This book marks the culmination of a partnership in poetry that spans seven years and two countries some 5000 miles apart. A journey that began in 2011 as part of a poetry translation workshop at Tŷ Newydd Writing Centre in north Wales has pulled into its orbit places as far removed from each other as Aberystwyth and Bombay/Mumbai, as well as Thiruvananthapuram, Porth-cawl, Cardiff, London, Kolkata, Swansea and Shantiniketan. We have both been afforded a fleeting, deeply enriching glimpse of each other's home towns, cities and nations. And in turn gained an insight into those things and places that we believed to be most familiar to us: streets, communities, homes, poems, even words themselves.
Following the success of two collections of poetry published by Gwasg Carreg Gwalch with the former Bardd Plant Cymru, Anni Llŷn – Geiriau Bach Chwareus and Hwrê mae hi'n Wyliau! – a new collection has been edited by the current Bardd Plant, Casia Wiliam, called Clywch ni'n Rhuo Nawr!. The book also contains poems by thirteen other poets who have held the post, including two by me – one about a new dinosaur called Tyranodiplostegatopsgorichthioraptor, and another about the fact that even the most hideous, disgusting and altogether awful monsters sometimes, just sometimes, need a big cwtsh.
I've just arrived in Kolkata for the final leg of the India-Wales Poetry Connections project, led the Literature Across Frontiers and supported by Wales Arts International and British Council Cymru. Over the next few weeks we'll be taking part in a series of workshops, discussions and poetry events in Kolkata, the Jaipur Literature Festival and Delhi. The official launch of a series of poetry collections will be at the festival, including Elsewhere Where Else / Lle Arall Ble Arall (Poetrywala) by Sampurna Chattarji and myself. A conversation about the project between Dei Tomos and I was broadcast last night on BBC Radio Cymru, and is available online until 18 February. For more on the project, including a series of podcasts by me and Sampurna Chattarji, click here.
The end of 2017 saw the renevation of Level D in Hugh Owen Library at Aberystwyth University. The new entrance and ground floor were formally opened at the beginning of January, and I was asked to write two short poems, one in Welsh and another in English, to mark the occasion. I took the opportunity to read up on the man who gave his name to the building, Hugh Owen himself (1804–81), and I realised maybe for the first time how much work, sacrifice and effort he made to provide education in Wales, for the people of Wales, something we often take for granted today. The renovation – and I hope Hugh would agree – complete with a massive photo of the library at the Old College draped over the far wall, makes it easier than ever before for us all to access education and knowledge.
Would Hugh have liked it? I guess he would
Have frowned at the fabric honeycomb,
The vending machines, Collections in chrome;
But then he'd have seen in the sepia wood
His own reflection, and felt at home.
This poem was read at an evening to celebrate the successes of five former students of Aberystwyth University at the National Eisteddfod of Wales on Anglesey in August. The poem, written by myself, Hywel Griffiths and Iwan Rhys, congratulates our fellow-clerwr, Osian Rhys Jones, on winning the Chair.
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