Ceri Shaw


 

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Category: Author Interviews


whererowansintertwinekindle1.jpg AmeriCymru: Margaret and many thanks for agreeing to this interview. Care to introduce your historical novel Where Rowans Intertwine for our readers?

Margaret: Hmm!  Thank you Ceri.  Lovely to ‘be here’ in touch with people who love Wales as I do.  We are now retired to Lincolnshire, but I still have such a strong hiraeth for the beautiful land that nurtured me for 23 years.

Most teachers will know how frenetic full time teaching is and how time consuming.  However, although I had a delightful job running the kindergarten in a small school on Anglesey, I was in for a big shock. Chronic fatigue syndrome along with an exacerbated spinal injury ended my teaching career.  We’ve all heard the maxim, ‘When life gives you lemons, make lemonade,’ so, I decided to make the best of things and use my time usefully.  I began to research and write the novel I had always wanted to read.

For me the book needed to be historical, have some sort of magical quality, be spiritually nourishing and of course have an edgy romance.  It would have to answer unsettling questions about the sacred mountain where we lived when bringing up our children on the island of Anglesey.  I was severely disabled, but I needed a raison d’être and new focus.  I grasped the opportunity life afforded and, when I was bedbound, began painstaking research into the period of Romano Celtic history that followed the slaughter of the Druids on the shores of Anglesey (Mona) in North Wales 2000 years ago.

There was something so beautiful and mystical about the sacred mountain of Mynydd Llwydiarth where we lived; with a forest behind us and Snowdonia spread out at our feet.  (It is now a red squirrel sanctuary) When feeling well, I had often roamed the mountain forest behind our cottage and allowed the plants and earth beneath my feet to ‘speak to me’.  Ancient memories seemed to surface from the old rocks.  I became convinced that a Celtic priestess had lived on the site of our house around 2000 years ago.  Her story begged to be told.

When I was able to kneel, I began writing in short bursts, supporting myself on a kneeling stool.  With hands on Reiki healing and medical herbalism I began to regain some measure of strength.  I decided to train as a Reiki healer myself, so that I could manage to take away my own pain.  I found this so useful in gaining empathy with Ceridwen, the main character in the novel.  Like me, at the beginning of her story she is a novice healer.
 
As my health gradually improved, I was able to spend longer at the writing; but it took me twelve years. Then came the task of finding an agent and a publisher.  It was so frustrating.  Agents and publishers made encouraging noises, but nothing materialized, so I decided to go down the route of self-publishing.  It wasn’t a good idea for a technophobe like myself.  But, with the right support from friends and being able to find a brilliant professional formatter, it finally got published.  It took 24 years from start to finish, but it is now an ebook and is also available in a glossy paperback on Amazon sites.

If you want to know more about the story, here’s the blurb I wrote for Amazon:

‘After the death of her grandmother, young novice priestess and healer, Ceridwen, is faced with the daunting responsibility of ministering to her Celtic tribe at a time when spiritual leadership is most needed.  It is over two hundred years since Roman invaders attempted to annihilate the Druids on the shores of the island of Mona (Anglesey in North Wales).

Is now is the time for healing and forging a future from that hateful carnage?  Is her attraction to a Roman surgeon, Marcus, a weakness, or her destiny?  Dare she allow herself to be drawn into a relationship with him, now that she will be expected to mate at the sacred time of Beltane; and how can she steer her tribe away from its current chieftain, who usurps the nobility of Druid leadership in exchange for a reign of intimidation and terror? Their lives entwine and unfold in the setting of Mynydd Llwydiarth - the sacred mountain on the island of Mona.

Charged with passing the secrets and wisdom of her Druid training down the generations through the female line, she questions why she cannot conceive a girl child.  The true magic she comes to learn, as her life unfolds, is more about love and loyalty than ritual, more about justice than tribe.

Interpreted as an allegory of the era we live in, where there are clashes of both culture and ideals, we can empathise with the process; but, for both Ceridwen and Marcus it is an agonizing spiritual journey of self searching and response to their times.

‘Where Rowans Intertwine’ is an historical novel which will interest those who enjoy a mystical tale, a spiritual quest, and a dip into the past.  It will fascinate those interested in things Celtic, Roman or Pagan, and create an awakening to healing and life purpose.

More details can be found at www.margaretgrantauthor.wordpress.com

So far I’ve been lucky enough to have many five star reviews on all Amazon sites and Goodreads.  I’m now busy doing local book signings in Lincolnshire.  However, at Easter 2016 I managed a long awaited trip to North Wales to do book signings at Caernarfon Castle, The Ucheldre Centre, Holyhead, Oriel Môn, Llangefni and the Bulkeley Arms Hotel, Beaumaris.  It was a great opportunity to sell signed copies of the paperback and meet old friends and new.

AmeriCymru: Do you think that Druidic practices survived the Roman occupation of Ynys Mon? Do you think that more should have been done to preserve those ancient traditions?

Margaret: I met and interviewed people on Anglesey who claimed to have been descendants of Druids. They said that, as Druid teachings went underground during the Roman occupation, the practices of healing, prophesying and conducting the sacred rituals at the festival times fell to the women.  They claimed that the secret sacred teachings were passed down through the female line, emerging today in several formats such as medical herbalism, hands on healing as well as wiccan and pagan rituals.

It would seem to make sense. The Romans knew how politically influential the Druids were to the tribal chiefs and kings of the time.  Destroying their power base was crucial to Roman civilization.  To survive, Druid teachings had to go underground, but we can see echoes of it in Christian rituals at Christmas, Easter and Halloween.  We hear echoes in our folklore, songs and traditions.

The Romans were pragmatic and as long as the Brythonic tribes did not rise in rebellion, the occupied peoples were allowed their old festivals and traditions. As a result many outward forms of Druid practice get mixed up in how we celebrate traditionally today.

In the 18th century there was a fashionable revival and interest in Druidry.  When people started to take an interest in its spirituality during the 19th century we see traditions currently used in the cultural celebrations at national eisteddfodau beginning to be played out. These days the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids – OBOD would claim they have more of a handle on the teachings and run training courses.  Here is a link to an overview of modern day Druidry.

https://www.druidry.org/druid-way/what-druidry/brief-history-druidry/history-modern-druidism

Christian institutions, from the medieval period onwards, played their part all over Europe in persecuting and hunting down ‘heretics’.  Druidry was buried, but its threads were still alive in folklore and folk medicine and even in superstitions.  The other way it survived was through inspiration.  Sensitive people, working with meditation and prayerful energy, are inspired by those gone before.  I was fortunate to be able to link in this way to Ceridwen as she helped me mould the story I was creating.  As I was editing she would often stop me in process and tell me ‘No!…Watch! It was like this!’

AmeriCymru: How easy is it to research the period in which the book is set? To what extent does imagination supplement primary sources?

Margaret: There is much more archeological evidence these days than there was in 1991 when I began my research.  Fortunately according to Professor Alice Roberts, nothing I wrote has been disproved.  No world wide web for me in those days.  I was reliant on books borrowed from Bangor University Library, giving me access to old Roman maps, articles on farming and Welsh culture and law during the Roman occupation. Visits to museums to look at artefacts and visits to the remains of Segontium fortress near Caernarfon made it easier to imagine life in those far off days.

At both Bangor Museum and Oriel Môn, Llangefni I was able to view some of the votive hoard found at Llyn Cerrig Bach during the Second World War.  Now it is housed in the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff. The fascinating museum at Segontium, where I was fortunate to have the curator all to myself for a whole afternoon, is now not manned; but I believe you can ask for the key at Caernarfon castle if you book in advance with CADW.  Chester Museum and the Deva experience there gave me even more material and a feel for the might of Rome.

The Roman chronicler Tacitus and writers Caesar and Pliny all give accounts of the Roman occupation of Britain, but current historians reckon that there was lots of bias and spin to their stories, proudly recording victory after victory and denouncing the Brythonnic tribes as uncivilized.  Archeology has proved that wrong from the way they wove, fashioned tools, worked with gold, copper and iron, built houses and roads, traded, had supreme horsemanship and farmed the land sympathetically. Their laws were very egalitarian, supportive of family life and their links to the land.

In some ways, even though it took two years of assiduous research, I was relieved that I did not have to pin myself down to too much historic detail.  So much remained a mystery; so I had to rely on a great deal of imagination and stimulus from my muse Ceridwen.

AmeriCymru: Will you be writing more historical novels? Will you be setting future novels in the same place and period?

Margaret: I am 74.  Whilst I can still be a walk leader for Walking For Health and run meditation classes and Reiki classes from our home, I really do not want to tie myself to a computer as it drains me of energy.  I want to be out in my garden tending the herbs or hosting retreats for people who need some peace and quiet in their busy lives.

However, if I ever do become immobile again I will follow up on ‘Where Rowans Intertwine’ with an account of Llew’s life in the same area of Anglesey.  He is Ceridwen’s young son.  I am convinced he was an ancestor of Llywelyn Fawr.  Occasionally when I cannot sleep at night I feel his story calling me…

AmeriCymru: What is your process? Do you write a certain amount each day or do you wait for inspiration?

Margaret: It has always depended on what needs doing as a priority.  During times of struggle with practicalities and pressure from family matters my creative writing has had to take a back seat.  Recently, on becoming a Reiki master (teacher) I wrote my own training manuals.  My writing energy is always better in the mornings, just after the two cups of real coffee I indulge in.  Then, after a domestic tidy, I settle down to write for the rest of the morning.  I might begin with a silly computer game to get my brain stimulated.  Then I will open up my partially written manuscript and read it aloud to myself.  As an ex drama teacher I am looking for dramatic effect and timing as well as typographical errors. I listen to it as though I am a member of its audience.  As I go along I edit.  When I have finished cleaning up what I have previously written, I pause.  Maybe I will have a walk around the garden and smell the beauty, put out the washing, pray and meditate for a few minutes and then get creative.

