Scratching The Surface - An Interview With Welsh Poet, Dave Lewis
By Ceri Shaw, 2019-11-23
AmeriCymru: Hi Dave and many thanks for agreeing to this interview. Care to tell us a little about your Welsh background and how it affects your writing?
Dave: Hi Ceri, thanks for having me as it were J. I grew up in the small, ex-mining village of Cilfynydd, which is just up the road from Pontypridd in south Wales. As a child I loved the Greek classics / stories and started reading Wordsworth, Coleridge, Pope and Milton in school, before moving on to William Blake, Brian Patten and T. S. Eliot whilst at college. I studied zoology at Cardiff University but always loved poetry and literature. After years as a biology, science and PE teacher in various schools in Wales, as well as a year in Kenya, I retrained as a software engineer and started lecturing photography and Photoshop to adults. I’d always written so encouraged by Welsh writer and environmentalist John Evans I began to think about producing my own books – www.david-lewis.co.uk
I produced my first poetry collection, Layer Cake, in 2009. The poems were collected from many years of writing and dealt with my Welsh upbringing, family, love, nature and travel. I won a runner-up spot in a short story contest a year or so later and included that in my second book, Urban Birdsong. After selling a few hundred copies (almost all just locally) I decided that maybe I could do this. I’ve since gone on to produce a number of books, twenty to date; featuring poetry, crime thrillers set in Wales, cycling travelogues, self-help and photography.
My cycling diary, Wales Trails – www.wales-trails.co.uk is an account of two weeks in 2016 when I cycled around my home country and my thoughts about the anglification of Wales as well as my efforts to inspire other cyclists to do a similar ride. Apart from my novels this book is probably my best seller.
I think that being brought up in Wales, especially in years past, will always make a lasting impression on someone and this is certainly true for my own writing. I always feel we are the underdog, have this big imposing neighbour and have to fight to be heard. My poetry certainly has this anger or at the very least a sense of injustice in it although my love of the natural world is always close by so that I can retreat and disappear when the modern, technological world becomes too overbearing.
AmeriCymru: When did you first decide to write poetry?
Dave: I was about nine or ten years old when I first started writing what I thought were ‘songs’, which I later discovered were poems (I’m not very musical, lol). By about fifteen or sixteen I was into Dylan Thomas, John Keats, then Shelley but still get excited today when I discover a new poet that I like. I love the way different writers deal with different subjects and have a huge list of poet heroes! Since starting writing seriously I have been inspired by many of the American ‘beat’ poets, Ginsberg, Kerouac and one of my favourites, Gary Snyder. My ever-growing ‘poetry shelves’ also include Akhmatova, Kavanagh, Basho, Sandburg, Bukowski and Sexton so you’re never short of something to read in my house!
Some poets can write to order. They can be given a subject and off they go. I find that very difficult, if not impossible. I tend to write when I feel like, when something has inspired, upset or moved me. Some poems just rush out onto the paper in five minutes and are fine, others take weeks of editing and are never quite right. It’s a weird profession alright J.
AmeriCymru: What can you tell us about your new collection:- 'Scratching the Surface'?
Dave: Following on from ‘Going Off Grid‘ (which began with a modern ‘The Waste Land’-type rant before the other poems deal with fighting back against digital capitalism through getting closer to nature) in ‘Scratching The Surface’ I’ve returned to themes I’m comfortable with, namely nature, love and family but have also tried to slide a few left field observations in there too. As well as some very personal pieces I’ve also tried to write a contemporary collection that pushes the door open on some of today’s accepted myths.
In my view, poets should constantly question authority and not blindly give in to the mainstream, politically correct narrative. I’m often very worried about the negative direction the western world is taking and feel someone needs to speak up on behalf of the voiceless masses as loud minorities take over. Politics these days is so polarised, we’re all expected to be either one thing or the other, either left wing or right wing. How stupid is this? I am Che Guevara as far as equal opportunities, working men’s rights and access to our national health service is concerned but I’m Thatcher, Hitler or Mao on punishment for terrorists or paedophiles. I want to reduce the Earth’s population, save the rainforests and everything in them but also abolish poverty in third world countries. I could go on but what I’m suggesting is that we all have different views on different things. We can’t all agree of course but neither should we be silenced from expressing an opinion. I’d like to think my poetry asks questions (often uncomfortable) as well as provides solutions to some of the world’s problems.
One of the best things about this collection though is when I plucked up the courage to ask one of my heroes to take a peek at some of the poems in it and I got the following quote back from him. I was well chuffed!
