Following the success of the Gŵyl Dewi Awards last year, a special ceremony was held at the Old College on 16 March to honour two Aberystwyth University students and two members of staff for making a great contribution to the advancement of the Welsh language. In writing my short poems to each of the winners, I realised again how important seemingly small decisions can be in the work of reminding everyone in Wales – and many beyond – that Welsh is their language.
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.
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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