Welsh poet Paul Steffan Jones won this year's (2012) West Coast Eisteddfod Online Poetry Competition with his entry When You Smile You'll Be A Dog No More . Read the winning entry below. AmeriCymru spoke to Paul about his winning entry and about his work in general.
AmeriCymru: Congratulations/Llongyfarchiadau on winning the 2012 West Coast Eisteddfod Poetry Competition and many thanks for agreeing to talk to AmeriCymru. Your poem 'When You Smile You'll Be A Dog No More' was the winning entry. Care to tell us more about the poem?
Paul: Diolch. I am delighted to have won this competition. The poem is a reaction to the death of my mother in July 2011, the Gleision mining disaster later that same year and the 1938 murder of my Treherbert ancestor Thomas Picton by Spanish war criminals. It deals with grief and how it affects the personality and one's core beliefs.
AmeriCymru: How would you describe your relationship with words, with the raw matter of your craft?
Paul: My relationship with words has become more flexible, more trusting over the last two years. I am favouring a partly abstract approach to writing because I feel that what's going on at present in the UK doesn't make much sense and it's my job to reflect that feeling of nonsense to some degree in my work. It's good I feel to deconstruct a narrative so much that the narrative disappears leaving the naked and mad beauty of words that seem not to belong together but somehow work against the odds. I allude to this in When You Smile You'll Be a Dog No More. It is even more challenging when reading this type of poem to an audience. I believe it's important to try to find new ways of conveying messages, creating tension and provoking reaction.
AmeriCymru: Your blog features a number of original works. Will they be anthologised? How satisfactory/useful are digital media for poets?
Paul: Some of my blog writings have appeared in collections and others may do so in the future. I have found that having a blog has provided me with feedback that I would not otherwise have had. It provides additional encouragement in a fairly lonely genre.
AmeriCymru: Your first anthology Lull Of The Bull was published by Starborn Books. Where can readers obtain a copy?
Paul: A small number of copies of Lull of The Bull are available at www.starbornbooks.co.uk and a few book shops in West and South Wales.
AmeriCymru: What's next for Paul Steffan Jones?
Paul: My second collection, The Trigger-Happiness, will be published by Starborn Books in the next few weeks. A third collection, Junk Notation, has already been written, a reaction to relationship breakdown, poems punctuated by short stories. I am working at the moment on a potential book called Ministry of Loss which again deals with grief and also the massive population change in rural Wales since the 1960s. I look forward to taking The Trigger-Happiness to a wider audience. I hope that one of its poems will feature in an exhibition in Kyoto, Japan next month.
I will continue to fight the UK Coalition Government's austerity measures from within the ranks of the Trade Union movement.
AmeriCymru: Any final message for the members and readers of AmeriCymru?
Paul: There are a lot of good but unknown poets in West Wales who deserve to be heard. I'm sure that a similar situation exists in the U.S.A. I would like there to be closer links between lesser-known Welsh and American poets.
When You Smile You'll Be A Dog No More
I wake up
I wake up dead
I had been dreaming of cardboard
home made signs on unclassified roads
which directed me to 20,000 saints
or 20,000 whores
its hard to decide
everything is everything else
nothing is nothing
let me sleep
my bed my kingdom
Im sick of having to make sense
if theres still such a thing
the holes and the cracks
that await filling or recognition
our father gives us brown envelopes
containing our mothers careful accretion
we have all done loot
I will glory in her memory
decorate those who have managed
to live to retirement age
who have lived before death
I am overdue a bombweed and overgrown motte
with a redundant cinema gravedigger hunchback
to disinter Nazis to kill them all over again
the art of leaning on a farm gate to view
wood lice jigs
the tail end of a hurricane
mould and its cousins
fungicide and its offspring
cry when miners die in the sides of hills
in the tombs of the underworld
in the caress of water
cry when they say your name
when the pain overpowers
when the clues expire
cry as men cry
faces to the wall
the tears of candles
the clowns of town down
the anti-condensation flotilla at full tilt
freelance apologists freely lancing
cwtsh into the huddle
taste her tears so near
impressing me as much
as I had expected
but not in the manner anticipated
women with bruised faces
the views from floors
fight for your smile
you know the one
and I will fight for the right to fail
and the secrets we think we are keeping
removing my shirt though its cool
nakedness of diaphragm
for what I am
the long arms of brambles through fencing
Impressionist paintings in river reflections
the source of the Nile
the source of fibre
persisting with bent nibs
this towns got much to answer for
eat what you are
food replaces sex
those poached brains
shopping as sport
lions as lambs
distance will bring us together
Paul Steffan Jones
Interview by Ceri Shaw