“The poems are sharp, clear, and confident. He has a clarity only a real poet possesses.” – Brian Patten
Another local writer has also summed up what the book is about, far better than I can, lol:
“An epic collage of nature, history, love, adventure and grief that leaps off the page and thumps you in the chest. This book is a sheer Tardis of themes with poems about Celtic mythology, the African bush, ‘The Matrix’, the Notre Dame fire and the lives of Ho Chi Minh and Kathleen Mary Drew-Baker. Others involve close family members, ex-lovers, an abused porn star, a transgender cousin and the constant struggle with mental health issues. This collection ebbs and flows as mesmerically as a river on its journey to the sea. An absolutely superb collection of modern poetry by one of the most under the radar poets in Wales and the UK. A fluid and heartfelt abstraction that speaks loudly to the passion that should run through all of us.” – Mark Davies
To see more - https://amzn.to/2pnTkmd
AmeriCymru: You also run the annual Welsh Poetry Competition online. Care to tell us a little about this? When is the next contest?
Dave: After talking with John Evans in his creative writing classes I setup the International Welsh Poetry Competition in 2007. We are the biggest poetry competition in Wales and growing each year. Truly international in nature we have had entries from over thirty countries and have a great reputation for honest, hard-hitting and passionate work. There are some great contests out there but there are also some very poor ones. All I can say is that the Welsh Poetry Competition is at least trying to bring serious topics to the attention of its readers. We are anonymous, our judges read all the poems and I’ve also produced two anthologies of winners’ work. The next contest will be Feb / March 2020, more details here: www.welshpoetry.co.uk
AmeriCymru: You have also written a number of thrillers. What can you tell us about the 'Hagar Trilogy'?
Dave: I had an idea for two crime thrillers, set in Wales and Africa, wrote them and never intended to have a third instalment. However after selling a few thousand copies (on kindle) and with loads of people asking ‘When is the next one out?’ I decided to write a third. The story involves a politically-incorrect Welsh valley hero, his haphazard love life and a serial killer who becomes entangled in his life. A host of very different characters eventually connect as we discover who the killer is (although I never intended it to be a whodunit) and further twists in the relationships come to light in the second and third books. The sequel and final book seek to explain why things are happening and to question the reader - do they have sympathy with the killer or not? I took seven years to research and write them, mainly down to the IT information contained within. I also have an idea for a fourth novel in the series but that might be a while yet…
AmeriCymru: You run a book publishing company - Publish & Print. What kind of books do you publish? How would prospective authors get in touch with you?
Dave: Unfortunately the book publishing scene is quite poor in Wales. There are just a handful of very small book publishers producing a small number of books each year with not much appetite for risk, so the more adventurous or innovative writers fail to get noticed in my opinion. I thought I could offer an alternative so after self publishing my own books I decided to start the company. I offer this service to other writers (worldwide) and now work full-time on this and as a writer myself. The business publishes all sorts of genres although I like to do poetry of course and feel I offer a professional service at a reasonable price. There is plenty of free information for prospective authors on our website and an authors page where you can see what we produce. We have some great writers on board too, for example the Welsh thriller writer Sally Spedding. All books are available on Amazon but start here: www.publishandprint.co.uk
AmeriCymru: What's the Writers of Wales database?
Dave: There used to be an A to Z database in Wales, which included details on many Welsh connected authors but it disappeared a few years back. Many writers in Wales have complained about this so I decided what the heck, I’ll just do one myself. I’ve not long started it and still have many authors to add but it’s well worth a look already – www.welshwriters.co.uk
AmeriCymru: What's next for Dave Lewis? Any new titles in the works?
Dave: I’m writing a novel based in Wales and London at the moment. It’s about a Welsh lad from a broken home who starts out as a bouncer in Cardiff before moving up to London and ending up working for a crime boss in the city. When things go bad he goes on the run and flees back to Wales. It’s quite a hard-hitting book with a fair bit of violence under the surface but the story is really more concerned with the relationships between the different characters. It’s quite a dark novel.
I’ve also been asked to do a ‘Selected Poems’ collection by a few people although I haven’t really thought about a traditional publisher as yet. It’s very competitive to get a poetry book produced by anyone in the UK so I’ll probably do one myself, maybe the end of next year as I have a fair amount of varied material to include now.
AmeriCymru: Any final message for the members and readers of AmeriCymru?
Dave: Apart from buy all my books and leave lots of 5 star reviews, lol, I’d like to see more people getting involved with the site. Wales is a poor country, abandoned by governments in England and we need you ‘Cymro-Americans’ to support and speak up for us as we fight a daily battle against the forces of evil over here. (I’m hoping to appeal to Star Wars / Lord of the Rings fans with that line btw). Hwyl.
