'Otherlander' - An Interview With Welsh Poet Paul Steffan Jones
By: Ceri Shaw
Posted in: Poetry
AmeriCymru: Hi Paul, care to tell us a little about your new collection 'Otherlander'?
Paul: Otherlander is a collection of poems mainly written in the last two years. Many were written for the project Gwaelod, a collaboration with the artist Chris Rawson-Tetley that is inspired by the Welsh flood story of Cantre'r Gwaelod. The poems respond to ideas of identity, memory, history, diaspora, loss, and the relationship of these concerns to the location where these events and feelings were and are experienced. It has more of a story-telling feel about it than my earlier work. It is my first attempt at self-publishing, a return to the DIY punk rock ethic of my teenage years, a chance to re-connect with the possibility of independence and a more express way of getting work out.
AmeriCymru: "A collection of poems of reverence and rage.....". Do you agree with this characterization of the poems in 'Otherlander'?
Paul: I think that "reverence and rage" is an apt description of the collection. I have included poems that celebrate marriage and others that are elegies. There is admiration for the way our ancestors struggled to survive, both economically and culturally, and anger over the way they were often treated and how their descendants are being treated today. I have been researching my family history for about a decade and have been humbled by the many sacrifices made along the way.
AmeriCymru: One of my favourite poems in this collection is 'Anger One'. What was the inspiration for this poem? Where or what is 'hangar one'?
Paul: Anger One is a middle aged rant, one of a series, I'm afraid. It deals with our changing shapes, the demands on our resources, the feeling of amnesia and our relationship with our parents. Hangar One is everywhere and is nowhere. It is the larger structures that oppress us-churches, schools, supermarkets, the Houses of Parliament, castles, prisons, the state and its offices. It is also as small as one's internal secret guilt.
AmeriCymru: One poem featured in the collection, 'Ceibwr' is written in both English and Welsh. Why this particular poem? Is this something you plan to do more often in the future?
Paul: Ceibwr was suggested by a painting by Chris Rawson-Tetley and by a request by a Welsh-speaker to write a poem about it in that language. It is a favourite landscape of mine and I think fits into the edge of the scenery of the Cantre'r Gwaelod theme due to its coastal location. Yes, I am aiming to do more bi-lingual work.
AmeriCymru: Are your previous collections Lull of the Bull (2010) and The Trigger-Happiness (2012) still available for purchase?
Paul: My previous book are available still though stocks of Lull of The Bull are low.
AmeriCymru: Where can people go to purchase 'Otherlander' online?
Paul: Otherlander can be obtained via Otherlander Face to face I will sell the book at the austerity price of £5.
AmeriCymru: What's next for Paul Steffan Jones? Will you be promoting 'Otherlander' with readings? Any new projects lined up?
Paul: I am currently nearing the completion of the next book, The Ministry of Loss, which I hope will appear next year. These poems continue the theme of identity and will feature more tales from my family's story. Also, I am writing new work for a fifth collection of about 20-25 mostly longer poems, Rant. These will include the state of the nation diatribes, Where Did I Put My Country? I hope to promote Otherlander at readings. I am still writing for the Gwaelod/ Pictures of Us project with Chris and have an involvement in the collaboration, Room 103. The latter deals with George Orwell's ideas in the contemporary world. Though this seems a fairly busy workload, I am giving thought to the form my poetry will take in the near future as I feel I need to come up with a more lyrical style acceptable to a much wider audience.
AmeriCymru: Any final message for the readers and members of AmeriCymru?
Paul: Best wishes and thanks again for taking an interest.
Grind my teeth down
mortar and pestle
at the dentist
get a new set
a horse look
my masculinity blurs
whatever it is or was
weight piles on
of ill advice
that amorphous shape
my eyes dim with tears
my ears struggle to keep up
while the flora
and the fauna
memory as a sequence
of half snatched-back vignettes
that perhaps I was never in
we can’t escape our parents
they’re in our faces
our ways of moving
their bad luck
in the diaspora of kids
the energy of synergy
in hangars of anger
the anchors of rancour
with truncheons of tension
in Anger One
anger has won