Tonight on Film 4

Catch Jamie Adams film Black Mountain Poets on Film 4 tonight. It’s a quirky and beautifully shot film which stars Alice Lowe, Rob Cullen and Richard Elis amongst others. I get a cameo too. Really enjoyed being a part of this improv. comedy. Weird how things are connected, I am now a poet in the Black Mountains and did go looking for Allen Ginsberg. It’s that Buddha-eye and moutain brow stuff at work!

bmp

 

Peeling off the Layers and Letting in the Light: Llwyn Celyn

Hard to believe it is December. When I left Pontypridd in the morning, it was raining and cold. But as soon as I arrived at Llwyn Celyn, I had to remove a coat and two thermal tops. Despite a hood of mist on the Skirrid mountain, the sun shone allowing me the luxury of sitting outside and looking over the valley while I collected my thoughts.

It’s only a few weeks since I visited last so I was stunned by the amount of progress that the whole team has made. The cider house walls are being finished with lime plaster, the bat lodgings are complete, the old stable has been beautifully restored externally so that it has a glow about it, and in the main house, the roof is off which has let in a great deal of light.

20161103_155043
The old stable has been dramatically improved

Walking around the house full of light, evoked a palpable shift in its personality; it was like a yawn and a stretch and a smile, like weight had been lifted and the house is waking up. Funny, being roofless not only affects the light, but also the sounds that can permeate the house, the birds above can be heard singing in all the rooms.

It’s obvious there is a great deal of pride and professionalism from the craftsmen at I. J. Preece (the restoration company undertaking the restoration work). Even unwanted debris is sorted carefully. I love talking to these knowledgeable people, they are really getting to know every inner and outer inch of Llwyn Celyn.

Before lunch I  recorded sounds of the giant tarp at the door of the threshing barn. It was making a dramatic drag on the slab floor, like an artificial lung; reminded me of the rubber lung we had in the bell jar for GCSE biology. It sounded like the barn was breathing.

After lunch I helped Kasia Howard, Engagement and Education Officer to plant two plum trees. I like doing hands-on things at the house, things that will outlast my creative residency. Nice to think there will be plums on those trees in years to come. It also gave me a chance to talk to Kasia who knows so much about many aspects of the house as building, as part of history.

On my last visit, I picked sloes and made gin so that I can take some other kind of sustenance from this magical place.

Just before I left, Llwyn Celyn artist-in-residence Toril Brancher arrived and we sat in the shed and talked about our residencies: output and process, and the tension between the two.

Like Toril I am gathering. For me it is sounds, snaps on my phone, metaphors, pieces of crockery from the mud. What Toril does well though, that I have to internalise, is to come to the house without imposing, just being, seeing what unfolds, trusting the process. ‘It’s quite profound’ she said, ‘what we are trying to capture here and we have to find the language to convey it.’

Yes, I think this will be more than crafting words, a direct narrative, I think I have to forget finished pieces of poetry (audio or page) and allow myself to feel what the house is feeling now it is more opened and open; perhaps what will permeate me if I am able to be this receptive will be far more meaningful.

I leave with these images lingering: remnants of the rook’s nest and a wide open door.

Coal

I’m playing a Pit Woman in Cary Clarke’s Coal. This is a dance production but is more than an hour and a half of contemporary dance, it is ‘physical language’ which is allows the audience (and cast) to re immerse in the mining strike of 1984/1985.

cxadno2w8aalleu

The Tredegar Brass band will join us on stage. They played in the film Pride about the gay activists who fought side-by-side with the mining communities during the strike. Dai Donovan, the miner from Dulais who embraced this help from the LGBT community will talk after tonight’s performance at Blackwood Miner’s Institute. This post-show talk will include  Ron Stoat, Welsh miner and union official, who can be heard talking about his involvement with the strike in the film Still the Enemy Within.