So You Think You Know Modern Poetry?
By Ceri Shaw, 2019-11-02
Welsh writer Dave Lewis has just released Scratching The Surface , his twentieth book, a kick-ass poetry collection that leaps off the page and thumps you in the chest. From Celtic mythology, to the African bush and 'The Matrix', through the lives of Ho Chi Minh, Kathleen Mary Drew-Baker, an abused porn star, a transgender cousin, to ex-lovers and close family this collection ebbs and flows as mesmerically as a river on its journey to the sea.
"The poems are sharp, clear, and confident. He has a clarity only a real poet possesses." - Brian Patten
"Dave Lewis’s latest collection ‘Scratching The Surface’ is an engaging and diverse range of poems. It begins with the long, often rhythmic ‘Rivers’, which gifts the lines with a sort of onomatopoeic authority. It’s almost a metaphor for what follows, a series of well-crafted poems driven by theme and form. There are start of line rhymes (You and I), prose verse (A Dream of Gawain), end of line rhyme (Christmas Dad) and every combination between. The subjects are varied, but this confident poet succeeds in melding them into a coherent and rewarding collection." - David J Costello
Dave Lewis is an award-winning writer, poet and photographer who runs the International Welsh Poetry Competition, the Writers of Wales database and publishing company Publish & Print.
To buy his latest work just visit his website – www.david-lewis.co.uk or go to Dave’s Amazon page here - https://amzn.to/2pnTkmd
The Language of Bones: An Interview With Elizabeth Spragins
By Ceri Shaw, 2019-06-30
AmeriCymru: Hi Elizabeth and many thanks for agreeing to this interview. Care to introduce your collection The Language of Bones for our readership?
Elizabeth: The Language of Bones: American Journeys Through Bardic Verse features Celtic-style poems that bear witness to the power of place and cultural memory. It is a poetic journey from Jamestown, Virginia, to Muir Woods, California, that gives voice to the unspoken, the overlooked, and the forgotten. As I walked along paths that bear the weight of so many triumphs and tragedies, I felt compelled to document those stories in a manner that reflected the timeless elements of the terrain. Traditional Welsh meters like the rhupunt, the clogyrnach, the cyhydedd hir, and the cywydd llosgyrnog provided such a structure and added a layer of musicality.
The topics addressed in the collection are as diverse as the American landscape. Readers will encounter Native American legends, historical events, and current events. Since we Virginians love our ghost stories, a few spirits even make an appearance! In summary, the book is an invitation to explore America, both past and present, from unusual perspectives. Copies are available from Kelsaybooks.com and on Amazon.
AmeriCymru: You write "bardic verse in the Celtic style" and you "find traditional Welsh meters particularly alluring." What is at the root of your fascination with these forms and how would you rate their contemporary relevance?
Elizabeth: Bardic verse is, of course, meant to be read aloud. For me, doing so is a transformative experience. There is something magical about hearing contemporary poetry written in Welsh forms that were codified in the fourteenth century. In some ways the rhythms are almost primal.
I should note that all of the poems in the collection are in English because that is my native language. Welsh bardic forms seem to have a universal dimension that transfers into English quite well. Perhaps rhyme and meter feed an instinctive hunger for predictable patterns.
Many contemporary poets have embraced free verse to the exclusion of all else, but I foresee a renewed interest in traditional forms. Western artistry has long celebrated balance and symmetry, and formal verse extends that aesthetic to linguistic expression. Musical culture offers a few examples of our innate preference for patterns. Just listen to people flounder when they attempt to sing the concluding note of a piece that does not end in its home key! Of course, rhyme is still prevalent in song lyrics.
I think that traditional poetic styles speak to the heart on levels beyond understanding. The trick is to make both the language and the message meaningful. Convoluted lines that engage in linguistic gymnastics for the sake of rhyme come across as contrived and awkward. Such contortions mar the beauty of the form and detract from the meaning. However, formal verse that rises to the challenge of accessibility is most certainly relevant, and a number of modern publications recognize that. Many of the poems in my collection previously appeared in literary journals in the United States and the United Kingdom. I hope that The Language of Bones will spark greater interest in conveying contemporary messages through traditional poetic forms.
AmeriCymru: “The intricate syllabic forms, cross-rhyming, internal echoes, and circular returns of Celtic verse forms are not within the competence of every poet, even those skilled in set forms, but Elizabeth Spragins shows us that they can be wielded with power and grace." Can you tell us how you became acquainted with these forms and how would you advise others to study them?
