a regiment

learning to play it as a child

soldiers are waged slaves with guns

Sports Utility Vehicles

are now weapons for hire

while some bored underpaid

museum attendants daydream

of a raucous rewritten Third Reich

and getting parts as SS fighters

in b-movies

no flash

Posted in: Poetry | 0 comments



Ani Glass  Peirianwaith Perffaith by Ani Saunders.jpg

“Ani transcends language with her shimmering take on pop.” Eugenie Johnson – DIY



Ani Glass releases her new single 'Peirianwaith Perffaith' (Perfect Machinery) on the 26th of October through Recordiau Neb. She will be performing at Pop Montréal on the 28th and 29th of September and will be attending as part of the Focus Wales delegation, supported by PRS Foundation's International Showcase Fund and Wales Arts International.

Ani Glass is back with her new single 'Peirianwaith Perffaith' (Perfect Machinery) underpinned by a tapestry of pulsing and prodding synths, samples and programmed beats bathed in the neon of the city’s industrial glow. Her sublime pirouetting vocal refrains infuses a knowing pop universality into the overwhelming experience of life in the city’s engine room. Ani says it’s about how the “search for identity in a moving city and society insists on a sense of stillness often found in the shadows of progress”.

Released as a single in 2016, the industrial electro-pop of ‘Y Ddawns’ (The Dance) is a rallying call for those seeking inspiration in language and art. Laura Snapes of Pitchfork said it was "a double-edged sword that's as stern as it is hopeful; music for the end of the world, and the start of a new one." While BBC Wales’s Bethan Elfyn named it “Perfect Euro Pop!”

Ani followed this with the release of her debut EP ‘Ffrwydrad Tawel’ (Silent Explosion) on Recordiau Neb which included six infectious, socially conscious electronic pop songs. They stand as a document of Ani Glass’s artistic evolution invested with grander themes concerning the Welsh language and politics. A Remix version of the EP was later released and featured reinterpretations by Carcharorion, Cotton Wolf, Plyci and R. Seiliog.

Biography

Ani Glass is the persona of Cardiff-based electronic pop musician, producer, artist and photographer, Ani Saunders. Fiercely proud of her heritage, Glass sings in her native languages Welsh and Cornish, and in 2016 released her first solo material with lead single ‘Ffôl’ (Foolish) being chosen as single of the week on BBC Radio Cymru and gaining plays on BBC 6 music.

Ani is also known for her work with The Pipettes, joining in 2008 to record the Martin Rushent-produced Earth Vs. The Pipettes album. Prior to her stint with the polka-dotted pop band, Glass was a member of Genie Queen, managed by OMD’s Andy McCluskey.

Gigs

28.09 Casa Del Popolo - Montréal (Pop Montréal)
29.09 Marché des Possibles Park - Montréal (Pop Montréal)
03.10 Clwb Ifor Bach – Cardiff (Forté Project & FOCUS Wales)

Links

Website http://www.recordiauneb.com/
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/aniglasscymru/
Twitter https://twitter.com/AniSaunders
Soundcloud https://soundcloud.com/aniglass



Ar y 26ain o Hydref, bydd Ani Glass yn rhyddhau ei sengl newydd Peirianwaith Perffaith ar Recordiau Neb. Fe fydd Glass yn perfformio yng Ngŵyl Pop Montréal ar y 28ain a’r 29ain o fis Medi fel rhan o ddirprwyaeth Gŵyl Focus Wales – a hyn wedi iddi dderbyn cefnogaeth PRS Foundation a Celfyddydau Rhyngwladol Cymru.

Mae Ani Glass nôl gyda’i sengl newydd ‘Peirianwaith Perffaith’ sy’n frodwaith o synau synth gofodol, samplau a churiadau diwydiannol. Mae pob nodyn o’i llais yn arnofio’n swynol uwchben sain peirianyddol y ddinas. Yn ôl Ani, mae’r gân yn trafod yr ysfa i “chwilio am hunaniaeth yng nghanol dryswch y ddinas a ffeindio cysur a llonyddwch yng nghysgodion gobaith”.

Rhyddhawyd sengl ‘Y Ddawns’ yn 2016 – roedd yn alwad ar y rheiny oedd yn chwilio am ysbrydoliaeth mewn iaith a chelf. Yn ôl Laura Snapes o Pitchfork, roedd y gân yn "gerddoriaeth ar gyfer diwedd y byd, a dechrau un newydd" tra disgrifiodd Bethan Elfyn BBC Wales hi’n “Ewro-pop perffaith!”

Yn dilyn hyn, fe wnaeth Ani rhyddhau ei EP cyntaf, ‘Ffrwydrad Tawel’, ar Recordiau Neb. Roedd yn cynnwys chwe chân pop – saif fel ddogfen o esblygiad Ani fel artist wrth iddi ymwneud â themâu ehangach gan gynnwys yr iaith Gymraeg a gwleidyddiaeth. Rhyddhawyd fersiwn remics o'r EP yn ddiweddarach a oedd yn cynnwys ail-ddehongliadau gan Carcharorion, Cotton Wolf, Plyci ac R. Seiliog.

Bio

Ani Glass yw persona’r gerddores gerddoriaeth bop electronig, artist, ffotograffydd a chynhyrchwraig Ani Saunders. Bydd Ani Glass yn canu yn ei hieithoedd brodorol sef y Gymraeg a’r Gernyweg ac y mae’n hynod falch o’i hetifeddiaeth. Rhyddhaodd ei gwaith cyntaf fel unawdydd yn ystod 2016. Cafodd ei phrif record sengl ‘Ffôl’ ei dewis yn ‘sengl yr wythnos’ gan BBC Radio Cymru ac yr oedd i’w chlywed ar sianel BBC 6 Music.