AmeriCymru: What are you working on at the moment?

Margaret: I am just about to publish a children’s paperback.  I will work on editing an ebook version during the Christmas holidays.  It has been such a wonderful self-indulgent trip down memory lane.  You see I am a cataholic……( No not a Catholic.  My faith is Bahá’í, which means I appreciate each world faith as a significant chapter in the spiritual evolution of humankind.)  I am a great fan of cats.  We have been owned by nine of them during our long family association with felines.  I must have read almost every book that has ever been published about cats.

Mine is called ‘THE NINE LIVES OF TIGGER DIGGER’.  It is based on the true to life story of our latest family moggy, Tiggy.  It’s the tale of how we imagined he got to be dumped on the South Yorkshire moors and had to learn to fend for himself before finding his forever home.

My lovely husband, Gordon, has done the delightful illustrations and both daughter Claire and son Andrew have contributed memories and ideas.  It is suitable for 7-14 year olds to read by themselves, but it will also interest adult cat lovers.  At the back there are discussion questions to accompany each chapter so that parents and teachers can prompt youngsters to think about moral values.

Here is a taste of the draft cover:

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AmeriCymru: What are you currently reading? Any recommendations?

Margaret: I’m currently rereading Philippa Gregory’s novel ‘The Constant Princess’ on kindle.  I was lucky enough to visit the Alhambra in Granada two years ago and it is bringing back strong memories of the region.

In paperback I am reading ‘All The Light We Cannot See’, by Anthony Doerr, a fascinating story of a blind teenager in occupied France and a young radio scientist who is singled out to be of great use to the Nazi effort.  This is so atmospheric you have to savour each small vignette as it alternates each character’s story of the same war.  I am half way through and the two main protagonists have not met as yet.

For those of you who love historical novels about Welsh history I recommend the writing of Sharon Kay Penman and Elizabeth Chadwick. Maybe you are already familiar with Sharon’s trilogy about the Welsh Princes:  ‘Here be Dragons’ ,   'Falls The Shadow' ,   ‘The Reckoning’? 

For me, the historical writer par excellence is Elizabeth Chadwick.  I have often observed that with some writers I am especially telepathic and when they begin to outline a character or place, even well before they have furnished a full visual description, I can already see what is in the author’s mind.  I have a very strong connection with her writing.  If you found Wolf Hall more like a PhD thesis than a digestible story then you will prefer Elizabeth’s writing.

There are tantalizing glimpses of Llwyellyn Fawr in ‘The Leopard Unleashed’, part of her Ravenstow Trilogy about the Welsh Marches.

Here is what she says about Garth Celyn, his Welsh stronghold near Aber in North Wales.

http://livingthehistoryelizabethchadwick.blogspot.com/2010/04/garth-celyn.html

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

Margaret: Keep the hiraeth flowing and the Welsh language safer than houses if you have it.  Value your heritage and treasure the culture, but do not lose sight of the oneness of humanity, from which cauldron we are all born.  Call others to discover the hidden treasures of Wales; her unspoiled and spiritual landscapes; her connection to sea and sky; her ancient wisdoms and her noble saints and seers.  Sing, laugh and be part of an amazing landscape. If you have hiraeth and can make the sacred journey then come to her mountains, valleys and shores. If you cannot travel, then do so in your meditations and dreams. The welcome is always so warm.


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AmeriCymru: Hi Sarah and many thanks for agreeing to this interview. What is your Welsh background and how important is it to you?

Sarah: My Welsh ancestry comes through—among others—my umpteenth great grandfather, William Woodbury, who self-identified as a Welshman when he arrived in Salem, Massachusetts in 1628. I am also descended from a host of Morgans, Thomas’, Kemries, Johns, Rhuns etc.  The line I’ve researched most successfully descends from Llywelyn ap Ifor born around 1300.  Six generations later, Sir John Morgan (1448) was knighted. One of my readers kindly researched my ancestry back all the way to Gruffydd ap Cynan, King of Gwynedd, through his grandson, the Lord Rhys (d. 1197), as well as Hywel Dda (d. 950). Woodbury is, of course, a very Saxon name, and those roots lie in Somerset.

We are all a product of the stories we tell about ourselves. I heard growing up that I had Welsh ancestry, but I never knew the extent of it until I started researching. Once I realized the extent of it, I read everything I could get my hands on about medieval Wales—and then began writing novels set in that time. I would say it is pretty important to me! At the same time, I know people with little to know Welsh ancestry who love Wales and Welsh history and culture, so I don’t think it’s a perquisite for becoming interested and involved.

AmeriCymru: How much of a challenge is it to set novels in medieval Wales? Presumably readers are not as well aware of Welsh history as they are of English or Scottish?

Sarah: After I published my first books, I used to say that part of my job was to educate as well as entertain. 1143 Wales is not the Tudors! It is always a balancing act between making the story fun and engaging and not writing either too much history or making medieval Welsh people and their lives so different that they become in accessible to the modern reader. 

Books set in Wales have the additional challenge of having Welsh names and places, which can be inaccessible to a modern English speaker. Some English speakers have a gut negative reaction to the Welsh names that goes back generations and centuries. Some people can’t be helped, but many can be won over by stories that are so compelling they read them anyway—and then find themselves falling in love a little bit with the country and people and coming back for more.

Crouchbackblog.jpg AmeriCymru: Care to tell us a little about your latest title - 'Crouchback'?

Sarah: Crouchback is set in the medieval world of 1284, after the Edwardian Conquest and the death of the last native Welsh Prince of Wales, Llywelyn ap Gruffydd. At Llywelyn’s death, Wales lost its independence and, after the birth of Edward II in Caernarfon in April 1284, King Edward declared him the new Prince of Wales, ensuring that the titular ruler of Wales from then on would be the son of the English king rather than a Welshman.

Unlike my After Cilmeri series, which is set in an alternate universe where Llywelyn lives, Crouchback is set in the real world, our world, where he does not. 

It’s a pretty dark time for Wales and the Welsh people. 

One of my favorite writing quotes, the provenance of which I am uncertain, says to write a good book, the author needs to give her characters a very bad day and make it worse. In the world of medieval Wales, there was nothing ‘worse’ than the conquest of Wales by King Edward of England. For the two main characters in Crouchback, Catrin and Rhys, their world had, in a very significant way, come to an end. In writing this book, I found myself exploring how a person could have something so terrible happen and still live. 

Which the people of Wales did. They endured and even prospered for over seven hundred years, speaking their language and living their lives as Welsh men and women. 

And thus, Crouchback isn’t about grief, as it turns out, but about hope and perseverance, courage and love—and finding joy in the darkest moments of our lives.

AmeriCymru: You have achieved incredible success writing more than 40 novels and selling over a million books online. What is the secret of your success? What advice would you give to budding authors who wish to self-publish?

Sarah: Amazingly enough, the secret isn’t to write books set in medieval Wales! During the five years my books were rejected by every publisher in New York, I was told over and over that their marketing department couldn’t think how to sell historical mystery/romance/adventure set in Wales. The answer instead, as it turns out, really isn’t a secret. It’s all about producing consistent quality content on a reliable schedule, just like any other job. 

I write a thousand words a day, every day. I work very hard to take criticism well and to seek out people who will tell me the truth about my books before I publish them. I also treat my writing and all that’s associated with it (marketing, publishing etc.) as a business.

But mostly it’s a matter of sitting one’s rear in the chair and writing. Thirteen years of doing that, day in and day out, is bound to produce some books that people want to read!

AmeriCymru: What can you tell us about your YouTube series 'Making Sense of Medieval Britain'? What inspired it and how many episodes will it eventually comprise?

Sarah: The Making Sense of Medieval Britain video project began with some ideas that tie into a question you asked earlier about how few people know anything about Wales. I want to write great stories, but many of my readers, once they get into my books, want to know more about the world in which my books are set. The video series is intended to help with that, in three to six minute installments. And because I’m an anthropologist by training, the focus is on the people of Britain, beginning with the Celts, the Romans, the Normans, etc. The last third is focused almost entirely on the Welsh and medieval Wales. By January, we should have 44 videos in the series, which will complete the first ‘season’. 

AmeriCymru: What's next for Sarah Woodbury? Any new titles in the works?

Sarah: Always! Right now, with the release of Crouchback on November 14, I’m working on the latest book in the After Cilmeri series—the one where I change history and Llywelyn lives! It should be out in March.

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

Sarah: If you do end up reading any of my books or enjoying the video series, I would hope you would reach out to me, either on Facebook or by email. I love meeting people, even remotely, who share my love for Wales!


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AmeriCymru: Care to introduce your new book - Dafydd ap Gwilym's Wales - Poems and Places for our readers?

John: Cymru Dafydd ap Gwilym / Dafydd ap Gwilym’s Wales is a collection of 35 poems by one of the greatest Welsh poets. The original Welsh texts are presented with facing translations in English, along with a bilingual introduction, with notes to explain unfamiliar names and words, a short essay on Dafydd’s life and poetry, and an even shorter introduction to the complex ‘strict metres’ in which Dafydd composed his poems. A unique feature of this book are the 70 photos by Anthony Griffiths showing places that Dafydd mentions in the poems. If you do not live in Wales or can not travel over much of the countryside – as Dafydd himself did – these photos give a wonderful visual sense of the land in which he lived.

AmeriCymru: Dafydd ap Gwilym is "regarded as being one of the leading Welsh poets and amongst the great poets of Europe in the Middle Ages." How would you describe his importance in the context of Welsh and medieval European literature?

John: The ancient Welsh tradition of court poetry under royal patronage was, in effect, eliminated after the deaths of the last ruling Welsh princes, Llywelyn ap Gruffudd and his brother Dafydd, in 1282 and 1283 during their disastrous wars against the English king, Edward I. The royal and noble patrons of the court poets were killed in battle, executed, or, at best, deprived of their lands and wealth, while their wives and daughters were exiled to nunneries in distant parts of England. After a dark period of grief, the poets turned for support to the less prominent Welsh families who had become the intermediary officials who simultaneously administered the newly imposed English laws while they did their best to protect the Welsh people from the worst extremes of oppression. Thus, the practice of praise poetry continued, but on a reduced scale.