Elizabeth: I first heard the Welsh language when I happened upon a Celtic radio station that featured Siân James, a traditional folk singer and harpist. Her music had an ethereal quality that mesmerized me even though I had no idea what her words meant! That chance encounter sparked a fascination with all things Welsh. I muddled through some rather musty books on Welsh literature and had the good fortune to stumble across some excellent online resources. The Welsh Society of Fredericksburg opened other doors to me, and I was eventually invited to become a book reviewer for Ninnau, the North American Welsh newspaper. I focused on poetry written in English, and I found myself wondering why more contemporary writers did not explore the rich patterns of the 24 official Welsh meters. It was a challenge I could not resist! The age-old compulsion to tell our stories seems to cry out for the musicality of formal verse, and the Welsh meters have exciting variations that give me chills. Once I started dabbling in those literary jigsaw puzzles, I was well and truly hooked.
For those who would like to explore Welsh bardic meters in depth, I would suggest reading anthologies that include representative pieces from different time periods. With regard to the mechanics, a number of resources are available in print and online. Lewis Turco’s New Book of Forms: A Handbook of Poetics offers a succinct description of every poetic form I have ever encountered. His work, which is international in scope, is an essential reference for any student of poetry or aspiring poet. For those ready to pick up a pen, my article “How to Write a Rhupunt (With Example)” may prove helpful.
How to Write a Rhupunt (with Example) This article details the process of writing the rhupunt, one of the traditional Welsh poetic forms.
The British Isles produced countless other bardic forms that were never codified. A broad exploration was beyond the scope of my book, but those interested in Celtic literary traditions might want to delve into the work of the Irish bards in particular. I have found Gaelic patterns especially challenging to write in English, but I do include a representative form, the rannaigheacht ghairid, in The Language of Bones.
I would caution readers that the popularity of “Celtic” elements in the film and music industries has spawned a number of books that capitalize on the popularity of the term without having a direct connection. Hence, a collection of “Celtic poetry” may have nothing to do with traditional bardic verse.
AmeriCymru: Do you have a personal favorite in your new collection? Is there one poem that stands out for you and if so why?
Elizabeth: Your question made me laugh. My answer changes daily! The technical elements of some of my earlier pieces may wobble in places, but I think that all of the stories shared in The Language of Bones are vitally important. That said, the two poems that leave me in emotional knots at readings are the ones that speak most powerfully of people and events too easily forgotten. “Jane” pays homage to an unknown girl, most likely an indentured servant, who died at Jamestown during the “starving time” of 1609-1610. “At Standing Rock” addresses racial and cultural tensions that remain unresolved as Native Americans speak in defense of the lands they hold by treaty.
AmeriCymru: What's next for Elizabeth Spragins? Any new titles, promotional readings in the works?
Elizabeth: I am thrilled to announce that Shanti Arts Publishing just released my second collection of poetry. With No Bridle for the Breeze: Ungrounded Verse explores the spirit and magic of flight through feathers, paired wings, and dreams. These poems are based on the Japanese tanka form. Additional details are available on the publisher’s website: With No Bridle for the Breeze, Elizabeth Spencer Spragins.
With No Bridle for the Breeze, Elizabeth Spencer Spragins
Another collection of my bardic verse, A Walk with Shades and Shadows, is in search of a publisher. Two other volumes are underway. At the moment my writing studio has several disorganized mountains of promising material, as well as drivel.
As for readings, I am in the process of scheduling several local events and hope to finalize details shortly.
AmeriCymru: Any final message for the readers and members of AmeriCymru?
Elizabeth: Thank you for taking the time to share your day with me through this interview, and thank you for supporting the beautiful elements of Welsh culture that continue to enrich the fabric of our collective heritage. Special thanks to you, Ceri, for inviting me to share my passion for Welsh bardic verse!
Sample Poem from The Language of Bones:
At Standing Rock (A Rhupunt)
The serpent comes.
Its black blood hums
As venom numbs
The lakes and land.
No treaties hold.
The white men sold
Their word for gold
Before they manned
The hungry drill
That pierced Black Hill.
Soon oil will fill
The veins law banned.
They tunneled deep—
Black bile will seep
Where old bones sleep
In sacred sand.
At death, at birth,
Red feet kiss earth.
Her life is worth
The flames we fanned
At Standing Rock.
Our bodies block
The fangs that lock
On Mother’s hand.
Our home we hold
Despite the cold.
We will not fold
On rocks that stand.
~Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, North Dakota
First published in America, We Call Your Name: Poems of Resistance and Resilience. San Francisco, CA: Sixteen Rivers Press, 2018. 95. Print.
The Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851 recognized the sovereignty of the Lakota Sioux over the Great Plains “as long as the river flows and the eagle flies.” The Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868 prohibited white settlement in the Black Hills for all time, but the subsequent discovery of gold generated an influx of miners who violated the treaty with impunity.
The Lakota protested construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline on the grounds that the project would contaminate their sole source of drinking water and disrupt their sacred lands. The completed pipeline passes under the Missouri River less than one mile upstream of the Standing Rock Reservation.
'Otherlander' - An Interview With Welsh Poet Paul Steffan Jones
By Ceri Shaw, 2019-04-25
AmeriCymru: Hi Paul, care to tell us a little about your new collection 'Otherlander'?
Paul: Otherlander is a collection of poems mainly written in the last two years. Many were written for the project Gwaelod, a collaboration with the artist Chris Rawson-Tetley that is inspired by the Welsh flood story of Cantre'r Gwaelod. The poems respond to ideas of identity, memory, history, diaspora, loss, and the relationship of these concerns to the location where these events and feelings were and are experienced. It has more of a story-telling feel about it than my earlier work. It is my first attempt at self-publishing, a return to the DIY punk rock ethic of my teenage years, a chance to re-connect with the possibility of independence and a more express way of getting work out.
AmeriCymru: "A collection of poems of reverence and rage.....". Do you agree with this characterization of the poems in 'Otherlander'?
Paul: I think that "reverence and rage" is an apt description of the collection. I have included poems that celebrate marriage and others that are elegies. There is admiration for the way our ancestors struggled to survive, both economically and culturally, and anger over the way they were often treated and how their descendants are being treated today. I have been researching my family history for about a decade and have been humbled by the many sacrifices made along the way.
AmeriCymru: One of my favourite poems in this collection is 'Anger One'. What was the inspiration for this poem? Where or what is 'hangar one'?
Paul: Anger One is a middle aged rant, one of a series, I'm afraid. It deals with our changing shapes, the demands on our resources, the feeling of amnesia and our relationship with our parents. Hangar One is everywhere and is nowhere. It is the larger structures that oppress us-churches, schools, supermarkets, the Houses of Parliament, castles, prisons, the state and its offices. It is also as small as one's internal secret guilt.
AmeriCymru: One poem featured in the collection, 'Ceibwr' is written in both English and Welsh. Why this particular poem? Is this something you plan to do more often in the future?
Paul: Ceibwr was suggested by a painting by Chris Rawson-Tetley and by a request by a Welsh-speaker to write a poem about it in that language. It is a favourite landscape of mine and I think fits into the edge of the scenery of the Cantre'r Gwaelod theme due to its coastal location. Yes, I am aiming to do more bi-lingual work.
AmeriCymru: Are your previous collections Lull of the Bull (2010) and The Trigger-Happiness (2012) still available for purchase?
Paul: My previous book are available still though stocks of Lull of The Bull are low.
AmeriCymru: Where can people go to purchase 'Otherlander' online?
Paul: Otherlander can be obtained via Otherlander Face to face I will sell the book at the austerity price of £5.
AmeriCymru: What's next for Paul Steffan Jones? Will you be promoting 'Otherlander' with readings? Any new projects lined up?
Paul: I am currently nearing the completion of the next book, The Ministry of Loss, which I hope will appear next year. These poems continue the theme of identity and will feature more tales from my family's story. Also, I am writing new work for a fifth collection of about 20-25 mostly longer poems, Rant. These will include the state of the nation diatribes, Where Did I Put My Country? I hope to promote Otherlander at readings. I am still writing for the Gwaelod/ Pictures of Us project with Chris and have an involvement in the collaboration, Room 103. The latter deals with George Orwell's ideas in the contemporary world. Though this seems a fairly busy workload, I am giving thought to the form my poetry will take in the near future as I feel I need to come up with a more lyrical style acceptable to a much wider audience.
AmeriCymru: Any final message for the readers and members of AmeriCymru?
Paul: Best wishes and thanks again for taking an interest.
Grind my teeth down
mortar and pestle
at the dentist
get a new set
a horse look
my masculinity blurs
whatever it is or was
weight piles on
of ill advice
that amorphous shape
my eyes dim with tears
my ears struggle to keep up
while the flora
and the fauna
memory as a sequence
of half snatched-back vignettes
that perhaps I was never in
we can’t escape our parents
they’re in our faces
our ways of moving
their bad luck
in the diaspora of kids
the energy of synergy
in hangars of anger
the anchors of rancour
with truncheons of tension
in Anger One
anger has won
Rae Howells Wins Welsh Poetry Competition!