Bu Ani yn aelod o The Pipettes, gan ymuno yn 2008 a recordio’r albwm Earth Vs. The Pipettes gyda’r cynhyrchydd Martin Rushent. Cyn hyn roedd Glass yn aelod o Genie Queen a oedd yn cael eu rheoli gan Andy McCluskey o’r grŵp OMD.

Gigs

28.09 Casa Del Popolo - Montréal (Pop Montréal)
29.09 Marché des Possibles Park - Montréal (Pop Montréal)
03.10 Clwb Ifor Bach – Caerdydd (Forté Project & FOCUS Wales)

Lincs

Gwefan http://www.recordiauneb.com/
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/aniglasscymru/
Twitter https://twitter.com/AniSaunders
Soundcloud https://soundcloud.com/aniglass


Posted in: Music | 0 comments

image001.jpgThis week sees the publication of Absolutely Huge (Y Lolfa), the hilarious memoirs of Gethin 'Huge' Hughes, Welsh rugby's most famous imaginary player.

Affectionately sending up Welsh rugby and the media hype surrounding it, Absolutely Huge spoofs the standard tell-all sports autobiography format, charting the highs and lows of Huge’s remarkable and meteoric rise from youth player to worldwide star, and revealing the truth behind his often controversial career both on and off the pitch.

The book has already received great reviews, with The Guardian describing it as “an Odyssey for our times. Hilarious take on the chemistry between huge talent and the 21st century."

After a stunning international debut and glory for club and country, by the age of 20 Huge is on top of the world. He’s the biggest star in Welsh rugby, he’s dating the nation’s sweetheart Heledd Harte, and after one particularly heroic moment at Twickenham is voted Second Best Welshman Ever.

But the good times don’t last. He causes a diplomatic row on a Lions tour, gets involved with some calamitous product endorsements, falls out with his club, inadvertently incites a pitch invasion, and after one particularly embarrassing incident at the World Cup is voted the Second Worst Welshman Ever.

Things don’t improve after early retirement at 23. A disastrous appearance on reality TV is followed by a brush with death on Mount Snowdon and entanglement in a political scandal at the Welsh Assembly. On the eve of his playing comeback, and for the first time, the full extraordinary story of his time in the spotlight, and the subsequent wilderness years will be told.

Absolutely Huge is a big hit with Wales and British and Irish Lions star Mike Phillips, who loved Huge’s antics: "I couldn't put it down – hilarious from start to finish. If I'd got to play alongside Huge, even I might have learnt a few things!"

Absolutely Huge is the first novel by Luke Upton. Born and bred in Swansea, his first job was selling match-day lottery tickets for Swansea RFC in those last few glory years before the arrival of regional rugby. He now lives in London, and is a business journalist and Welsh rugby satirist. He co-runs @NotGavHenson, the humorous Twitter account with over 42,000 followers including a large portion of the Wales squad.

“I wanted to write an easy and amusing read that appeals to anyone who loves rugby and the larger-than-life characters it creates. At times the media circus around big-name sports stars can be a little ridiculous, and I wanted to have some fun with that,” said Luke.

“Though Huge is obviously an imaginary player, he has a mixture of traits from a range of rugby players who have graced the heights of rugby in the UK over the last 10–15 years; it’s a caricature of the kind of trouble someone in the public eye could get themselves into in these days of omnipresent social media comment. It’s also a parody on the media, and the way that they portray our rugby heroes,” he added.

Posted in: New Titles | 0 comments



752_blogs.jpgI have often been exasperated by the way booksellers classify my books. They tend to work to set parameters and the Reso can easily fit into several categories, so in some book listings it appears as fiction, young adult, in others as general fiction. I've even seen it in a section on social issues, young people!

In truth, all of these are technically correct. Others would be equally appropriate such as : fiction: Wales, fiction: historical (it is disconcerting to realise that what appears to you as your short life to date, is now generally considered as an historical timespan!) fiction:the sixties.

Unfortunately the way a book is classified can also have an impact on sales because readers tend to concentrate on the sections they know and will never find books in other sections, unless by recommendations. This is what makes recommendations so powerful and valuable. Thank you so much to all those people who took the trouble to write something on a website about how they enjoyed the books, it is biggest compliment you can pay to an author and keeps me positive and writing.

A back handed compliment which really frustrates me is the reader who tells me that they enjoyed the book immensely, and that they have passed it round the family and everyone enjoyed it immensely as well! I'm not looking to make my fortune from writing, so few people do, but I would like some recompense for the hundreds of hours spent researching, writing, re-drafting and publishing the books. If you love a book, any book, try and encourage the author a little more by buying a couple of copies for birthday or Christmas presents.

Regarding making my fortune from writing, a few statistics will soon disabuse that notion. If you take all the fiction books published in the UK in a single year it amounts to almost a million. The average number of copies sold per book is 18! That means from JK Rowling, who sells millions, down to me who sells a few less, 18 is the number of copies that the average book sells.

There are few fortunes to be made in publishing your writing - so it is best to write because you enjoy doing so or because you think you have something important to say about humanity. I am in the first camp.