In the UK Coal tour, the team invites 4 local women to become pit wives. I’m shocked to find myself in a dance production. While I like dancing (we have kitchen disco with the kids!), I’m not a proper dancer and although I like a challenge, it’s been hard work both physically and emotionally. I’m not only connected to the mining industry for generations, but also the Miners Institute itself; my uncles and grandfathers paid into it, and used it, my parents met there, it was where I first read my poems on a stage in the bar and had my play Sound Zero performed (Eiry Thomas read my protagonist). There have been lots of tears in rehearsals; it’s a hugely emotional piece. Looking forward to sharing this journey with the audience tonight.

Coal

I’m playing a Pit Woman in Cary Clarke’s Coal. This is a dance production but is more than an hour and a half of contemporary dance, it is ‘physical language’ which is allows the audience (and cast) to re immerse in the mining strike of 1984/1985.

cxadno2w8aalleu

The Tredegar Brass band will join us on stage. They played in the film Pride about the gay activists who fought side-by-side with the mining communities during the strike. Dai Donovan, the miner from Dulais who embraced this help from the LGBT community will talk after tonight’s performance at Blackwood Miner’s Institute. This post-show talk will include  Ron Stoat, Welsh miner and union official, who can be heard talking about his involvement with the strike in the film Still the Enemy Within.

In the UK Coal tour, the team invites 4 local women to become pit wives. I’m shocked to find myself in a dance production. While I like dancing (we have kitchen disco with the kids!), I’m not a proper dancer and although I like a challenge, it’s been hard work both physically and emotionally. I’m not only connected to the mining industry for generations, but also the Miners Institute itself; my uncles and grandfathers paid into it, and used it, my parents met there, it was where I first read my poems on a stage in the bar and had my play Sound Zero performed (Eiry Thomas read my protagonist). There have been lots of tears in rehearsals; it’s a hugely emotional piece. Looking forward to sharing this journey with the audience tonight.

Cardiff Book Festival

Sgwrs Gyda Ifor ap Glyn

I enjoyed the opportunity to  talk in person with Wales’ National Poet, Ifor ap Glyn at the Cardiff Book Festival. We discussed the importance of bilingualism, how we have worked together translating his work, and we shared some of our poetry in Welsh and English.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Ifor and I first met in Washington at the Smithsonian Smithsonian Folklife Festival in 2009. What struck me was how many Americans came to hear the Welsh language poets, and did so time after time, the language no barrier. Ifor and I discussed our hopes that this will happen in Wales. At our Welsh language session there were several non-Welsh speakers and learners. Promising.

 

Thanks to Louise Walsh, Samuel Stone and Literature Wales for the pictures.

 

Fiction Fiesta: The Other Tiger

Last night I had the pleasure of attending the launch of The Other Tiger: Recent Poetry from Latin America, selected and translated by Richard Gwyn. Also attending were notable contributors Jorge Fondebrider and Marina Serrano (Argentina) and Mexican poets Carlos López Beltrán and Alicia García Bergua.

 

 

 

I read the English translations of the women poets present and others from the book and was particularly moved by their words and by hearing the poems read in their first language; it was like a dance, an incantation, poetry with important messages about those who are/have been forcibly absented/disappeared/hacked to death/raped. ‘We live in a terrible sadness,’ said Alicia in regards to narco-crime in Mexico. These poems were brave and important. It put a great deal into context for me. Sobering. I sit in my study ‘faffing’ over words, talent, wondering am I good enough, etc, wasting time and talent when there are writers like this using their words to draw attention to issues of such significance, they risk their lives in so doing.

I look forward to experiencing this book and its introduction by Richard Gwyn. Both Carlos and Jorge spoke of the sensitivity and insight in Richard’s approach to translating the work from these diverse cultures. The book’s organisation is like a novel, has progression, is cyclical too, addresses the dream and non-dream reality.

Although I heard many poems about absence, there was a strong presencing too,  a resurrection of those who have been Othered in so many ways.