Dafydd ap Gwilym was born sometime in the early fourteenth century, and he himself tells us that he learned much about poetry from his uncle, Llywelyn ap Gwilym ap Rhys, constable and bailiff of the castle at Newcastle Emlyn. As poetry reasserted itself, albeit with shifting functions and purposes, Dafydd and a few other young poets began to turn towards new themes. Dafydd soon took the lead, especially as a love poet. Love poetry had been rare in Welsh tradition, though it was growing popular in the courts of France and England. Dafydd took love as his theme and adopted it to Welsh metres, creating a style that is unlike French and English courtly poetry. He and his fellow poets molded the cywydd to their new voices, embedding it in the complex set of rules known as cynghanedd (literally, ‘a singing together; harmony’). They did not invent cynghanedd, but they refined it, codified it, and made it an inextricable part of their verse -- poetry in which sound is as important as sense.

Dafydd was a master of the traditional forms of praise and religious poetry, as attested by 25 or so surviving poems. But he took the cywydd to new heights with about 120 poems that, for the most part, explore the joys and sorrows, frustration, pain, and hope of love. He casts himself in the role of the lover, especially one who is, more often than not, rejected by the object of his love, or who is prevented from reaching her because of such impediments as the weather, geography, furniture in the dark, outright rejection, or even the fact that she is married. Through this essentially comic persona, however, Dafydd expresses and celebrates the various aspects of love and the complexities of personal relationships. At the same time, with his detailed, charming and perceptive observations on the birds, animals, trees, rivers, hills and valleys of Wales, he reveals an intimate engagament with and love for the world around him. And he is equally perceptive about human feelings and foibles, often expressed with a sardonic wit at his own expense. Dafydd’s verse may not have been known very far beyond the borders of Wales, but his substantial body of innovative poetry shows him to be the equal of his more widely recognized contemporaries: in France, Guillaume de Lorris (whose famous Romance of the Rose he may have known); in Italy, Boccaccio and Petrarch; and in England, the somewhat younger Geoffrey Chaucer.

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Otter [ CC BY-SA 4.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons

AmeriCymru: Dafydd has been rated as an innovative poet particularly for his use of the 'cywydd'. In what sense/s do you regard Dafydd's work as ground breaking?

John: As a more general addendum to my comments above, I would say that not only was Dafydd an important voice in revitalizing Welsh poetry after a period of severe cultural stress, he was a central figure in the expansion of the popularity of the cywydd, not only for love poetry, but for other purposes, as well. His cywydd to his patron, Ifor Hael, thanking him for a pair of gloves is the earliest-known Welsh poem of thanks, a practice that spread rapidly over the next two centuries. And Dafydd and his friends composed elegies to each other (even before they died!), demonstrating that the cywydd was also suitable for expressions of grief and mourning.

Dafydd’s superiority was recognized by other poets in his own time. Gruffudd Gryg says, “I am his disciple, he taught me,” and calls him “the hawk of chief poets.” Madog Benfras calls him “the peacock of poetry,” “the nightingale of Dyfed,” and “a good teacher of poets, more exceptional / than anyone who ever lived.”

AmeriCymru: Do you think that Dafydd's poetry is sufficiently read, understood and appreciated in Wales today?

John: Unfortunately, poetry in general seems not to be as widely read as it used to be, even in Wales, where not long ago teenagers decorated their rooms with posters of middle-aged men and women, their contemporary poet-heroes. Nevertheless, it is notable that Dafydd ap Gwilym is still recognized in Wales, at least by name, after 650 years! A small handful of his comic poems, such as Merched Llabadarn “The Girls of Llanbadarn” and Trafferth mewn Tafarn “Trouble at an Inn” are fairly well known, but he is not what you might call widely read these days. To be fair, his poetry is not easy to read – though I hasten to add that it amply repays the effort. And even reading his verse in translation can be enlightening as well as entertaining.

Personally, I think it is no less important for an educated Welsh person (Welsh speaker or not) to know the poetry of Dafydd ap Gwilym than it is for English speakers to be familiar to some extent with Shakespeare, Chaucer, Milton, or Donne. 

AmeriCymru: You are an expert in medieval Welsh. Care to tell us a little about the ways the language has changed/evolved since that period?

John: With a bit of study and practice, a dedicated, fluent Welsh speaker can read the Middle Welsh prose of The Mabinogi and other early tales. There are, of course, many words that are no longer in use, so editor’s notes and a good dictionary may be necessary. The experience, I like to think, is not unlike an English speaker today learning to read Chaucer. Early Welsh poetry is more difficult for a number of technical reasons, but such is the nature of poetry. To outline changes in the Welsh language over the centuries would take more time and space than is available here, so I will limit myself to some very general thoughts. 

Every language is always changing, and Welsh is no exception. There are many today who lament theadoption, albeit inevitable,  of English words into Welsh conversation and writing, but Welsh persists even though English has been slipping into the language since the 9th century, if not earlier; e.g., punt “pound” (9c.), cusan “kiss” (13c.),  sur “sour” (13c.), hosan “stocking, hose” (13c.), cist “chest” (13c.).  Dafydd ap Gwilym himself often included English and French words in his poetry. Here are a few words of English origin that first appear in Dafydd’s poetry:  apêl “(a legal) appeal”, baban “baby”, bostio “to boast”, cloc “clock”, cobler “cobbler”, dwbl “double”, gown “gown”, het “hat”, lwc “luck”, paement “pavement”, proses “process”, sadler “saddler”, siampl “sample, example”. 

However, much greater social and cultural changes have affected the Welsh language during the past 150 years than in the five preceding centuries. In the mid-to-late 19th century most of Wales was monoglot Welsh speaking, much as it was in Dafydd’s day. But English government policy and the institution of compulsory education in English reduced the proportion of Welsh speakers overall to less than 25% during the course of the 20th century. The protests and activism of the 1950s and ’60s eventually achieved official governmental recognition for the language. Mudiad Meithrin, the Nursery (Schools) Movement begun in the 1970s was the inspiration for the establishment of Welsh medium schools throughout Wales, and today the study of Welsh is required in many schools. Nevertheless, the percentage of Welsh speakers continues to fluctuate around 19-22%, and the language remains in crisis. Official use of the language and the ability to receive an education through the medium of Welsh should at least slow down the decline, and with luck, determination, and effort it could even be reversed. The pressures from a powerful dominant culture, however, are great, so it is hard to avoid the feeling that the future of the language is precarious at best.







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AmeriCymru: In your 'Legends & Landscapes of Wales' series you have produced new translations of the most important Welsh legends and 'foundation texts' ( 'Tales of Arthur' , 'The Mabinogi' , 'Companion Tales to the Mabinogi'). What can you tell us about this series and where can readers buy the books online?

John: The three volumes that you mention (published by Gomer Press), contain translations of all eleven tales included under the mistaken title “Mabinogion” (a term I generally do not use). The first volume contains the Four Branches of The Mabinogi, the jewel in the crown of early Welsh literature, a work that everyone who comes from or feels an attachment to Wales should read. Companion Tales to The Mabinogi presents four wonderfully eccentric tales, especially “How Culhwch Got Olwen,” the earliest Arthurian tale and perhaps the most exuberant story you will ever come across, along with “The Dream of Maxen Wledig,” “The Story of Lludd and Llefelys,” and “The Dream of Rhonabwy.” Tales of Arthur gives you three tales of heroes who became important figures in the international tales of Arthur and his knights: Peredur, Owain, and Geraint. Each of these books is illustrated with about 60 photographs by Anthony Griffiths. 

A strong impetus for studying these tales for many years, and especially for presenting them anew to English readers, has been my belief that they are all serious, sophisticated works of literature that deal with timeless themes of considerable importance. Far from being stories for children, The Mabinogi, for instance, draws on its mythological underpinnings to examine unflinchingly the complexities of right and wrong, of friendship, marriage, war, and the treatment (and mistreatment) of women.

These books, plus our fourth volume, Englynion y Beddau / The Stanzas of the Graves, are available on the usual websites (though sometimes at highly inflated prices). I recommend that you order them from your local independent bookstore – or, especially if you would like a signed copy, directly from me at https://sites.google.com/site/themabinogi/contactinformation

AmeriCymru: What's next for John K. Bollard? Any new titles in the works?

John: There is no lack of projects on the front, middle, and back burners in my study, several of them in the realm of medieval Welsh prose and poetry. Whether there is to be a sixth collaboration between Bollard and Griffiths… well, we’ll see. 

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

John: Just a brief reminder from Dafydd ap Gwilym:

Cerdd a bair yn llawenach
Hen ac ieuanc, claf ac iach.

“Poetry makes happier
both old and young, sick and hale.”



More on Daffydd Ap Gwilym  Wikipedia (Cymraeg)   Wikipedia (Saesneg)


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AllAtSea150x208.jpg AmeriCymru: Hi David and many thanks for agreeing to this interview. What can you tell us about your series of children's books featuring Owain and his dog, Llew?

David: The books are about a young boy and his dog, who meet people from the past, when they are out and about. I can then tell their story in a fun way.

AmeriCymru: What inspired you to start this series?

David: The Owain and Llew books come from my love of Welsh history and specific characters from the past. I have the characters in the books use their native language, with translations in to English at the back, I get annoyed when everyone from Martians to Aztecs speak English.

AmeriCymru: You have written several other titles including 'Two Five Two'. Care to tell us a little more about these?