By Ceri Shaw, 2017-08-10
The Welsh Poetry Competition 2017 organisers have announced the winners of the 11 th international competition, judged by acclaimed poet Kathy Miles , and the overall winner was Rae Howells for the poem Airlings .
The winners were as follows:
1 st Prize: Airlings by Rae Howells (Swansea)
2 nd Prize: Skimmers by Jane Burn (Consett)
3 rd Prize: On watching a lemon sail the sea by Maggie Harris (Llandysul)
Kathy also choose another seventeen poems for the ‘Highly commended’ section with another fifteen poems also given a ‘special mention’. As always winners came from all over the world. All winning poems and judges’ comments can be viewed on the competition web site – www.welshpoetry.co.uk
Judge Kathy Miles said: “It has been a real honour to judge this year's Welsh Poetry Competition. And, with over 500 entries, a somewhat daunting task, not least because of the quality of the work submitted. Subjects were wide ranging; love, loss, the failure of relationships, and – as one would expect in such dark political times – anger at the world we live in. Many poems dealt with heart-breaking scenarios: death, the decline of a loved one into dementia, homelessness, war, the refugee crisis. There were also many pieces that focussed on Wales, and I was reminded again of how much wonderful poetry is inspired by the history, culture and language of the landscape around us.
“Judging is necessarily a subjective process; but from the start I looked for something different. A quirky style, a new slant on an old subject, a strong narrative voice, or imagery that lifted the poem from mere description into something that truly excited the imagination. It was such a strong field that I read each entry many times before deciding on the final placings: every poet had something unique to say, and I wanted to give every poet the chance to shine. The Highly Commended poems in particular were very close, and all of an extremely high standard, so the choice was difficult.
“Inevitably, the poems which made it through were those that kept me awake at night. Poems which tugged at the edges of my dreams, or whose words huddled in little corners of my mind and leapt out when I least expected it. Well done to everyone who entered. It has been wonderful -and humbling- to see so much talent. A huge thank you to Dave Lewis for encouraging and fostering that talent and for inviting me to be the judge this year.”
Full list of winners:
WELSH POETRY COMPETITION 2017
Judged by Kathy Miles
1 st Prize: Airlings by Rae Howells (Swansea)
2 nd Prize: Skimmers by Jane Burn (Consett)
3 rd Prize: On watching a lemon sail the sea by Maggie Harris (Llandysul)
4 th : Ten Minutes – Natalie Ann Holborow (Skewen)
5 th : Hare on the lane – Louise Wilford (Barnsley)
6 th : Sunflower Encolpion – Mara Adamitz Scrupe (USA)
7 th : Bergamask for the Neoplatonists – Mick Evans (Llangadog)
8 th : Bones, not human – Caroline Davies (Leighton Buzzard)
9 th : The art of moving a piano into an upstairs flat – Kittie Belltree (Cardigan)
10 th : lost poem – Mick Evans (Llangadog)
11 th : Otters – Gareth Writer-Davies (Brecon)
12 th : In the Bowes-Lyon Museum – Pat Borthwick (Kirby Underdale)
13 th : Running – Natalie Ann Holborow (Skewen)
14 th : Cawl – Mari Ellis Dunning (Swansea)
15 th : desert sculpture – Mick Evans (Llangadog)
16 th : Rough Magic – Noel Williams (Sheffield)
17 th : The Wren – John D Kelly (Newton Butler)
18 th : Top Corris – Zillah Bowes (Cardiff)
19 th : Grip – Mick Evans (Llangadog)
20 th : Bluebeard – Helen May Williams (Pendine)
Dylan's Gower - An Interview With Robert Edward Gurney
By Ceri Shaw, 2014-12-06
Robert was born in Luton, Bedfordshire in 1939. He attended Luton Grammar School where he did Spanish, French, English and Latin, winning the A level Latin prize whilst in Lower Sixth. He studied Spanish, French, Latin and Moral Philosophy at St. Andrews, specialising in Spanish and French and graduating in 1964. He completed a Dip Ed at Makerere, Uganda, in 1965.
He was awarded a PhD on the French and Spanish poetry of Juan Larrea at the University of London under the supervision of Ian Gibson in 1975. Thesis title: The Poetry of Juan Larrea , described as outstanding (“sobresaliente”) by the external examiner, Professor Arthur Terry, the Catalán poetry specialist.
He writes in English and Spanish. Read more here
ROBERT GURNEY ON THE WELSH AMERICAN BOOKSTORE
AmeriCymru: What can you tell us about your latest collection Dylan's Gower?