The top selling books tend to come from established writers with agents, big publishing houses and massive marketing budgets. There are also the best sellers from 'celebrities' ghost written for them to give them another income stream and promoted shamelessly on television chat shows. Not that I'm bitter!

For the rest of us, it is rather like the lottery... you have to be in it to win it, but the chance of making a living, let alone a fortune from writing, is very remote indeed. I console myself with the thought that when I die, something will live on beyond me and will consistently fail to provide an income stream for the beneficiaries of my Will.

Having originally gone through a publisher to have a professional endorsement of my writing, I made the decision to self-publish through a company called Lightning Source, part of the Ingram Group. This allowed me to cut costs and to take out the publisher from the trough. Even so, I receive about 1.40 in pounds sterling for every book I sell, the rest is accounted for from set up and production costs.

There is a line of reasoning that suggests you should set the book cost level as low as possible so as to maximise sales. 5 pounds is often seen as a critical price point for fiction books, which is why so many retail at 4.99. However, this assumes that you have a budget to promote your book so that it can compete in the crowded 4.99 market. I don't have a marketing budget. I am in the Catch 22 situation of knowing that to maximise book sales I need to market the book but I can't market the book until I have generated enough sales to justify a marketing budget, which I can't do until... round and round it goes!

That leaves this blog and sites such as Linked In on which to promote the books. The secret here is to segment the market by exploiting the different categories a book will appear in. My books are timebound to the sixties, the seventies and the eighties respectively so I would do well to find niche markets for such writing. Similarly my books have a Welsh setting and there are active Welsh communities overseas to which my writing is recounting their youth, or making a wider cultural connection.

In this context, no-one has been more helpful than Ceri Shaw and the team at Americymru and Eto magazine for bringing my work to a large expatriate community in the United States and Canada. The Welsh appear to be great networkers so that the Americymru connection has led to Australian, New Zealand and South African sales - just leaving the Patagonian market to crack!

There is support for Welsh writers in the form of bursaries and writing camps under the auspices of Literature Wales, but these, quite rightly, focus on writers writing in Wales and debut authors. I wish I had known that when starting out on my debut book!

For the most part this has been a dismal article of trials and tribulations, so I feel I muse end on a positive note. Nothing quite prepares you to have people share their memories with you and tell you that you brought back to life things half-remembered or forgotten.

My favourite reader comment was from a Principal of a Welsh primary school. He could not have pleased me more when he said, 'I see a lot of young Dylan Thomas in your writing.' I assumed he was referring to stylistic qualities and not plagiarism!


BWR046VinylFront.jpg



Bubblewrap Collective announce the release of the new Perfect Body and Zac White Split EP! Lead singles 'Fields' from Perfect Body, and 'Spent on You' from Zac White will be available digitally on 12th October.

Following on from the success of the 2017 split EP with Boy Azooga and Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard, Bubblewrap Collective brings you two of the most exciting acts on the Cardiff music scene: Perfect Body and Zac White. The record, pressed to limited edition purple and orange vinyl, will be released on November 23rd and features artwork from Cardiff artist and musician Teddy Hunter. The release continues the camaraderie across the Cardiff music scene with Tom Rees (of Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard) producing at Rat Trap studios alongside Zac and Perfect Body.



Perfect Body



perfect_body.jpg
Image: Elijah Thomas



Perfect Body's new single 'Fields' is a glacial gaze trip. that further expands their shivering palette of vast noise pop potential, that rustles with the ghosts of early My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive and woozy 60s psych. Threaded with longing three-way vocals that explore the landscapes of 'desire' through tumbling percussion, ethereal synthesizers; and reverb smothered hooks. 'Fields' possesses an exciting, nagging pop sensibility that makes you want to press play all over again as soon as it's over.

Perfect Body formed in Cardiff, early 2017, inspired by the sonic experimentation of bands like My Bloody Valentine, Stereolab, and The Brian Jonestown Massacre. Their three vocalists, each with their own style and identities, ensure that Perfect Body’s performances are varied and engaging. Perfect Body is a wall of noise, hazing over and obscuring what is, at its core, pop-oriented songwriting. Their earliest performances took place in Cardiff’s underground, often in practice spaces and house parties: So, by the time Perfect Body emerged on the music scene, they had already sculpted a distinctive sonic identity. The attention gained from their first single, ‘Getting Cold’, saw them supporting the likes of Jen Cloher, Slowcoaches, and The Wytches.

Perfect Body recently played a rapturously received set at the much-coveted Rising Stage at Greenman 2018. They were picked out as at one of the Top 10 ones to watch at the festival by Drowned in Sound and BBC Radio Wales broadcaster Adam Walton has been a huge champion of the fast emerging Cardiff band giving their early tracks heavy rotation on his show.

“This Cardiff based five-piece have been making waves recently thanks to their effervescent live shows and woozy, ethereal sounds that have seen them compared to Slowdive and the Stereolab. Despite only being together just over a year, they've come on leaps and bounds in such a short space of time...” – Drowned in Sound



Zac White



zac_white.jpgZac White's new single 'Spent On You' is an infectious tune that ties together meditative sun-kissed refrains, wonky percussion and bounding baselines, with shimmering spidery riffs tiptoeing into a heart on the sleeve sing-along. Gathering into a sumptuous crescendo of drum rolls and fuzzy riffs in its outro, this is a delicious slice of hazy pop that just hints at a depth of his songwriting talents.

