events and news

Eisteddfod 2018

Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau, Y Babell Lên

It was a good experience not only to translate from English to Welsh for the first time, but to do so with the work of Meltem Arikan. I felt an affiliation with her cross generational stories anchored in a fairy story. Her beautiful rhythmical work made it an enjoyable task to represent that in Welsh


The event was a gift, and begun with Eric Ngalle Charles and Idrissa Camra on traditional Cameroonian instruments, with Ifor ap Glyn performing, like a shapeshifter, his translation of Eric’s poems. It was hypnotic.


Tonight, we launch Eric’s anthology Hiraeth Erzolirzoli which includes 36 writers from Wales and Cameroon. I’m pleased to have some poems there and amazed at the synchronicity, given that my MA supervisor at the University of Southern Mississippi, some 20 years ago was from Cameroon. The world’s a handkerchief, they say.

Gwaith Cyfieithu/Translation

Mae’n fraint i cael y cyfle i cyfieithu gwaith awdur Twrcaidd Meltem Arikan am yr Eisteddfod 2018.

It’s a privilege to be translating some work of Turkish writer Meltem Arikan for the National Eisteddfod 2018. Looking forward to talking to her on August 6th 11 a.m. on the Literary Pavilion with National Poet of Wales Ifor ap Glyn sharing his translations of  former Cameroon refugee writer Eric Ngalle Charles 

Read Meltem’s account of making work in Wales and in Turkey, how she is able to create without death threats here.

One thing is certain, Meltem was forced to leave Turkey because she dared to question the patriarchy, and this determination to speak free hasn’t stopped with her arrival in Wales. In this article she raises the fact that we in the ‘West’ tend to  be ‘alienated from our own issues.’

Why is it considered a social phenomenon when women are killed in the name of honour in the East but an individual crime when women are killed in the name of passion, obsession or jealousy in the West? Child marriage in the East is seen as a nightmare. But, in the West, does calling pregnant children “teen moms” prevent their lives from turning into a nightmare?


Standing Together: Tri-Lingual Poetry, Story, Song.



Last night I had the pleasure of participating in an event to support linguistic rights. Chapter’s Associate Artist Programme PEILOT and Be Aware Productions initiated the event as part of Chapter Readings and it was supported by Wales PEN Cymru.

It was a sell-out and Luca Paci said ‘the overlapping of languages and songs, like waves in the sea.’ A real joy and a sorrow to hear the poignant lyrics of songs/poems in Kurdish (Kurmanji and Zazaki dialects) about separation, massacre, and exile. There was defiance too in the music, in the gorgeous voices that lifted cherished Kurdish songs into the room in Chapter. Testimony to how a culture can endure and delight and empower others.

Geraint Rhys sang powerful songs in Welsh reminding us to  ‘paid â syllu’n wag at y tywyllwch/ lliwio’r gorwel, teimlo’r teyngarwch’ (Don’t gaze emptily into the darkness/ colour the horizons and feel unity with others.’

Ali Sizer a Kurdish dengbej (bard singer) had us hypnotised with his ‘klam’ poetry/song/music. It laced between us all, speakers, singers, uniting us in one voice, one human heart beating in different languages that on the stage last night understood one another.

I’m grateful to Rhys Jones

Here’s a podcast of the performance.

BBC Radio 4 The Listening Project

Yesterday, Fi Glover introduced the conversation I had with my father for The Listening Project. Dad is a retired tool-maker and fireman and has recently begun writing poems. It started with phone calls when he was out walking by a river or on a mountain, something miraculous he’d seen, heard or realised.  Eventually, I told him he had to start writing his observations down. They came out as fully formed poems. It’s remarkable.

You can listen to our conversation Here                                                                                                                                                                                                                        DandC

Hay Festival Writers at Work

Writers at Work
Welcoming the New Writers, photo Michael Alberry

An absolute pleasure to welcome the new cohort to the Hay Festival’s Writers at Work initiative 2018. In 2016 and 2017, I was fortunate to spend the duration of each festival immersed in this professional development heaven, meeting incredible writer colleagues on the programme, and well-established authors and film makers speaking at Hay. It was a life changing experience for me; since this period, I use Welsh more confidently in my creative work and have had all manner of opportunities arise, but more than that, I can share contacts, industry knowledge that I learned. ‘Hay is the epicentre of generosity,’  said Jon Gower. I would agree and know that it’s important to pass things forward.

Although I bumped Mark Strong when dancing at the disco in Booth’s book store, and chatted with Ben Okri, while Benedict Cumberbatch DJ-ed, and  Tom Jones called me Love (ahh), it was listening to refugee writers, and prison writing facilitators that most moved me, and of course the gentle advice from writers who in our tent spoke with such honesty about their process, their own difficulties and joys. Aicha who had learned to shape her story through the British Red Cross stepped to the podium and said, ‘Here I feel like I will be protected and my voice will be heard and my choice will be respected.’ What a blessing it is that we have festivals like this, and live in a country where we can speak freely without fear of torture or imprisonment. Important to do all we can to ensure that the world is a place where all voices are free.