David: I first wrote the books Eightmilez and A view to behold, hoping to get my part of Wales in with the tourist board, sadly it didn’t work. I was then approached by Cwmni a local objective one group to write The wonders that surround us. That got a great reception from locals and others around the world, sadly no longer in production. My next challenge was a book about my army life in The Royal Regiment of Wales, I decided to make it about the more humorous events. I had to put some smiles back on the faces of veterans. The last project was a Celtic star chart, using Taliesin’s work and other ideas, this chart included Welsh people who had contributed much to Astronomy, including Barbara Middlehurst from Penarth who moved to America to advance her career.

LadyoftheMountain150x211.png AmeriCymru: You are, dare I say, an 'advanced' Welsh learner. How long have you been learning Welsh? What is your proudest acheivement to date in your struggle to master the language? What advice would you give to new learners?

David: Dw I wedi ddysgu Cymraeg ers mil naw naw dim. I’ve been learning Welsh since 1990. But off and on due to circumstances, in the last three years I have been able to get at it with a bit more vigour, and I’m now getting somewhere. I have used the ABC of Welsh, Cwrs Mynediad and Sylfain, now working with say something in Welsh and Duo Lingo. My advice to new learners would be to use your Welsh, it doesn’t matter if you know one word or a thousand, use them every day, think using them and talk to yourself using them.

AmeriCymru: What's next for David Williams? Any new writing projects in the works?

David: I have more Owain and Llew books on the go, one is in art work stage, one I’m just finishing the writing and there are five other in various stages, I’m also going back over the star chart and looking at other ways of producing that.

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

David: I joined AmeriCymru when it started as a Web page it was a great idea and nice to see our kin across the pond flying the flag. I enjoy reading about the events that you guys have and the passion for the land of our fathers. Mae hen wlad fy nhadau.

Cymru am byth.

Diolch yn fawr

David

(D ap E Scribbles comes from Dafydd ap Evan, Evan being my father. Scribbles is a reference to my writing.)


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AmeriCymru: Hi Arthur and many thanks for agreeing to this interview. Care to tell us a little about your Welsh background and upbringing?

Arthur: I was born and bred in Caerau, a small mining village situated at the top of the Llynfi Valley, Maesteg. My father was a miner, as were many of my immediate family. I am the third of six children.

During the second world war my mother worked at the Bridgend munitions factory, until she married my father. We didn’t have a lot growing up, but our parents gave us all values and manners which stood us in good stead for the rest of our lives and careers. We had a very happy childhood, and at the time Caerau colliery was flourishing and there was plenty of work in the village, unfortunately the colliery is no longer, which is very sad indeed.

In September 1967, at the age of 17, I joined the Glamorgan Constabulary, which subsequently became the South Wales Constabulary in 1969. I retired from the police service as a Detective Sergeant in 1997 having investigated all form of major crime and counter terrorism. I then became a gardener. I worked mostly in nursing homes for individuals suffering with dementia. I retired completely in 2015.

AmeriCymru: When did you decide to write? What inspired you to take up the pen?

Arthur: After retirement I joined many coalmining sites on Facebook. One day I read a poem that had been posted. It was then that I decided to pen my first poem entitled ‘ABERFAN’ and from that day I haven’t stopped writing.

My main genres are Coalmining and the First World War, however I am able to pen poems about any subject.

My love of literature stems back to my time in comprehensive school, my biggest influence being my English Literature teacher Mr. David John, who was an inspiration, introducing me to all the war poets including Wilfred OWEN. Although I enjoyed poetry my career in the police service and my family took all of my time therefore I never did anything with the writing until I wrote ‘ABERFAN’.

AmeriCymru: What can you tell us about your collection:- 'An Industry Now Lost'?

Arthur: My first book of poems titled ‘AN INDUSTRY NOW LOST’ describes numerous mining disasters, and what it was like to work underground during the Victorian times, when lives meant nothing. I suppose you could say that my back ground growing up in a Welsh mining valley inspired me to write the 50 poem book.

AmeriCymru: How would you describe the effect of the loss of mining jobs in the Maesteg area and the valleys generally?

Arthur:  After the miner’s strike of 1985, the death knoll of mining in the Welsh valleys sounded, and all the pits were subsequently closed, leaving a great deal of unemployment and poverty, even to this day, some thirty odd years later the scars are there for all to see. Our valley towns have been decimated, and now younger generations have to travel far and wide for work.

AmeriCymru: You have also written a series of novels featuring Detective Chief Inspector Terry McGuire. Care to tell us a little more about the character and his cases?

Arthur: In February 2016, I was trawling through a closed Police site on Facebook, when I read a post from Nigel Williams, also a retired police officer and an author in his own right, who had self published books he had written. In the post he asked if anyone would like to write a book, so I thought to myself, I wouldn’t mind a crack at that, so I got in touch and we began corresponding over the internet. I wrote the first book ‘UNETHICAL CONDUCT’ in ten days and Nigel ‘polished it up’ and put it all together.

The first time I actually met Nigel in person was when he gave me the book. I had no intention of writing another book, until Nigel asked if we could write together. That day ‘The Terry McGuire Crime Thrillers’ were created.

Terry McGuire began as a Detective Inspector in the series and is now a Detective Superintendent. He is in charge of a major crime unit in South Wales and he has hand picked his team. McGuire is a workaholic, who must always get to the truth. He is empathetic with an edge about him. He is a family man with two grown up children who live abroad. He is supported by his long suffering wife Molly who loves him to bits.

People who have read the books, and know me say that McGuire is modelled on me, to some degree he is, however when I created him, I didn’t have that in mind. All the cases that McGuire and his team deal with are serious and steeped in murder and corruption, and the stories are mostly set in and around South Wales.

At present there are eight books in the series:-

‘Unethical Conduct’ ‘Edge of Integrity’, ‘Death and Depravity’, ‘Angel of Death’, ‘Nest of Vipers’, ‘Nighthawker’, ‘Redemption’ and ‘Betrayal’.

Nigel and I are just editing the ninth in the series, ‘Ravwn’, which will hopefully be published later in the year.

AmeriCymru: You have donated the proceeds from some of your book sales to charity. What good causes have your readers supported by buying your titles?

Arthur: When we began self publishing the books, we donated the royalties amounting to around £2,000.00 to both ‘Marie Curie’ and ‘The Garnwen Trust’, Maesteg.

AmeriCymru: What's next for Arthur Cole? Any new titles in the works?

Arthur: In May 2017 I was lucky enough to sign a book deal with ‘Wordcatcher Publishing, Cardiff’ owned by David Norrington. David published my first two poetry books ‘An Industry Now Lost’ and ‘Poems for a Lost Generation - A tribute to those who fell in the Great War 1914-18’.

I have just completed my third book ‘50 Famous People’ which includes many famous Welsh people, which will be published in May this year.

Nigel and I have also signed a deal with David, who is in the process of re-publishing the first eight books in the Terry McGuire series. The books will have a more consistent professional presentation. The titles will not be changed, so that readers who have already bought them, will not purchase them a second time.

‘Unethical Conduct’ has recently been published on kindle, with a new cover. The paperback will hopefully be published within the next few weeks. All available via Amazon or from Wordcatcher Publishing.

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

Arthur: I would like to thank you Ceri, for giving me the opportunity to write about our literary exploits thus far, and hopefully members who may read the books will be able to enjoy and reminisce about their homeland.

The thriller web site can be found at https://terrry-mcguire-thrillers.com

Many Thanks

Arthur.


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AmeriCymru spoke to author Peter Jordan about his new novel 'One Sprinkling Day'. The book, set in Wales, has been described as a novel of ideas and is currently available from Amazon - One Sprinkling Day



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AmeriCymru interview  photo.jpg AmeriCymru: Hi Peter and many thanks for agreeing to this interview. Care to introduce your novel, 'One Sprinkling Day' for our readers?

Peter: Thank you for inviting me to. After finishing this book at long last I soon learned two things that surprised me. One was that in England the final judges in literary matters aren’t critics or professors or publishers, let alone writers, but literary agents. The other was that according to literary agents a novel is a story with a beginning, a middle and an end, which you can tell them in a paragraph. I had, before this, read E.M. Forster’s words, ‘Yes—oh dear yes—the novel tells a story’, which if you mistake the tone you might think were meant as an apology for novels in general or a justification of his own in particular. Really they were an ironic rebuke to any readers who felt that some of his contemporaries with no interest in story-telling had written better novels than he had. He may have been a friend of Virginia Woolf’s, we needn’t follow her in including him among the ‘modernists’. They themselves don’t seem so modern now, and they haven’t much in common, but none of them ever wrote a rattling good yarn. Neither did Forster, still a rattling yarn fits his idea of the novel, whereas their explorations of the inner life, their rendering of the actual quality of experience, their ‘non-linear’ kinds of construction (Proust’s ‘chessboard’ treatment of themes, for example), made Forster’s fiction seem old-fashioned.

Yet even to fiction much less conventional than his he could be responsive enough. It was his appreciation of The Leopard that got it its due even in Italy and in ‘the world of literature’, though we needn’t believe that all who hailed it then could really see any merit in it. I’m afraid that in a case like this or the earlier ‘Svevo affair’ many readers of the book only praise it because others are doing so.

Of course, novels that were hardly stories had been written before the modernists‘. (Already before Joyce, hadn’t even Firbank’s plots been pretty wispy?) I suppose most of the great novels that relate events (as Kidnapped does) rather than develop themes (as already Niels Lyhne does) were written in the 19th century, and one or two of them were by Flaubert, still Flaubert when he wrote most spontaneously produced Novembre, and ‘L’action y est nulle’. And it’s in an inner journey that all the interest of Loss and Gain lies, if Newman’s path to Rome does interest you. Going even further back, to the only work of fiction by the greatest English writer of the previous century, to Rasselas,—as Professor Hiller said, we don’t read Rasselas for the story. But no doubt it was from the turn of the 19th century on that the scope of fiction was seriously extended. So Jean Santeuil reveals the author’s hidden self, in Malte Laurids Brigge as in Hunger an alienated consciousness confronts a modern city, Giacomo Joyce like Niels Lyhne brings into fiction a strange poetic realism, The Last Summer offers a transcript of life,—but none of them tells a story with a beginning, a middle and an end. (Musil had begun to find his themes well before he began to write The Man Without Qualities, but Young Törless is a story of sorts, and whether or not The Man Without Qualities is a story, it only lacks an ending because Musil didn’t live to write one.) And although I have enjoyed Kidnapped more than all these books except Jean Santeuil, I don’t think it has enlarged my mind as they have.