Robert: Hi Ceri. On the back cover of Dylan’s Gower, the publisher, Chris Jones of Cambria Books, has written:
“In this tribute to Dylan, his [Dylan’s] life on the Gower Peninsula in Wales is imagined poetically in the movement of a wave, the build-up, the swell, the rise, the disintegration, the spindrift, the crashing down. Then the relief, the calm before the next wave begins to form. Poems that start with poetic intensity, move towards those that have a painful or nightmarish quality and end with poems that have a lighter touch.”
I felt that the influence of the Gower peninsula in Dylan’s formation was being underplayed of late and sent this note in the South Wales Evening Post. It forms the Introduction to Dylan’s Gower:
“Talking to Dylan Thomas’s lovely granddaughter, Hannah Ellis, and to the inspiring Olivier Award-winning actor Guy Masterson last night at the RSA in John Street, London, on the occasion of their brilliant British Council seminar “Dylan Thomas: A Life in Words”, I was particularly struck by Hannah’s reference to Dylan’s notebooks which he wrote between the ages of fifteen (possibly earlier) and twenty. She mentioned how these had been lying mouldering in a box in Boulder, America, but are now available to the public in Swansea. Hannah argued that everything was there, in embryo, in those notebooks, that that period of poetic creativity, those five or more years of “cosseted” (Hannah’s word) creative activity, a veritable explosion that occurred within the young genius relieved to drop out early, at sixteen, from a school in which he was bored, were the foundations of his work to come. Dylan lived in Swansea, on the edge of Gower, during those years.
Hannah referred to a text in which he wrote that he “often” went down to Gower. The gist of this book, Dylan’s Gower, is that it is clearly time to re-evaluate the influence of the spectacular and quirky Gower Peninsula on his work. Hannah maintained that Newquay and Laugharne were key periods in the gestation of Under Milk Wood. I agreed but argued that to them must be added the beautiful bays and villages of his early ‘backyard’, the place to which he would escape during his formative years and to which he was tempted to ‘retire’ in the final year of his life. This book points, perhaps, to the need to re-evaluate the role Gower played in the formation of the creatures of the mysterious entity of Dylan’s literary imagination.”
The above was published on 25 October 2014. In Dylan’s Gower I explore a little possible links Dylan’s imagination had with the peninsula.
AmeriCymru: This is your second anthology on the theme of Dylan Thomas in this centenary year. How important a figure is Dylan in the history of Welsh literature?
Robert: I am not really the best person to judge this. My wife went to a grammar school near Swansea and told me that nobody mentioned Dylan at all when she was there. He wrote only in English, as you know. Personally I feel he is tremendously important for Welsh literature but it depends how you define the latter. Some say he was too “English” for the Welsh. I am not an expert on Dylan’s poetry although I read any book on him that I can lay my hands on.
I am simply somebody who has been inspired, gratefully,
by his work, by its music, its sound and by his voice.
AmeriCymru: What particular personal memories inspired these tributes?
Robert: The memories are numerous. Mark Rees of The Evening Post interviewed me this summer.
The interview was posted on September 14. (See http://verpress.com/to-dylan-2014/ ). The unabridged version can be read on http://verpress.com/dylans-gower-2014/ .
My memories of the area where Dylan grew up begin at an early age, while I was still at Primary/Junior School. I had an aunt and uncle in Baglan. My cousin, their daughter, to who I am close, lives in Mumbles.
I cycled around Mumbles and Gower on old broken down bike with no brakes when I was a child. Over the years my wife and I have spent a huge amount of time down there visiting her parents, sadly no longer with us, in Port Eynon. It’s a very special place to us, as it was to Dylan. My younger son, William, who did the covers for the two Dylan books, was born in Morriston Hospital, near Swansea.
My sons, James and William love being there, as do their sons Alban (3), Matthew (2) and Dylan (10 months).
AmeriCymru: In 2004 you set up an independent press. What can you tell us about this venture? What does the future hold for Verulamium Press?
Robert: I launched Verulamium Press in 2004 because local publishers were not interested in publishing poetry and national publishers were not interested in publishing local poetry (as if poetry is not rooted in an area!).
I began by publishing my translation of El río y otros poemas, The River and Other Poems, by the Patagonian poet Andrés Bohoslavsky and some my own poems of childhood - in Luton Poems. In all honesty the press has not been very active. I published with Verulamium Press this year a collection of approaching 200 short stories (many of them micro-stories) called A Night in Buganda. Tales from Post-Colonial Africa about my experiences on an aid program in Uganda in the sixties. The background is the collapse of democracy and the rise of Idi Amin. The thing is that once I had published my poetry on my own press, publishers in other countries, namely Argentina, Mexico and Spain, began to contact me. I write in Spanish and English.
