AmeriCymru: Hi Ian and many thanks for agreeing to this interview. What are the plans for the NAFOW Eisteddfod this year?
Ian: Ceri, diolch yn fawr iawn for reaching out and, as always, for helping promote the NAFOW Eisteddfod!
As is well-known by now, NAFOW will not be meeting in person this year but Executive Director Megan Williams and the Board of Trustees are hard at work in producing a very exciting and engaging set of "virtual" events to be launched around Labor Day weekend, when NAFOW is normally held. Please keep a lookout at the main NAFOW web page: http://festivalofwales.org/ index.html !
As many may well know, we typically have several stage competitions every year, including recitation and singing. Last year (2019), in Milwaukee, we also added a Visual Arts competition, as well as the Hymn Composition competition in honor of Daniel Protheroe. With the strictures placed by the pandemic, after very careful consideration we decided to focus solely on competitions that were planned for introduction this year anyway and which also are the best suited to "virtual" participation. Thus, we are excited to introduce our two Poetry Composition competitions, and a lot of "buzz" seems to have been generated already... with no geographic restrictions in play, we've attracted interest not only from the US, Canada and Wales as expected, but also from places like Australia and Argentina!
As an inducement for participation, each adjudicated winner will be invited to recite their own winning poem as part of the Eisteddfod "segment" of the virtual NAFOW. To round out that segment, we are also pleased to include performances from two previous winners in singing categories. (Assuming we all love a bit of suspense, we'll hold on revealing them for now... so stay tuned!) Thus while we need to stay home with a focus on resuming some state of "normalcy" by next year, we still are very happy to bring the NAFOW Eisteddfod to all in a form that at least should be reminiscent of many of the great experiences we've had with it since inception in 1994!
AmeriCymru: Care to tell us a little about the competition categories?
Ian: Our two wholly separate competitions in Poetry Composition are "Welsh Language Poem" and "English Language Poem". For each, we request an original poem of between 2 and 6 stanzas of four lines each, thus between 8 and 24 lines total. Rhyming and meter are unspecified, to permit some freedom in people's creative approach. You work will be reviewed and (respectfully...) dissected by two top-notch adjudicators for each category: Menna Elfyn and Eurig Salisbury in Welsh; and Tony Curtis and Robert Dayton in English. Their red pens are at the ready!
AmeriCymru: Is there a theme for this years' entries?
Ian: As would seem highly appropriate for 2020 in particular, the theme is "Hope/Gobaith", applicable to both categories. The Eisteddfod Committee did consider other possibilities focusing more on "isolation" or the pandemic. However, in the end we aimed for something more positive and affirming, in the very spirit of our Festival which creates a strong sense of community and fellowship year after year... even in a year where can't meet in person.
AmeriCymru: Any other rules or instructions that people should be aware of: fees, deadlines etc?
Ian: All pertinent information about the competitions, including links to specific guidelines for composition and submission, can be found at the Eisteddfod page of the Festival website: http://festivalofwales.org/ eisteddfod-2020.html . However... we're always happy to address any stray questions you may have, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org !
As with similar competitions in Wales, we maintain strict anonymity on behalf of all entrants, thus the adjudicators will see only your work and your chosen pseudonym. Only the competition coordinator (and that wouldn't be me...!) will have any information on the entrants' true identities.
There is no fee for entering, so what's your excuse? Kidding aside, time is running out... we need your entry no later than Wednesday, August 12! But it's very easy to get it in to us... see below!
AmeriCymru: Where and how should people submit their entries?
Ian: Related details can be found in the guidelines for each competition linked at the Eisteddfod page, but basically you can send it in via email as well as "regular" mail. We highly recommend the email option, and the instructions for submission are very straightforward and workable.
AmeriCymru: Any final message for the readers and members of AmeriCymru?
Ian: I just wanted to thank again all those I've had the great privilege of working with on the Eisteddfod Committee, including Danny Proud, David Llewelyn Williams, Karen Wojahn, as well as Welsh North American Association President David Matthews and Executive Secretary Megan Williams and - especially for her help on the website - Systems Coordinator Gerri Baker Parry. Also, a big "diolch yn fawr" of course goes out to our adjudicators mentioned above, and to our sponsors (which include Bob Dayton and an anonymous donor).
We're very happy to be attempting some real competitions in this year of unprecedented challenge, and very much look forward to resuming our full slate of competitions - including Poetry Composition - for Ottawa in 2021. As an institution, the eisteddfod is such a hugely important cornerstone of Welsh culture, and as always we're very proud to continue supporting and carrying on the tradition in North America. This year may be a "virtual" one in the books, but there is nothing at all "virtual" about the real impact that Wales and its constituent organizations the world over will always bear, let alone bless the world with, no matter the circumstances or hardships at hand.