Despite being only 20, Zac White has been playing on Cardiff’s live music scene for over five years. Alongside his early days performing with FUR and part of Lily and White, Zac has been honing his own sound based on influences such as Wilco, Loose Fur, Sonic Youth and Broadcast. His 90s/00s off-kilter indie influenced sound has grown from minimal arrangements with drummer Ethan Hurst into a rollicking, reverb-drenched, garage-psych experience. For his live shows and upcoming EP, accompaniment comes from Tom and Ed Rees of Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard, with whom Zac also plays. He recently supported Heavenly recordings Boy Azooga, who are currently blazing a trail for Welsh bands across the world.


Pre-order link:

https://bubblewrapcollective.co.uk/product/perfect-body-zac-white-split-ep/

Posted in: Music | 0 comments

sofa_surfin.jpgAmeriCymru spoke to Welsh author Mike Jenkins about dialect poetry and his recently published collection - 'Sofa Surfin'. Mike has published four collections in this genre and we asked him how he became interested and whether he plans to publish any further anthologies of dialect poetry.

Dialect poetry by Mike Jenkins:-


Graffiti Narratives

Coulda Bin Summin

Barkin | Review

Sofa Surfin | Review...





"With this book I was venturing out : on a stream of marmite, in a humble coracle."



mike_jenkins.jpeg

AmeriCymru:  Hi Mike and many thanks for agreeing to this interview. Can you tell us what initially attracted you to dialect poetry?

Mike:  As with many aspects of creative discovery it all began with a confluence ( an Aber moment if you like). When I began writing in dialect I had also started teaching at a Comprehensive school in the large Gurnos estate in Merthyr Tydfil ( south Wales valleys), a Council estate with a bad reputation.

I was relatively new to the Valleys ( though I’d done teaching practice in nearby Tredegar) and was struggling to come to terms with many facets of life, including the accents and distinctive dialect of both pupils and staff.

I was anxious to know if I was being insulted when they used the word ‘angin’ or the actual meaning of ‘Now I’ve come!’ when a pupil arrived late for class .

I soon discovered the first was, as it sounds, an insult and ‘come’ simply meant ‘arrived’.

I was baffled by the use of ‘belonged’ meaning ‘related to’, but now I’ve learnt Welsh it makes total sense, as the Welsh word ‘perthyn’ can mean belonging in the sense of both ownership and relations.

On a daily basis I was floundering yet also fascinated by their sayings and vocabulary, with short phrases like ‘on pins’ denoting nervousness and ‘tampin’ for getting very angry.

For quite a while before that I’d been into the music of Bob Marley and the poetry of West Indian writers like Derek Walcott and Black English writer James Berry, all using forms of dialect.

Amazingly, I got to meet Walcott and Berry when they read in Cardiff and to experience both Benjamin Zephaniah and Linton Kwesi-Johnson live, dub poets who lived in England and caught the political oppression of Thatcher’s Britain.

I loved the way they captured the language of the street, giving voices to those neglected and abused by an uncaring government.

However, it was one poem that showed me what could be done with dialect here in Cymru and that was David Hughes’s brilliant ‘Swonzee Boy, See’ published in ‘Planet’ magazine. It was very funny , phonetically-written , but also a reflection of a neglected working class.

So, all these tributaries joined into the Taff itself, the river which flows through a small town I soon called home.

AmeriCymru:  You have said re: dialect poetry - "It's Marmite poetry....but I like Marmite." Care to expand?

Mike:  There are individuals and magazines who would never read or consider my dialect poems, but who cherish and publish my work in standard English.

I believe it divides opinion for a number of reasons.

Firstly, poetry in dialect is more acceptable from other parts of the world – notably Scotland and the West Indies - because they are seen very much as part of a literary tradition.

With the exception of myself, certain novelists like Niall Griffiths and poets such as David Hughes and Gemma June Howells ( who writes in Caerffili dialect), there is no precedent …….we are exploring unmapped lands.

Secondly, I think dialect poetry is seen as parochial, though when it comes to prose Scottish novelists like James Kelman have been widely praised for work in the vernacular.

In recent years we’ve seen a growth of left-wing poetry outlets especially in England, with websites like proletarian poetry and culture matters. These have encouraged working-class , political writing and my dialect poems have found a perfect place there.

Ironically, most literary magazine in Wales have become dominated by university creative writing departments ( as in the USA) and have not been sympathetic .

One university lecturer and critic who was a fan of my early book ‘A Dissident Voice’ soon dismissed ‘Graffiti Narratives’ as ‘mere ventriloquism’.

Only the magazine ‘Planet’ have savoured the thick, dark flavoursome ‘gooetry’.

AmeriCymru: Are the poems in these collections based on real life encounters; conversations overheard in the street? What is your creative process with the dialect collections?

Mike:  Considering ‘Sofa Surfin’ there are many diverse inspirations, but at the very hub of the book is my close friend and comrade of many years and his experiences.

I can understand how a reader sees the character in the title poem as female yet this and many others draw on what happened to him : losing his wife, job, flat and even benefits for several months, pushed to the brink of suicide.

This sounds unremittingly sombre, but I also focus on positive aspects of his life in ‘Rubbish Sculpture’ and ‘Practical Dance’, as he’s a highly intelligent and creative person with few qualifications. Incidentally, at the Merthyr launch my friend actually danced along with the second poem…..a sight to behold!

Sometimes, I write poems which take off on a flight of imagination into the surreal. In my book ‘Barkin!’ was ‘Ewman Advert’ where I imagined myself transformed into a KFC chicken by the smells of junk food. In ‘Sofa Surfin’ the poem ‘A Pijin in Gregg’s’ is similar and came from encountering a pigeon inside a shop down town.