In writing this novel of mine, however, I had no model. (I understand that after Joyce the plotless novel had a vogue, but I know Lawrence Durrell’s The Black Book and other examples only by name.) I was only concerned to find a form for what I had to say. So I hope I shan’t be blamed for not doing what I didn’t try to do, and I’m grateful to you for not asking me ‘what the story is’! I can though say that this is the story of a day, as the title indicates, and one kind of movement in the book is accordingly a forward movement from morning to night. But as life is being as well as doing, there is also an inward movement, through the main character’s memories and reflections.

Not that I have gone as far as Gissing did in Ryecroft, and thrown over action, plot, dialogue and even character-drawing. (Wasn’t an interest in character the mark of the novelist as Virginia Woolf saw it?) I didn’t set out to throw over any traditional elements. If One Sprinkling Day isn’t a novel of action neither is it merely a vehicle for ideas. The ideas are bound up with the characters (and it was the characters more than their ideas who interested the author). Thus ‘the choice of life’ (to borrow a phrase Johnson used for Rasselas’s original title) is variously illustrated by the inquirer’s new friend Sadie (a New Yorker abroad) and old friend Kay (a gay schoolmaster), by his host’s wife, daughter and stepson (an ambitious young historian), and chiefly by his father and his host himself (a former fugitive from Hitler’s Germany)—though in this way again the movement of the novel is not that of conventional narration but one of progressive disclosure, as these characters reveal themselves to the main character and so to the reader.

Although I had no theory of the novel, I did have an idea of what I was trying to write. Not a ‘guide for the perplexed’, which I was unqualified to write, but perhaps the vade-mecum Paul Crouch (the main character) had lacked—the book (as the publisher’s blurb was to say) he would have liked with him in the maze. So the readers I was hoping for were mostly ones who, like me, were unsatisfied with stories and wanted more food for thought than fiction generally supplies. But if at the same time I could provide a little light reading for readers with scientific and philosophical interests, I should be delighted.

Would the book be a novel? To say that Rasselas is an oriental apologue at least conveys some idea of it. To say that Rasselas (or Candide or Nightmare Abbey or On the Marble Cliffs) is not a novel only raises the question what a novel is. I thought the question unimportant (I have thought differently since: ‘What Is A Novel?’). What mattered to me was the idea of that ‘inquiry into some traditional perplexities’ (as I have called it elsewhere) pursued through the medium of literary fiction. As I wrote on, of course, it was borne in on me that if I wrote for twenty years I still shouldn’t have begun to treat these matters adequately. And yet when I somehow had got through it, I should have to go through it again, cutting all the way, until nothing unconnected with the fiction remained—which I did, so that now Paul Crouch’s inquiry takes up only eight chapters out of eighteen.

AmeriCymru: What is the Welsh background and context of the novel?

Peter: My connection with Wales dates from before I was born, and I owe it to my parents, if not to the Germans who bombed Somerset House when my parents were working there, so that they were evacuated to what was then Caernarvonshire, where they got married. That was still years before my birth, and meanwhile, after the war, they had moved back to London, but subsequently almost every summer they would return, taking me with them, to stay with the family they had been ‘billeted’ with.

Evidently the circumstances that had linked those Welsh and English lives were exceptional. And the following years were the last before the world was shrunk by cheap travel. But perhaps that western seaboard can still allure an English mind if it’s a young mind. For me what happened between my getting into a second-class railway-carriage as a ‘Passenger to Pendinas’ and getting out of it five hours later was a kind of magic, but not a mere conjuring-trick such as I might see at a children’s party—the evanishment or production or exchange of coloured silks or feather bouquets or doves or a giant snake. It was the exchange of one whole world for another—an exchange of bricks, soot, neon, petrol fumes, moving staircases, bronze horsemen, drinking-fountains and skysigns for sea, slate, gulls, granite, heather, anathoths, megaliths and cherryade.

I have written about the real place in my review of Anne Forrest’s book My Whole World. In One Sprinkling Day it’s fictionalized as Pendinas, the small seaside place in Paul Crouch’s thoughts as the novel and the day begin, and again as they end, when it’s also recalled by his host, who had found a refuge there. In between, in the central chapters, Paul takes a walk which is at once a walk in a maze (the maze of thought about the problems he’s taken up with), a walk in the past (the region’s and his own), and of course an actual walk through a Welsh landscape.

Yn ystod taith gerdded sydd ar yr un pryd yn daith gerdded mewn tirlun, yn y gorffennol, ac yn y ddrysfa o feddwl am rai gwendidau [perplexities] traddodiadol, mae myfyrdodau'r protagonydd a hunan-bortreadau sgwrsio ei ffrindiau yn rhyngddynt â darnau am y rhanbarth hanes, hanes naturiol a nodweddion naturiol.

So besides supplying a lot of the material of the novel, the Welsh dimension unifies the whole.

AmeriCymru: You have said, of 'One Sprinkling Day', that ‘The author’s excuse for it is that the basic questions science and religion offer answers to aren’t asked only by scientists and theologians.’ Do you think that the majority of people either do or should think philosophically?

Peter: I think most of us ask these questions on occasion, though we may not think about them then for very long. Is this to think philosophically? I suppose they can be thought about in different ways. But aren’t there also different ideas of what philosophical thinking is? Traditionally philosophers were ‘seekers after truth’, weren’t they, trying to ‘interpret’ the world (if not to change it), to understand our relation to it, and to determine how we ought to behave towards each other. But at the time when Paul Crouch was beginning to ask the basic questions I referred to, most English philosophers, or the most influential ones, weren’t concerned to know whether this or that statement about the world or about human nature or anything else was true, but just what it meant. Paul Crouch in One Sprinkling Day hasn’t begun studying the subject formally yet, so I can only speak about my own experience here. And the philosopher I have in mind wasn’t a linguistic philosopher. Still he liked to define his terms and to use words precisely—“We have a job to do and our tools must be sharp.”

So for example he explained that in the statement ‘Man is essentially social’, the term ‘social’ was purely descriptive, comprising both ‘sociable’ and ‘anti-social’. Similarly, to say ‘Man is a rational animal’, or ‘the rational animal’, wasn’t to deny that he’s often (or even usually) irrational—here man was contrasted with the non-human animals, and they aren’t irrational but non-rational. Again, ‘moral’ in the phrase ‘moral philosophy’ hadn’t the usual meaning of ‘good’ or ‘right’ (when its opposite is ‘immoral’), but meant ‘belonging to the field of morals’ (its opposite being ‘non-moral’).

And this was all very precise, still those statements about ‘Man’ weren’t exact, since human beings, whom they were meant to define, aren’t all male. (An obvious fact which, in producing such high-sounding and exclusive phrases, philosophers and theologians, if they hadn’t lost sight of it, chose to ignore.) As for the commending words themselves and their opposites—‘good’/­­‘bad’, ‘worthy’/‘unworthy’, etc.,—we went on to consider what agathos meant in Homer, which was not what it meant for Plato or Aristotle, much less of course what ‘morally good’ meant for us, and we noted that kalos, another word for ‘good’ or ‘worthy’, also meant ‘beautiful’, just as aiskros meant both ‘unworthy’ and ‘ugly’, and in due course we learned what ‘good’ and the rest meant for Hume, Kant, Mill and Moore. And I’m sure that by this, Paul Crouch in my place would have wanted to know whether we should never discuss any situations in actual life, any moral choices of our own, whether we mightn’t try to solve some problems, or at least, by analysis, dissolve them,—whether we would ever do any philosophy. But I know that the answer if he had asked would have been that philosophy was just what our teacher had been doing in explicating these terms and referring them one to another. The philosopher’s job wasn’t to understand the world, and it wasn’t to preach or lay down the law, it was to clarify our thinking. We might in consequence think differently, we might then act differently, we might even change our lives, so philosophy might, indirectly, contribute to changing the world, still its true function wasn’t to solve problems but to put them before us.

In speaking of his own philosophy, our teacher was distinguishing it from the one then in fashion, the practical uselessness of which according to him its champions were actually proud of. They even disliked definitions, preferring merely to analyse moral terms as commonly used, however trivial the examples. Still, he might declare that rather than ‘pedantic concern with everyday language’, his field was the ‘questioning of accepted moral rules and values’, the ‘criticism of conventional moral codes’,—the criticisms his students heard were all of his colleagues. And not only of the English-speaking ones. He also criticized his fellow academics in West Germany, ‘well-off professors leading comfortable lives while holding forth about Care, Dread and Being-towards-death’. What would have surprised Paul Crouch, he even found fault with that other continental existentialist, the thinker called Mancy in One Sprinkling Day, for holding that we each have to re-invent our ethics in every action. Wasn’t he himself the inventor of a ‘Creative Ethics’, whose ‘open-mindedness’ permitted him to ‘re-think his principles in the light of his practical experience’? Paul would have thought the Frenchman’s ethics, as a godless sort of ‘situationism’ (or casuistry as it used to be called), must be congenial to him.

