During the week of the Eisteddfod, I was one of the writers invited by Peak Art to the Cabin of Curiosities to listen to writers discuss their work and in turn, create a response to their presentation. I heard Tom Bullough and Christopher Meredith (it was inspirational).
The First Duty of the Artist is to be Free
This has been a difficult task, responding creatively to a reading of works that were poignant enough. Chris Meredith and Tom Bullough shared their process of writing poems, and a novel, addressing, thematically, how each was inspired by, influenced by, conscious of knowing the land, heartland, headland, addland, Y Gororau, yr ymylon, y ffiniau, it’s people, it’s language; the process by which over time those slip away, unless . . .
I’ve not been able to articulate anything. I suspected this would happen the moment the audience in the Cabin of Trugareddau, clapped, bought books, hesitated to leave.
Trugareddau: ‘mercies,’ ‘odds and ends’, not quite curiosities: ‘chwilfrydeddau’, the things we are looking for. When seeking an exact word, sometimes an unexpected, unknown word arrives as a gift . . . .
In the garden, afterwards, a juvenile song thrush with scrawny feathers beat its wings less than a foot away from my table ( ). I watched it hover. Felt the rhythmical wafts of air, heard the inexpressible sound of its pause-in-flight. That took energy, bravery. This little one wanted crumbs, briwsion (fragments) from my plate. Or did it? I have never before encountered a non-captive bird so . . . intimately. Was I breathing? Our eyes conversed and immediately, there was no bird-self, or me(?)-self, no teagarden, teacup, no pressure to respond; it was the infinite moment between moments.
At home, tongue-tied, bound to distraction, I read The Hill of Dreams:
I had a horrible todo with my sentences . . . [They were] a mass of erasures, corrections, interlineations . . . I was to start afresh, then, to get a style of my own . . .[i]
I saw my task clearly; not to capture what was said by two fine writers firmly established in the literary canon. My words, their words, no match. I knew I must be true, in my plain clothes, to my own tongue, to where my mind went as they spoke. It’s no insult to them, there is time enough to re-read their pages and re-immerse in their meanings yn y gogoniant o’u eiriau:
We’ve slow-trekked the edge, seeking
the rocking stone where you played. He’s warned us
of fissures, heather-hidden, some 30 foot deep,
which run through this hill’s heart.
He says it’s the natural movement and splitting
of rock, the land still going through its process,
that maybe it has enough of what it is and breaks
away from itself
(and all its definitions).
Did you fear them?
At the spot where we overlook your valley, I open the box
hurl you at last to the vast grey. But you swirl
with the wind’s gust which sends each grain of you
into my eyes and mouth so I’m blind
and crunching bone-grit between teeth;
all your joy coming back to me.
[i] Arthur Machen, The Hill of Dreams
Grateful to my son Eurion (aged 9) who gave me the last line of the poem.
You can see the rest of the artists’ responses here: Peak Art: On the Edge Blogs and Film