After reading it at our monthly Open Mic in a local pub a friend suggested the pigeon stand for election and this gave rise to a whole series of blogs on my site www.mikejenkins.net about the legendary Wayne-O Pijin.

As ever, my political beliefs are fundamental to the poetry.

‘Pound Shop Politics’ and ‘Muslims up yer’ came from the lack of understanding and indeed, intolerance towards people from different cultures which is sadly manifested in considerable support for UKIP.

The latter was inspired by encountering Muslims in traditional garb in my small village above Merthyr : I imagined a fearful, suspicious person telling his account.

Humour is vital to me. My life changed when I read Heller’s ‘Catch 22’ and realised you could be very funny and deadly serious at the same time.

AmeriCymru: You have published four collections of dialect poetry to date. Care to tell us a little about the first of these:- 'Graffitti Narratives'?

Mike:  ‘Graffiti Narratives’ was so exciting for me and I have to thank the then editor of ‘Planet’ John Barnie for his faith in my dialect work and for publishing the book.

There are three stories as well as poetry in this book and I’m particularly proud of ‘ Novelties’ and ‘Some kind o beginnin’.

This book was very much inspired by the Gurnos estate, my pupils and musical influences of punk and two-tone ( ska made in England).

‘Gurnos Boy’ was my grim version of that Hughes poem about Swansea, ‘Mouthy’ from the viewpoint of a pupil who couldn’t see the point of poetry and ‘Nex Time’ described hatred for the police and was inspired by Belfast punk band Stiff Little Fingers.

Yet the title poem is closer to the stories, as it’s a fictional representation of the tales behind two sets of bizarre graffiti on either side of a railway bridge in Merthyr.

Occasionally , writing poetry can cause trouble and one poem ‘Flasher’ is the true (though embellished) story of one pupil who flashed in school with a cucumber attached to his penis!

After he’d left school this boy found out about the poem and came back to confront me in the corridor – ‘Did you write that poem about me?’

To which I managed to side-step rapidly – ‘ It was about someone….made up!’

Amazingly, he accepted my faltering explanation.

With this book I was venturing out : on a stream of marmite, in a humble coracle.

AmeriCymru: What can you tell us about your 2001 collection 'Coulda Bin Summin'?

Mike:  The next collection ‘Could bin summin’ was harder to get published, but John Barnie once again took it on.

The title poem is the direct and passionate plea of a girl whose life has been ruined by a boy leaving her when she became pregnant and her own family rejecting her because the boy was a waster.

Many in the book come from my knowledge of young people struggling against a system which doesn’t value them, though others take on historical implications like ‘Gwyn Alf’ and ‘Mad Jack spoils VE Day’.

‘Gwyn Alf’ pays tribute to the great Welsh historian Prof. Gwyn A. Williams ( from Dowlais) , one of the most inspirational figures from Cymru in the last century in terms of lecturing, broadcasting, historical books and his unique left-wing nationalist politics.

The second poem takes the viewpoint of a conformist family who celebrate VE Day and are truly shocked when a certain Siegfried Sassoon ( English anti-war poet nicknamed ‘Mad Jack’) suddenly appears on the scene.

‘Day-a Duchess Come’ isn’t just an anti-monarchy rant, it’s a true story. When Mrs Windsor’s cousin visited our school republican staff were confined to classrooms with pupils likely to be troublesome. As happens on such occasions, she arrived late and stayed longer than expected, so pupils became increasingly annoyed and more fervently anti-monarchist. As her helicopter took off they all leapt towards the windows , waving goodbye with insulting v-signs.

With ‘Could bin summin’ the river broadened and often made a sound like laughter as it flowed faster.

AmeriCymru: How would you describe the focus of your most recent dialect poetry collection 'Sofa Surfin'

Mike:  The cover of ‘Sofa Surfin’ is a painting by the great Merthyr artist Gustavius Payne ( ‘Gus’ to his mates), who also did the one for ‘Barkin!’.

The final poem in this book could relate directly to Gus’s life, though the narrator is fictional. ‘Where I Come From’ is a brief return to the Gurnos estate I wrote about in ‘Graffiti Narratives’ and ‘Coulda bin summin’

Gus hails from there, went to college and has since become one of the most acclaimed artists in Cymru.

In this poem the narrator’s aware of others’ perceptions of the Gurnos ( especially in the media) and also, how much it has altered. Sympathy comes from a realisation that he confounds that stereotype yet still finds it amusing the streets are named after trees and bushes which have no presence there.

The friend and comrade I mentioned earlier ended up homeless and ‘Sleepin in-a subway’, but on the page opposite that grim tale of despair is ‘Fly Man’ where I praise his ability to avoid detection in pursuit of the causes we share.

‘Sofa Surfin’ ( like ‘Barkin!’) are words familiar to the point of cliché , yet I hope I’ve given them a whole new sense in the title poem and a man balancing as the rising sea threatens to overwhelm him.

AmeriCymru: Do you plan any further collections of dialect poetry?

Mike:  My next collection of poetry is in dialect and published by Culture Matters, due out later this year. It is entitled ‘From Aberfan t Grenfell’ and the title poem is in the latest issue of ‘Planet’.

It’ll be illustrated by Swansea artist, poet and fiction-writer Alan Perry and the drawings are truly amazing ! They’re integrated into the text and will co-exist on the same pages.