Not that it was (or is?) unusual for a philosopher to disapprove of other philosophers. After all, the principal German existentialist had dissociated his philosophy from Mancy’s even though, or just because, Mancy’s owed so much to it. In fact he had dissociated it, as a philosophy of Being, from every philosophy of Existence, including that of the other great German existentialist of the day, who however regarded him as a metaphysician, while likewise rejecting the name of existentialist if Mancy was one. All these thinkers agreed, though, that the current Anglo-American philosophy—the main English-language philosophy of the century—was ‘irrelevant’, because it wasn’t lived (it hardly could be), so that its practitioners’ lives were ‘inauthentic’. To a mere student of the subject, the view of philosophy as a process of analysis might seem to link all the thinkers who shared it in a tradition going back at least to that ‘Art of Thinking’ which Pascal had contributed to (and Pascal had been just as particular about defining terms and concepts as our teacher). But if the analysts on their side agreed in charging the existentialists with conceptual confusion and false profundity, that didn’t mean they were generally at one. The great philosopher called Stern in One Sprinkling Day, who defended philosophical analysis himself, definitely shared their opinion of existentialism, both French and German—‘pure nonsense, based intellectually on errors of syntax and emotionally on exasperation’. And the ‘positivists’ among them had his sympathy. But as to the kind who thought that what should be analysed was language itself and that the wish to make sense of the world was an outdated folly, he was as scathing about them as about the existentialists—philosophy if they were right being ‘at best a slight help to lexicographers, at worst an idle tea-table amusement’.

I think then that Paul Crouch would have recognized, on our teacher’s part, an attitude reflected in almost every philosophy book he had read, where other ways of thinking were qualified as mere philosophizing, or not philosophy at all, or nonsense, whereas the author’s way of thinking was true philosophizing, what philosophy consisted in, what it really was—though naturally the author’s critics, and even followers in some cases, had completely failed to understand it. And I don’t think Paul Crouch would have been surprised (it was the same with Stern and Mancy) that a philosopher so severe on other philosophers should be even more severe on theologians. For our ethicist, all the assertions of ‘speculative metaphysics’ about immortal souls, a creator God, etc., were unfounded, because ‘immortal souls, like God, can’t be observed, and no observable differences would follow from their presence as compared with their absence’.

The last claim at least, which had a positivist ring, I think would have struck Paul as begging the question. And he would surely have noticed another thing. To this philosopher, explicating terms, not to mention re-thinking basic principles, was a valuable activity, just so was analysing concepts to Stern and the logical positivists, and scrutinizing ‘modern English usage’ to the linguistic philosophers. Yet they all despised the ‘re-thinking’ now being done by Anglican theologians, representing it as a way of making doctrines cease to be obviously false by rendering them meaningless.

Paul Crouch learns about this re-thinking from a retired clergyman, Dr Sprange, and he also learns what Dr Sprange thinks of philosophy, just as he learns from a Hindu holy man, Swami Satyanand, what the Swami thinks of it. Because we must certainly ‘hear the other side’, as St Augustine said. But your question relates to the Great Debate Paul Crouch was interested in, not directly to Paul Crouch himself—the debate I alluded to in the words you quote. So perhaps I may also recall, as representing another point of view in it, another person I had to do with myself. This will help me both to give a balanced answer and to illustrate further the feature of the debate that I think the most noteworthy—which is that every one of those different ways of philosophizing and transcending is reckoned by everybody who goes in for it to be the only one legitimate and worthwhile.

Although of another communion, the monk I now have in mind took the same view of philosophy, or of ‘philosophizing’, as Dr Sprange did, considering it likely to cause special difficulty for a person seeking faith—“Not because faith is incompatible with a genuine philosophy, indeed faith is the fulfilment of philosophy, but because the philosopher’s mind won’t find it easy to make that worshipful submission to the infinitely superior mind of God which faith involves.” I had gone to his monastery when living in the English Midlands and trying to get on with the inquiry that would eventually issue in this book. I was also then going through a period so barren that without seeing myself as a pilgrim, I couldn’t help wishing for a guide. Is it ever better to travel than to arrive? That must depend on the destination (Stevenson only says it’s better to travel hopefully), and in this department of inquiry you can’t be sure there is any destination. Pascal had his Lord say (this being the realm of paradox) ‘Comfort yourself, you would not seek me if you had not found me’, but Pascal was a believer. Anyhow, over the years I consulted a number of spiritual experts, among them that Trappist monk. Who told me plainly he doubted whether my inquiry would ever bring me much nearer the truth, though he ‘suspected the difficulty and even futility of it might be the means of my being drawn to approach the question of faith in a simpler and more direct way’.

At the Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man, the esoteric school set up near Fontainebleau in 1922, one of the wise sayings to be studied in the Study House was ‘Judge others by yourself and you will rarely be mistaken.’ (I heard another of those sayings once, at his flat in Kensington, from a man to whom the Christian doctrines were ‘empty formulas’, but who, having likewise swallowed a whole system of thought, didn’t lack ready-made answers of his own—only this one too, like the monk’s, wasn’t an answer to a question I had asked. I may add that to him as to all my experts, who saw themselves not as still seeking the truth but as having found it, the philosophizing of others was, in his master’s phrase, ‘pouring from the empty into the void.’) ‘Rarely mistaken’—the qualifying word was needed. If people who have made a lot of money judge poor people by themselves, they may well think them failures, though not everyone who is poor has tried to get rich or even wanted to. Because Dr Sprange valued faith, which he had, and which Paul Crouch had asked him about, he supposed Paul wanted faith. Not only that, because he himself asked things of God, he saw no reason why Paul shouldn’t ask faith or grace of Him. ‘Help thou my unbelief’ indeed, except that the man in the gospel said first (paradoxically enough), ‘Lord, I believe’. Paul didn’t want to believe by ignoring the facts against belief. And how can you settle any doubtful matter without looking into it? After listening to the abbot’s secretary, and much as I liked him, I felt as if I had been advised by Bishop Blougram. And had Paul actually asked a Being he didn’t believe in to help him believe in Him, he would have felt that his case gave Mancy’s term ‘bad faith’, which to him had meant nothing, a sense and an application.

Some people do say they wish they had faith, most of them I think fancying it gives comfort—as it may, though it may also give none even to the most devout (like Cowper, ‘snatch’d from all effectual aid’). But how in any case could a man of faith imagine inquiring about faith yet not desiring it if he hadn’t understood that for a person who doesn’t believe in God, God doesn’t exist? To Paul Crouch, who for his part couldn’t imagine a supreme being desiring his worshipful submission, to be told “Don’t close the door on God!” would certainly have seemed strange. For him to have called on God for help, to have acted as if he did believe in God, would have been a sham.

And yet his position wasn’t one of disbelief. In fact if an agnostic holds that whether God exists we neither know nor can know,—if the name means what Huxley seems to have meant by it in coining it, Paul wasn’t an agnostic. His position was one of unbelief. The old sceptical philosophers may have doubted whether real knowledge is possible, whether any facts can be certainly known, still to scepticize in the etymological sense is at least to ‘consider’ the facts, to ‘inquire’ into that possibility—to ‘seek’ after truth.

But not after ‘the truth‘, so such an inquiry can’t be futile as the monk had conceived it to be—not being an attempt to acquire faith—, and what he had said about it was no discouragement.

AmeriCymru: What's next for Peter Jordan? Any new works in the pipeline?

Peter: A book literary agents would think worth reading would be next for me, if I could think it worth writing.

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

Peter: I set One Sprinkling Day in Wales because to pay a debt to Wales was one of my aims in writing it. But I hope it will interest AmeriCymru readers for other reasons as well, and I’m much obliged to AmeriCymru for the opportunity to speak about it.




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AmeriCymru: Hi Philip, and many thanks for agreeing to this interview. When did you first start writing? What inspired you to write the many tales of 'everyday' life in Merthyr that have entertained and amused many visitors to this site over the years?

Philip: A) It was around 1967 and my first writing was like the Egyptian hieroglyphics at Tutankhamun’s tomb- unfortunately it was my parent’s new wallpaper in indelible marker pen-it didn’t make any sense to anyone, but I was aged 3 and I am now 54 but I am still not making much sense.

B) The local newspaper – the Merthyr Express (the Depress)- in a backwoods Town (not backwards)- there is very little news worthy items for a reporter to produce- so I created aliases such as Lamby Davis Junior, Sue Ellen Eweing and Colt Seevers to liven up the letters page and parody the news items that were included. The first few got through but then they I was rumbled and my game was up. The local librarian, Carolyn Jacob spotted my ‘talent’ and asked me to write a story for a local book called ‘My Town’ in which professional writer Phil Caradice selected the story ‘Cliffhanger’ about Gerry Mander a disgraced MP, which I had to read out an extract in the Council Chamber- people were in stitches and the genie was out of the bottle . No matter how many times I wish he won’t go back in.

C) Inspiration is everywhere in the Valleys, Welsh people have a distinct black sense of humour- we can laugh at ourselves- something those across the bridge have extracted at birth-we have a we’ve lost until we have won-but once we have won- boy do we enjoy the moment!

AmeriCymru: A quote from one of your recent stories:- "In a recession there is only one growth industry and that is gambling and Merthyr Tydfil had been in recession for over 200 years now." Care to tell us a little more about Merthyr's recent history? Why do you think the town has fared so badly in economic and employment terms?

Philip: Alexander Cordell sums it up in one book title- ‘The Rape of the Fair Country’, Merthyr was exploited by the English Ironmasters and has been a ‘Rotten Borough’ ever since. It has been forgotten by successive Governments in Westminster – with the continual brain drain it has for the last 200 years been in perpetual recession and with capitalists preferring to take their factories and sweatshops to Asia and beyond- there is zero opportunity for the unskilled to find meaningful employment with the inevitable loss of the work ethic. Poor people chase the dream of becoming ‘scratch-card rich’ or idolise reality show ‘stars’ – it is so sad. Although conversely with the loss of heavy industry and the export of it’s unintentional by- product of pollution to China, there are echoes of Wales two Centuries ago- and a new question raises it’s head, How Green IS my Valley?

AmeriCymru: Do you write anything other than comedy? Are there any special difficulties when writing humorous stories? I guess it's essential to be funny at a bare minimum but how does the creative process differ?