Lord Byron Ediciones in Madrid is my main publisher outside the UK. (Go to the Home page on http://verpress.com for the list of my published work. Its future? Well, it’s there and it can be used again. At present my publisher is Cambria Books, in Wales.
AmeriCymru: Where can people find out more about your work online?
Robert: From my website: verpress.com .
As you know, I write a great deal in Spanish. My first Spanish teacher in the UK was Señor Enyr Jones (‘Jonah)’) from Gaiman in Patagonia. I owe him a great deal.
I was in Argentina in 1972 working with the exiled Spanish poet, Juan Larrea, at his home in Córdoba and at his Center for Research on César Vallejo (Peru).
I use quite a lot of Spanish and Latin American digital publications, such as Analía Pascaner’s Con Voz Propia –Revista Literaria (Argentina).
Analía and her husband Jorge came over to the UK last year and we met up. If you scroll down the right hand side of http://convozpropiaenlared.blogspot.co.uk to the list of poets she has published, you will see my contributions under Robert Gurney. My work featured in Ketty Lis’s poeticas.com.ar website in which I found myself next to the giant Dylan Thomas (in Spanish), in the UK section, but sadly that site, that was supported by major international institutions and Oxford University, seems to have been taken down. I publish short stories with Benma in Mexico City.
AmeriCymru: What are you working on at the moment?
Robert: At the moment I am writing a Spanish edition of my poems dedicated to Dylan. The provisional title is Para Dylan (For Dylan). I have been approached about it by more than one publisher. I also plan to publish Juan Larrea’s letters to me and a dual language book of short stories, in Spanish and English, called The Seven Deadly Sins. These have been appearing in anthologies launched by Benma.
AmeriCymru: Any final message for the members and readers of AmeriCymru?
Robert: Just that I am delighted to have found AmeriCymru. I have only just found it and am still exploring it. It looks great and I am hoping I’ll be able to make a contribution to it and I look forward to making contact with fellow poets and story writers through its pages.
My antepenultimate book this year, the one about Uganda and East Africa, reflected an American-British shared experience that I treasure a great deal . There is an openess about America that you don’t always find here, sadly. I am still in near daily contact with colleagues in America from that group, TEA, Teachers for East Africa. They helped me with A Night in Buganda. (The ‘Night’, by the way, is the encroaching night of Amin.)
Robert Edward Gurney
St Albans, UK
Size Matters - An Original Poem By Lloyd Jones
By Ceri Shaw, 2013-08-29
For instance we can't imagine what it's like
To be Russian, we'll never know
What it's like to live in a country
With an unassailable language
And a monumental culture spreading
Across nine time zones,
So much space it drives men mad.
We've just the one field in Wales,
Small and green, with a copse of myths
And a boggy bit in the middle;
An apple tree and a pig,
A church and twelve chapels, also
A hut which is home to three anchorites,
Two of them devising the country's history
Always a little faster than the third can read it;
And there's always a gang
Drilling for something by the gate,
Forever a promise of gold or maybe
Yet more mud.
By Lloyd Jones
Paul Steffan Jones Reads 'Song of David'
By Ceri Shaw, 2013-01-06
2012 West Coast Eisteddfod Online Poetry Competition winner Paul Steffan Jones reads his 2013 submission 'Song of David'
Serving Suggestion - by Paul Steffan Jones
By Ceri Shaw, 2012-11-19
'Moor Music' by Mike Jenkins
By Ceri Shaw, 2010-11-17
In this innovative new book of poetry, Mike Jenkins continues his life-long obsession with the history and fate of Wales, embodied, in this instance by both the glories of the landscape and the depredations suffered in years of decline.A view from the window of his writing room across the moors inspires reflections on the dereliction and renewal of the old industrial valleys, in poems like Bonfire on the Waun and Came the Ram.
Mikes career in teaching left him with a sense of optimism about young people, and with an eagerness to embrace changing times, evident in the lively Einstein at the Comp. These poems, like his prize-winning short stories, are full of colourful characters, dialogue, and incident. A love of music and a sensitive awareness of the natural world in an urban context, in poems like, Insomniac Jazz and December Roses also enliven this new book.
Mike Jenkins lives in Merthyr and is a full-time writer and Creative Writing tutor, having spent over 30 years teaching in secondary education. The author of seven previous poetry collections for Seren, he has also published novels and short stories. He has won the John Tripp Award for Spoken Poetry and Wales Book of the Year, and is former editor of Poetry Wales and founder and co-editor of Red Poets magazine. As well as a blog, he writes regularly for Cardiff City fanzine Watch the Bluebirds Fly and reviews music for the political magazine Celyn.
Buy 'Moor Music' here