It opens and closes with poems reflecting on connections between those two man-made disasters , at Aberfan near Merthyr in 1966 and recently at the high-rise flats , Grenfell Tower in London.

I was struck by one remark on Facebook – ‘ Grenfell is our Aberfan.’ The resemblances are striking : authorities ignoring warnings and a callous system punishing the poor for the criminal negligence of those in power.

As with previous books, there are a number of poems about distinctive , eccentric Merthyr characters such as ‘Steve the Bus’, a re-working of an early poem never published in books.

In Wales all over-60s receive passes enabling free bus travel and I heard tell of a man who spent all his days travelling on them because he couldn’t afford the energy bills of staying at home. I imagined him a widower contemplating what his late wife would say.

I do realise that the tragedies of both Aberfan and Grenfell are highly sensitive subjects and some would argue that writing about them is tantamount to exploitation.

However, I try to respect the people of both communities and many who came to help them.

Any final message for the readers and members of AmeriCymru?

Mike:  Like Gus Payne’s profound paintings and Alan Perry’s sharply satirical drawings, I seek to portray a country struggling after the demise of so many industries yet expressing itself through the sheer passion of its language, whether dialect in English or Welsh itself ( which I have learnt) and its many art-forms. In the future I’d like to write far more poetry in Welsh, though I’ll never ( like Harri Webb) abandon the English language. Winning the Gadair at the learners’ Eisteddfod when the National came to Y Fenni / Abergavenny a few years ago made me very proud, but it was only a beginning.


Welsh poet Paul Steffan Jones and artist Chris Rawson-Tetley have been collaborating on two projects recently, inspired by the Welsh legend of the Cantre'r Gwaelod. The projects  comprise Chris's visual re-imagining of a lost land and Paul's poems of loss and reverence. AmeriCymru spoke to Paul and Chris about these projects and their future plans.


cantrergwaelod.jpg


 
Photos: 12




Paul Steffan Jones



Paul Albufeira 2017.jpgAmeriCymru: Hi Paul and many thanks for agreeing to this interview. How did the idea for this joint exhibition came about?

Paul: Chris and I have admired each other's work for about a decade and had first discussed a collaboration inspired by a certain type of landscape and its many changing uses about four years ago. In the early summer of 2017, Chris approached me with his idea of a work of images and words responding to the Cantre'r Gwaelod legend and what this suggested to us. I was intrigued by this approach and agreed to work with Chris to produce Gwaelod. I was particularly drawn to the proposition as I was in the throes of researching my family history which I was to find a highly relevant reference point for much of my writing for the project.

AmeriCymru: What can you tell us about the Cantre'r Gwaelod legend?

Paul: As a native of Ceredigion, I was brought up with the Cantre'r Gwaelod legend and assumed wrongly that most people in my country also shared this ancient knowledge. My first encounter with the tale was as a young boy being in a car with my parents driving to the Cardigan Bay coast at Aberaeron. My mother suggested that if I listened carefully, that is if I kept quiet, I might be able to hear bells tolling under the sea. This led to me wanting to learn more about this strange land. I soon learned about Seithenyn the gatekeeper, the 16 towns lost to flood due to his drunkenness and that the legend was already over a thousand years old. I learned that my mother's family had always lived on the coast of that bay. I began to see them and me, fancifully perhaps, as the descendants of the survivors of that catastrophe, the inheritors of that rich but inaccessible kingdom. I see the legend as a metaphor for diaspora, due to both natural and man-made causes and see it as an important tale, largely forgotten, in the story of who the Welsh are, who I am. A fascinating development in the story's later life is an attempt in the modern era to explore the area concerned for physical evidence of an inundated land.

AmeriCymru: The project has had one exhibition so far, in Cardigan. Are there any plans to exhibit elsewhere?

Paul: We are hoping to put the exhibition into other towns and cities, and other continents. We are open to suggestion.

AmeriCymru: You have been collaborating with artist Chris Rawson-Tetley on this project. How do you work together? Does Chris respond to your poems or vice versa?

Paul: Chris and I meet regularly at his studio to discuss ideas, progress and direction. We also get inspiration from taking our cameras out and visiting coastal West Wales locations together. A key factor in the co-working is the sharing of family photographs, some going back to the late 1800s. We bounce ideas off each other but our constituent efforts are formed in isolation-Chris in his studio, me in my lap in any space I can get into that position. I have performed some of these poems live and they, and the ideas behind them, have been well received.

AmeriCymru: You are currently working on a related project 'Gwaelod-Pictures of Us'. What can you tell us about this project? How does it relate to 'Gwaelod' and will it be published?

Paul: Gwaelod-Pictures of Us is a natural progression from Gwaelod as it is an attempt to populate the landscape that Chris created in his earlier pictures for this project, an imagined Cantre'r Gwaelod. We want to depict the people displaced by the Cantre'r Gwaelod cataclysm (and other disasters) and those who followed them as individuals with their own interesting stories, their individual voices, not anonymous cannon-fodder. Chris is now painting very evocative figurative works as a result. We are in the early stages of discussions about putting out a book of pictures, photographs and poems.

AmeriCymru: Any final message for the readers and members of AmeriCymru?

Paul: I would like to thank members and readers of Americymru for their continued support for my writing. I hope to bring out a new collection of poems in next 12 months including a small number of Welsh language poems and photographic images, provisionally entitled The Ministry of Loss.