Philip:  A) Comedy is my bitch. I write for my own pleasure ( I laugh a lot of my own jokes) the purpose is a cathartic and once I have written the story and I have exorcised the demon of stress. Whilst my comedy shorts (not the Don Estelle ones) come and go, once I have written them they are forgotten. More recently (last 5 or so years) I write comedy football match reports on my local Non-League team, Merthyr Town, which I post on the Merthyr Town Fans Forum fortnightly, they rarely reflect the actual game but cheer people up. Opposing Teams have included my match reports in their programmes (the ultimate accolade) or retweet them to their fans- one match report was on a postponed match due to a frozen pitch but few people noticed such was their laughter.

B) Humour is very subjective- I would hate to offend any one person but I don’t agree with political correctness…for something to be funny it must be on the edge, celebrities put themselves in a position to be lampooned….but every celebrity that I have made laugh on Twitter which includes Ricky Gervais, Rob Schneider, Richard E Grant, Warwick Davis and the legendary Reg D Hunter are real good sports.

C) If I can make one person a day smile or forget their troubles then I have won. My readers in the past have complained that people think they are mad reading one of books poolside on holiday- for spontaneously bursting out in laughter- people have referred to my stories as ‘hilarious’ ‘hysterical’ , ‘zany’ and on occasion ‘pure genius’ and ‘criminal’ (Their words, not mine) - I have one even ruined one reader’s kitchen ceiling from her overweight husband reading a book in the bathtub, caused an injury off a sunbed and had a 90 year old Granny lock herself in the bedroom to finish a book in peace.

AmeriCymru: Where do you draw inspiration for the individual stories? Do they spring from overheard conversations, newspaper articles etc or are they simply inspired products of the authorial imagination?

Philip: Like my predecessor the late great Charles Dickens, I am a social commentator- I even pinched his pseudonym ‘Boz’ – he doesn’t need it as he is DEAD- just like Dickens I am a lawyer by profession- the same Dickensian characters exist today – albeit morphed into different people- inspiration comes from colourful characters- we all know them- in our minds eye, we see who we want to see in the leading role- the key is making the story almost believable – that it COULD happen – reading is the ultimate escapism and rich or poor can enjoy it in equal measures- I have been likened in style on more than occasion to Tom Sharpe (In Welsh-Dai Blunt?)- and of course a warped mind is essential.

AmeriCymru: Do you have any favorites amongst your stories or any that you are particularly proud of? If so , which ones.

Philip: The Ex-Files (My Boss gets caught dogging), Mass Murder (A Catholic Priest goes nuts), Chariots on Fire (Millenium Edition) – the only time you are allowed to be legally racist in Wales- the Wales v England Rugby Match-I particularly loved this one as BBC Comedian and genius Boyd Clack of High Hopes & Satellite City Fame did me the honour of reading it aloud in a local Rhymney Brewery public house- the Winchester- just like the beer and the tale he is pure class, - Big Top ( A local disabled child runs away to the circus) , A Knight at the Museum (Rolf Harris’ painting comes alive at Cyfarthfa Castle Art Gallery) and the ‘Raj Quartet’- four stories about the Royal Family – Harry’s Game (Set in Afghanistan) , Stuck Up – a Prince is Born at the Queen Camilla Hospital- The Royal Wee (HM stuck in a lift) and How Very Troll (Twitter gets a Royal Assent)- unlike Sir Rolf or Sir Jimi I am not likely to get a knighthood.

AmeriCymru: How many stories have you written in total and where can the connoisseur go to read them all?

Philip: Last Count 223 complete – one in its embryonic stages- they are only a limited edition- I produce five of each volume purely for close friends- the only places to go will be the Americymru Website and occasionally on the Merthyr Town Fc Fans Forum.

AmeriCymru: Do you have any publications currently available? Do you plan to publish in the future?

Philip: No- I had a free venture with a book called ‘The Hills have Dai’s’ a few years ago – on a ‘vanity’ publishing company based in Austria- it outsold Mein Kampf but it struggled a bit. I plan to publish Volume 45 called ‘Obese City’ for my friends in Wales and the ex-pats across the Pond. Past volumes have reached Italy, Australia and Canada and Rheola market, Neath Car Boot Sale- one day I hope to emulate JRR Hartley – I wonder if Fly Fishing is still an offence.

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

Philip: In Merthyr, our perceived life expectancy is shorter than Sierra Leone (Source: the Sun newspaper) , if a Tydfilian reaches 50 years of age we get a telegram from the Queen- so the message is don’t buy the Sun ….oh and that life’s too short not to laugh- and thanks to Ceri Shaw and Gaabi on Americymru, the World can now laugh with you.




Welsh American author David Lloyd

David Lloyd



themovingofthewater.jpg AmeriCymru: Hi David and many thanks for agreeing to this interview. Care to introduce your new short story collection, The Moving of the Water for our readers?

David: The Moving of the Water is a collection of stories set in a Welsh-American immigrant community in upstate New York during the 1960s, exploring their struggles, aspirations, and desires; how the past helps creates the present, how the present makes us reinterpret the past. Immigrants and their children live within competing cultural currents - some they welcome, some they ignore, some they struggle against. I want to entertain readers but also address large issues: what is “home” for an immigrant? how does culture shape behavior? what connects us to others, and what divides us?

AmeriCymru: What is the origin and significance of your title, The Moving of the Water?

David: The title is from the New Testament, John 5:2-3 - and that passage is the book’s epigraph: “Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches. In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water.” My characters, like those at the Bethesda pool, are (in different ways in different stories) hopeful and faithful, but complexly damaged. In a sense they all are “waiting for the moving of the water” - for healing, fulfillment, transformation. “The Moving of the Water” is also the title of the collection’s final story - and my favorite. Those interested can find it at the Virginia Quarterly Review web site: https://www.vqronline.org/fiction/2018/06/moving-water .

My father emigrated to the US with my mother, eldest brother, and sister in 1948. While minister at the Welsh Presbyterian Church in Liverpool, he received a call from Moriah Presbyterian Church in Utica for a minister who could preach in Welsh. So I was born into a Welsh-American chapel community, attending two services on Sunday, Sunday school, choir practice, and so on. It’s no surprise that passages from the Bible and from Welsh hymns echo in my mind and memory!

AmeriCymru: Can you tell us something about the book cover?

David: The cover art is by Welsh artist Iwan Bala. I’ve admired Iwan’s political and cultural art for decades and found the image in a book of his art, Hon: Ynys Y Galon (This: Island of the Heart). It’s a detail from Iwan’s oil painting Cof, Bro, Mebyd (Memory, Community, Childhood), and shows a figure in a coracle-like boat on the open sea, the dark mountains of Wales looming behind. An umbilical cord stretches from this adult figure back to Wales as the archetypal head faces west - in my mind, towards the “new world.” The figure in the coracle is nourished by Wales, tethered to Wales, but striking out into the unknown.

AmeriCymru: One of your stories (included here) is "Dreaming of Home," which won the 2015 Americymru short story contest. What can you tell us about this story?

David: The main character is Llew, short for Llywelyn, an illustrious name in Wales because of Llywelyn the Great, King of Gwynedd, and his grandson Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, the last independent prince of Wales, who died in battle in 1282. Llew is a nickname for Llywelyn, and in one of my stories Llew had also been a warrior. Another connection with these medieval warrior-princes is that “Llew” in Welsh means “lion.” In my story, Llew was a soldier in WWI who almost died of his wounds in battle. An immigrant to the US, Llew is psychologically wounded: he’s become an alcoholic, and during the evening of the story, he comes home drunk to his shabby apartment, turns on the TV, and hears news of an attack by the Viet Cong on the Bien Hoa air base. He falls asleep and dreams of his own battle, his wounding in a trench during a German mortar attack. In his delirium, surrounded by dying and dead comrades, his father appears in the trench to comfort Llew - and Llew asks his father to take him home. “But you are home, my boy,” his father tells him - meaning that this trench is a new home for Llew, one he can never leave. Llew wakes up - and remembers nothing of his dream except seeing his father. He falsely believes that he dreamed of his childhood in Wales, the home in the village where he “truly belonged.” But the story suggests that “home” is complicated for Llew, as for all of us. We have many homes that define who we are, and for Llew it is his childhood home in Wales, the flat where he lives in upstate New York, and also a trench in Belgium. The many places to which we belong reminds me of the passage from John 14:2-3: “In my father’s house, there are many mansions.”

AmeriCymru: "Anchored in the community of first-, second-, and third-generation Welsh Americans in Utica, New York, during the 1960s, the stories in David Lloyd’s The Moving of the Water delve into universal concerns: identity, home, religion, language, culture, belonging, personal and national histories, mortality." Is there anything unique about the Welsh-American community or are their concerns and experiences in any way universal among the various immigrant communities?

David: Utica, New York, where I grew up, was home to many immigrant communities: Irish, Italian, Polish, Eastern European Jewish, Welsh, Lebanese, among others. And more diverse populations have arrived since I left. While distinct in so many ways (religion, food, music, the language, and so on), the Welsh-American community definitely shared concerns and experiences with their neighbor communities. My family’s social life was centered around Moriah Church, where my father served as minister, similar to how the Catholic church was central to most of my Irish and Italian friends, and the synagogue to my Jewish friends. But culture is not static - it moves and spreads - so we all learned from each other. We all absorb what’s around us. I’m lucky to have a Welsh and an American heritage, and the weird blending that results.

AmeriCymru: You use Welsh words and phrases in many of the stories: how does the Welsh language function in the book?

David: Many contemporary writers from immigrant backgrounds include their languages of origin in their English-language stories. Translating their characters’ speech would sound false, since immigrants would naturally use a hybrid of English and the family language - in my case Welsh. At home my parents spoke English with Welsh accents, and every day from bore da (good morning) to nos da (good night) I heard some Welsh. At dinnertime, my mother would call out, “mae’r bwyd yn barod” - she’d never say, “food is ready.” In my stories the meaning of the Welsh that characters speak should be evident within the context, but at the end of the book I provide “Notes on Welsh Words, Phrases, and Names.”