Otherlander




He came from a lost village

he couldn’t remember which one

or how it came to be missing

as it was so long ago

perhaps it had been a frowned

drowned sort of place

or a bulldozed overdosed one

somewhere that wouldn’t be missed


he had been wet behind the ears

but soon fitted in with

the new strangers

although they spoke differently

and seemed disinterested

in anything that was other


his parents never talked about

their origins

and stayed that way until the end


those nights when he could sleep

deep in the cosy burrow of forgetting

he dreamt of a place

that smiled

that worked

that knew its history


what he couldn’t know

was that everyone else

was dreaming

of returning to somewhere

they had never been


he got over it

there had been many villages

lost for various reasons

that’s the way it was

people becoming unwitting

pieces on a giant chess board

that used to be their country

 

 

 




Chris Rawson-Tetley



crt.jpgAmeriCymru: How did you initially become interested in the 'Gwaelod' and 'Gwaelod - Pictures Of Us' projects?

Chris: I visited the area of West Wales on a regular basis for thirty years, and it both fascinated and evaded me. The landscape continued to elude in spite of all the research I carried out over the years into its cultural and geological history. Puzzling over the engagement prompted an assessment of my involvement from a practical artistic point of view.

My wife and I moved to Ceredigion permanently in early 2014 to be with good friends, and now I feel that perhaps I might just be approaching an understanding of what it was that I was missing.

There are many places in West Wales with the word gwaelod in their name. Gwaelod in straight translation is lowland, but of course there are also other connotations. It can also be a part of the nomination Cantref ‘r Gwaelod, the lowland hundred, and part of the myth that is Maes Gwyddno or Gwyddno’s land, the sunken kingdom that supposedly occupied the area that is Cardigan Bay, an area of land so fertile that, “one acre there was worth three elsewhere”.

AmeriCymru: How many media do you work in? Do you have a particular media that you consider your favorite to work in? Why?

Chris: My chosen medium at the moment is painting. But the supports I use for it may vary according to the “feel” of the image I wish to create. Paper, wood and slate have all been used. Slate as a support for work demands a different approach to presentation, the image is only a part. A slate is an object in itself and therefore the whole thing demands more care when presenting.

I wouldn’t say that I have a “favourite” media, but slate certainy presents more possibilities as part of a piece.

AmeriCymru: Do you have a particular message in your work, an effect you want it to create in your audience or does this vary from piece to piece?

Chris: My first series of works, “Gwaelod – Imagining a sunken kingdom.”, dealt with the myth and imagined the kind of imagery that might be created by such a culture as well as responding to an actual geological past in a similar manner.

The legendary watery inundation of “Gwaelod” was the cause of a diaspora, or scattering of the people. Diaspora, as a term, has come to be associated on a global scale with forced removal from homelands, genocide and political upheaval as well as natural disaster. But all mass tragedies contain many intimate ones – the past may be shared but the experience of it is individually personal, and diaspora may also be the scattering of family and friends by forces beyond individual or communal control.

The works I am creating in the “Gwaelod – Pictures of Us” continue the story in a modern setting and are not intended as a dip into nostalgia but as representaions of who we are and where we are from. Important remembrances, for without an intimate and fiercely guarded knowledge of shared history a people are at the disposal of whatever despotic whim a cynical regime may consider. The images are of social interaction not work. A fact often overlooked is that work while being of importance as a means of providing the means of survival is not the reason for it. Human beings by nature are gregarious and it is within a shared social history that our roots are located.

I began to work collaboratively with the poet, Paul Steffan Jones in 2017, having become friends some seven years previously.

What such a collaboration as mine and Paul Steffan Jones hopefully creates is something born from a mutual understanding and respect for the practice of the other. Paul’s poetry has inspired my works and my works have inspired Paul.

AmeriCymru: How many hours a day do you spend creating?

Chris: I try to work every day. Even when not actually making work I am contemplating my next move or preparing for a piece. Art isn’t a nine-to-five job, although a major part of the actual practice may be carried out during those hours. Actual creation takes place in bursts of activity, the rest of the time is spent setting up the conditions in which those “bursts” can take place. I have worked commercially and on academic collaborations over the years and so probably have a slightly more pragmatic attitude than is generally thought to be the norm for an “artist” - not a term I use, “stuffist” being preferred as I make “stuff”!

AmeriCymru: Where can our readers find your work online ?

Chris: Since retiring, I was a university lecturer in the arts, I no longer maintain a web presence. I do however have a Facebook page (most people do) which I use only for “art” information purposes, generally. All the art works I publish there are in the public domain.

AmeriCymru: Any final message for the readers and members of AmeriCymru?

Chris: Perhaps one of my favourite quotes from John Ruskin – “Great nations write their autobiographies in three manuscripts;—the book of their deeds, the book of their words, and the book of their art. Not one of these books can be understood unless we read the two others; but of the three, the only quite trustworthy one is the last.” (John Ruskin, “St Mark’s Rest”.)




Cantre'r Gwaelod - The Legend

From the Wikipedia:- Cantre'r Gwaelod, also known as Cantref Gwaelod or Cantref y Gwaelod (English: The Lowland Hundred), is a legendary ancient sunken kingdom said to have occupied a tract of fertile land lying between Ramsey Island and Bardsey Island in what is now Cardigan Bay to the west of Wales. It has been described as a "Welsh Atlantis" and has featured in folklore, literature and song.

Cantre'r Gwaelod was an area of land which, according to legend, was located in an area west of present-day Wales which is now under the waters of Cardigan Bay. Accounts variously suggest the tract of land extended from Bardsey Island to Cardigan or as far south as Ramsey Island. Legends of the land suggest that it may have extended 20 miles west of the present coast.

There are several versions of the myth. The earliest known form of the legend is usually said to appear in the Black Book of Carmarthen, in which the land is referred to as Maes Gwyddno (English: the Plain of Gwyddno). In this version, the land was lost to floods when a well-maiden named Mererid neglected her duties and allowed the well to overflow...... MORE HERE

..

'Sofa Surfin' by Mike Jenkins, A Review


By Ceri Shaw, 2018-08-14

"It's Marmite poetry....but I like Marmite!" - Mike Jenkins





...

...

...

A review of Welsh poet and novelist Mike Jenkins new anthology Sofa Surfin.

"A former winner of the Wales Book of the Year competition for 'Wanting to Belong' (Seren), Jenkins is a former editor of Poetry Wales and a long-term coeditor of 'Red Poets'."
...

...

..




The poems in 'Sofa Surfin' are all written in local dailect and they address themes of homelessness, unemployment and general decline in post-industrial Merthyr Tydfil. This is not Mike's first experiment with dialect poetry. He has published three previous anthologies: 'Graffiti Narratives' 1994, 'Coulda Bin Summin' 2001, 'Barkin' 2013. (Read our review of 'Barkin' here).

In a blog post ( Famous F Doin Nothin ) Mike explains the root of his fascination with this form of poetic expression:-

" I was especially inspired by West Indian writers like Derek Walcott, black English poet James Berry , the songs of Bob Marley and one particular poem by David Hughes 'Swonzee Boy, See', which appeared in 'Planet' magazine, edited by Barnie."

He goes on to outline the reception that his work in this genre has received:-

"My previous book 'Barkin!' had decidedly mixed reviews yet got short-listed for Wales Book of the Year, while the following one 'Shedding Paper Skin' ( in standard English) received great reviews and not a sniff of prizes.

An English person responded to 'Sofa Surfin' by commenting that it would have limited appeal, yet West Indian and Scots are widely accepted and , ironically, the poems have so far been greeted far more enthusiastically in England than Wales ( with 'Planet' again the exception)."

I guess we'll just have to disagree with the 'English person'referenced above. It is certainly true that West Indian and Scots dialect poetry has succeeded in reaching a broader audience. We believe that Mike Jenkins' Merthyr dialect poems similarly deserve to be widely read and treasured for their originality, humour and insightfulness.

In 'They Stopped My Benefits' we are firmly in 'I, Daniel Blake' territory as the protagonist decries the beaurocratic rigmarole which leaves him suspended and penniless:-

They stopped my benefit
an what ave I got
left in-a-flat?
Two boggin tea-bags
an a tin o sardines
outa date!

Say I never
signed on, but
I know theyer
system's t blame;
it's appened before
'F*** off!' a-compewter sayz.

Many of the poems in this collection explore life on the dole and the frustrations of dealing with a callous and unresponsive benefits system. In 'Sofa Surfin' however, Mike focuses on the plight of a young woman who has recently become homeless after an argument with her partner. She is reduced to sofa surfing i.e. "staying temporarily with various friends and relatives while attempting to find permanent accommodation":-

Ee've kicked me out
It woz a stewpid argument
'bout a juke-box
'Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep' -
I f***in sayd 'No way!'
(shame no Beef'eart).

.....

Coz I'm talkin 'bout the breakers
ewger than any sea's -
divorce an booze, gettin sacked an speed.
Ow I stood on-a board
f'moments before being dragged down
t the subway, like an underwater tunnel
where I could ardly breathe

But, fans of Mike's dialect poetry will be aware that there are always oases of humour interspersed amongst the grimmer offerings exemplified above. In 'No Offence' the narrator unleashes a tirade of personal insults at his unidentified victim while insisting all the while that he means no offence:-

No offence like,
but yew're a baldy bastard
with an ead like an egg,
if I woz't crack it open
yewer brain ud be
like a Cadbury Cream Egg

.....

When yew talk it's like a bloody screech,
so igh-pitched the dogs go mad
and people in-a shops think
the fire-alarm's gone off,
anybuddy ud think
you'd ad yewer goolies chopped off!

No offence like!

In this context we cannot fail to mention the wonderful and whimsical 'A Pijin In Greggs', a personal favourite:-

This pijin was struttin is stuff down town,
ee wuz in Greegs lunchtime -
think ee wuz arfta the offer
of 5 ring donuts f'r a pound

.....

I come yer f'r a pastie
coz I wanna do a college course
t learn ow t be a seagull
an yeard this is where you enrol

And so, however you feel about the real thing, we think you will warm to literary 'Marmite'. If you are responsive to the idea of a poetry anthology infused with pathos and humour and delivered in contemporary working class vernacular, then this book is for you. Unreservedly recommended!

In fact why not buy all four of Mike's dialect collections? We include titles and links below for your convenience.

Sofa Surfin

Barkin!

Coulda Bin Summin

Graffitti Narratives



From the Wikipedia. A note on Marmite for our American readers :- "Marmite is a sticky, dark brown food paste with a distinctive, powerful flavour, which is extremely salty. This distinctive taste is reflected in the marketing slogan: "Love it or hate it." Such is its prominence in British popular culture that the product's name has entered British English as a metaphor for something that is an acquired taste or tends to polarise opinions."

 / 466