AmeriCymru: "Lloyd’s stories are in the realist mode, yet sometimes broken up with startling, dream-like, hallucinatory passages that are decisive in opening up another range of experience." Would you agree with this assessment?

David: Yes I do agree. All the stories deal with people facing crises or challenges drawn from the “real world.” But life - for immigrants or indeed anyone - is not simply made up of verifiable facts. It’s also magical, mysterious, irrational, infused with memory - we dream, we fantasize, we hallucinate, we remember and misremember. I want to build those dimensions of life into some of my stories. So for example, in the story “The Visitor” a woman in her 70s receives a nightly visitor - Geraint, whom she’d hoped to marry when a young woman living in Wales, before her parents brought her to the US. She has conversations with this figment from her past - conversations that help her live in her present and understand the conditions of her early life. The conversations are real, but they’re also a fantasy arising from her past in Wales, impinging on her present in the US.

Another example is the story “Crooked Pie,” in which the ten year old son of Welsh immigrants who has assimilated into American culture visits a theme park based on Disneyfied renditions of Grimm’s fairy tales - Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Goldilocks, and so on. He enters the House of the Crooked Man. There, in this magical place, he meets himself as he might be at age fifteen. This is impossible, but his double in a lengthy monologue gives him a vision of what it’s like for a boy to live through American culture of the mid to late 1960s. I hope this dream-like dimension conveys the traumatically rapid pace of deracination, and of dynamic American culture generally as experienced by the children of immigrants during that era (and in our current era!).

AmeriCymru: What attracted you to the short story genre? Will you be publishing more collections?

David: In adolescence I wanted to be a poet. And that identity continued through my college years. But while in the PhD program at Brown University, I took a fiction writing course with novelist John Hawkes - a magnificent teacher and an amazing writer. I was hooked. So I joined the Brown master’s degree creative writing program in fiction - not poetry - while completing my PhD. I soon discovered that I’m less interested in writing stand-alone stories than in extended projects, such as story cycles - that’s the case with my first collection, Boys: Stories and a Novella, and with this new book, The Moving of the Water. I am working on a novel now featuring a Welsh American - I won’t say more so I don’t spook myself!

AmeriCymru: Care to tell us a little about your poetry?

David: I’ve published three poetry collections: The Everyday Apocalypse, The Gospel According to Frank, and Warriors. All include poems about Wales or Welsh-American experience, but The Gospel According to Frank is entirely about blended experience, the ebb and flow of cultural forms and ideas. The “Frank” of the title is Frank Sinatra, and so in general the poems explore issues relating to popular culture in twentieth-century America, such as fame, greed, creativity, and power. But in doing so, the forty-eight poems merge Sinatra’s public persona with other cultural materials, including the Old and New Testaments (this is, after all, Sinatra’s “gospel”!), Greek mythology, the medieval Irish epic Táin Bó Cúailnge, and the medieval Welsh masterpiece, the Four Branches of The Mabinogi.

AmeriCymru: What's next for David Lloyd? Any new titles, readings in the works?

David: I have a new poetry collection, The Body’s Compass, just accepted by Salmon Poetry (based in Ireland). And I’ve been giving readings to promote The Moving of the Water. Last summer while in Wales I gave readings at Bangor University, the Imperial Hotel in Merthyr Tydfil, and the Workers Galley in Ynyshir. I have readings coming up at Wells College, Aurora, New York on February 26; at Le Moyne College, Syracuse, New York on April 4; and the Utica Public Library, Utica, New York on June 1. I’ll likely give a reading in Portland, Oregon in March.

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

David: I’m thankful to see such dedicated engagement with Welsh culture and language on the AmeriCymru site. Books, music, art, film, photography - they give us pleasure, they expand our horizons. They also need our active support!


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.


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Photos: 12




Paul Steffan Jones



Paul Albufeira 2017.jpg AmeriCymru: 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.jpg AmeriCymru: 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

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the devil tree


book_cover.jpg AmeriCymru: Hi Delphine and many thanks for agreeing to this interview. Care to introduce your latest novel 'The Truth About Eggs' for our readers?

Delphine: The Truth About Eggs is a kind of 'follow-up' to Blessed Are The Cracked, in that it features some of the same characters and is set in the same fictional Welsh village in a farming community. Having said that, the era is a few years prior to Tegwyn Prydderch's retirement, so a slight backward transition for readers. Unlike Blessed, The Truth About Eggs is a full length novel, although there are three very definite 'sections' in it. It is probably not necessary to read Blessed first, but it may help with understanding some of the characters.

AmeriCymru: What can you tell us about the Devil Tree which features in the book?

Delphine: The Devil Tree didn't actually feature at all in the first draft of the book although the story was otherwise identical in terms of where 'things' happen etc. I have my husband, Hedd, to thank for the Devil Tree! We were walking our dogs one evening as the sun was setting and he said 'I'm surprised you've never commented on that creepy looking tree over there. Looks like a Devil!'

Can you believe it? I'm supposed to be the one with the active imagination and I had never noticed it despite passing it on an almost daily basis!

An idea started to form and I took photos of it in different lights. From then on it seemed to be the one thing that tied the whole story together. Of course, there is no real Devil Tree (just a spooky looking oak on a nearby hedge) but a few readers have said that they tried to find it on Wikipedia! (I haven't enlightened them yet - please don't tell them!).

I gave my photos to Carolyn Michel (the artist/designer) and she turned it into this superb cover that I loved instantly.

AmeriCymru: I wanted to talk a little about the structure of the book. It feels like three closely intertwined short stories which come together on the night of the Young Farmers Club show. In that respect it somewhat resembles 'Blessed Are The Cracked'. How difficult is it, as a writer, to ensure continuity? Can you give us any insight in to your process?

Delphine: A lot of my favourite authors have a few key characters who become 'connected' in some way, so I suppose this method has rubbed off on me. (Imitation is the sincerest form of plagiarism etc!). Continuity was, frankly, a nightmare! You have no idea how many times these chapters changed positions. One chapter in particular had more moves than John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever!

Another headache was the tense - Anna and Natalie's chapters are written in the past tense while Manon (who is so wrapped up in her own little world) is written in the present tense. Though this was changed a few times until I had enough opinions from beta-readers to decide that it worked better the original way. (I'm sure Sophie Hannah, who uses mixed tenses in her Culver Valley series, doesn't dither as much!).

Keeping the individual characters' stories fresh and not giving away too much by linking them together too soon was also a challenge for me. Even now I think maybe i should have just changed this or that...... typical Libran!

AmeriCymru: Are Young Farmers events in West Wales really this rough? Care to share any real life experiences?

Delphine: Hmm, the polite answer is - YFC events are well run, enjoyable and educational ones. However, any event that combines young people, alcohol and a sense of competitiveness tends to produce some out-of-character behaviour patterns! Luckily I was helped by a young friend who is a YFC member. She provided me with a lot of factual information - for example, the Famous Five Challenge, Girlfriend Carrying Race and the Reverse Steer Quad Bike course have all happened for real!

I imagine that the officers policing the annual Royal Welsh Show could come up with dozens of entertaining tales that would equal some in this book if we were to ask them! I think any notable bad behaviour that happens in an otherwise quiet location becomes big news and is the one thing that everyone remembers, so I guess that every real life event such as this has a story that is repeated for decades!

AmeriCymru: Tegwyn Prydderch is an interesting character. His stoicism is an appealing characteristic. Any real life or literary models? At one point he opines that none of the events in the book would be happening if it was raining. Does crime in west Wales really come to a halt when it pours?

Delphine: Tegwyn is based on a number of real life characters (to say otherwise would be dangerous!!) in order make him an 'individual'. In many ways, he shares my character too (apart from the fact that he doesn't like dogs - which is a fact that will come back to haunt him when he has to look after someone's dog as part of the next book). I think I wanted him to be a bit of a 'jobsworth' and at times, you want to shake him! Although he is pivotal character, he is not the 'be all and end all' of these books, rather a means of gelling the different storylines together.

When Tegwyn calls rain 'the best policeman', he is repeating a very well used phrase. It is certainly one I and many colleagues have used over the years. Without a doubt, the more petty crimes or those that are 'outdoors based' and spontaneous are less likely to happen when it is pouring with rain - a simple result of people not wanting to go outside if they don't have to. Unfortunately, many serious crimes cannot be controlled or predicted by weather conditions.

AmeriCymru: We last spoke when your first title was released in 2013. How was 'Blessed Are The Cracked' received? 

Delphine: I was delighted with the way Blessed was received and the fact that it was in the Amazon Top 100 for several weeks (with a high point of Number 24 for some of those weeks). I was invited to speak on local radio and to various societies such as the WI and other organisations - which was a new experience for me. Just before The Truth About Eggs was launched, I was invited to a live interview on Radio Woking - I did wonder if an area so far away from mythical Llanefa would be interested, but it seemed to go well and there were some interesting questions posed by listeners. During that session, Blessed was also mentioned and that revived a little more public interest despite it having been released in 2013.

AmeriCymru: What are you working on at the moment? Are there any new publications in the pipeline?

Delphine: As I said earlier, I am a typical indecisive Libran! No surprise to hear that I am working on two new projects. The first one (which is about halfway complete) is a collection similar to Blessed (and set in Llanefa, of course). The working title, Never Point at a Rainbow, ( the title of one of the stories which is set in London when some Llanefa residents go away for the weekend) follows Tegwyn's memoirs when he is interviewed on a Radio Station.

The second one has only just been started and was a result of good feedback on The Truth About Eggs and persuaded me to get another full length work out there. The working title is The Donkey Shaped Stone and brings some more familiar characters back onto the page. Which one will I continue with first? Watch this space!

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

Delphine: A simple message - please keep reading! It is a delight to know that so many American readers are interested in Welsh fiction and even more pleasing to know that AmeriCymru is the go-to site to keep them informed.

Diolch i chi gyd!

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