Some links:

What stayed with me most from the festival

I was interviewed by Dylan Moore Institute of Welsh Affairs

Film interview by Rhys Jones (I read at the Hay Winter Festival in honour of Gillian Clarke’s 80th birthday)

Turkish Journalist Ahmet Altan Jailed Please join PEN Cymru

It Takes Some Seeing . . .

. . . the heart on the door for instance. Simon the master carpenter pointed it out to me.

Every time I go to Llwyn Celyn, there’s a new thing to see. Layers of paint and plaster have been peeled back, slab stones lifted, centuries of paint, varnish, fats from cooking have been stripped from the doors, but perhaps that’s not why these discoveries are being made. Simon had worked for a great deal of time on this door and had never seen the heart, ‘only when it was over there, probably in the sunlight’ and the door ‘was [off its hinges] at an angle’ that’s when it was visible. Maybe the heart is back in the house, it certainly feels like that.

I’ve been sitting in this house and in its grounds before the craftsmen came and the bats had left, for two years. I thought I might ‘capture’ a moment of its history, see a creative vision of one of the inhabitants, hear some story. I realise, I’ve been trying too hard, been, at times, too focused and pressing, looking for what I’ve wanted to see. The whole process therefore has been about learning to just be present, open and aware.

My companion at the house has been Lungs of My Earth by William Henry Searle; it has been a guide in teaching me how to dissolve the self in a landscape and become part of it.

‘There are places we must stay with for the good of our soul. These places will accept you when they know that you know them. . . stay[] with a certain place for as long as the place asks you. . . let its moods overshadow yours. Stay put. . . when it knows you mean business, these places will unveil their inner light to you.’ (96)

This poem ‘The Hours I’ve Sat’ shows that when we try too hard to be the knower, the landscape teaches us a lesson (one we have to unpick). This time, when the house refused to tell me anything (or I was not in a place to listen) nature had something to say . . .

At lunch when everyone had gone to eat, all the radios were off, I sat in the new courtyard and leaned against the wall of the cider house. My hinges were off, I was at an angle, the sun was glorious. Only then, when I took a break from my work, my aims and imaginings, only then did I have a moment where I felt completely outside of my body, and my objectives, and was completely present with the house, which offered ‘a mutual release and growth’ (Searle) that felt like a blessing. . .


When I listened back, I thought I heard sight of another voice, electrical interference no doubt, coincidence probably. Or maybe a collision, me sat there reading out my poem and someone else from another time, a woman who had just cleaned the apples, pulled  off the leaves and was singing, and maybe for a brief moment, I heard her and she heard me  . . .


Hay Festival Scribblers Tour


Plesur i gweithio gyda’r criw o feirdd dawnus yma fel rhan o Sgriblwyr Gŵyl Y Gelli

As part of the Welsh language Hay Festival Scribblers Tour, it was a pleasure to work with these brilliant poets/musicians.

We listened to Aneirin Karadog wow the 200 or so school children with his rapping and cleverly constructed cynghanedd; he was on fire! He had the whole room, teachers too making an incredible group piece. Then Rufus Mufasa shook the roof off with a performance that had us laughing and in tears. She showed the importance of using your voice to tell your truth and talked about her new relationship with the Welsh language.


Then we broke out into mixed-school groups and had to create a ten line poem about place. Roedd e’n profiad da i fi gweithio eto trwy’r iaith Gymraeg. On i dan pwysau. Amazed though at the poems that ensued. I love how first language Welsh speakers (the students here) were so supportive of those of us who have learned it. My confidence in working through Welsh is increasing, but only because of the support of others. (Especially Jon Gower who is unceasing in his kindness and encouragement).


A dyma ein cerdd ni . . .

Hen ysgol yn Llandysul, wedi cau nawr
Afon Teifi ym Mhentrecagal, ‘Pot holes’ mawr
sy’n llenwi’r llawr!
Nant Madog, Cwm Elan, Llanfair ym Muallt,
Cilmeri, Pontwely, a Chastell Cidweli.

Poppit yw fy hoff lle fi
Tonnau mawr sy’n hwyl a sbri!
Bae Caswell, moroedd tawel.
Parc Cwmdonkin, Castell Newydd Emlyn
Pontarddulais ‘Du a Melyn!’

Ael y Bryn i Sir Feirionydd
Abertawe i aelwyd yr Wyddgrug,
cartrefi, teuluoedd, ein hysgolion,
ein Cymru! Ein Cymru ni!


Thanks to the Hay Festival, particularly Aine Venables, Paul Elkington and Marta Codello

Memories of y Bwthyn

Today I’ll be joining artists Heather Parnell David Mackie and Becky Adams in a series of workshops to gather people’s stories, memories of the hospiral/hospice Y Bwthyn in Pontypridd. Sadly the hospital is closing, however a new Y Bwthyn Unit is being built in the Royal Glamorgan hospital. Our aim is to gather people’s images and words to make a beautiful piece commemorating all the ways Y Bwthyn has impacted the community for a hundred years of service.

Please come along and share your thoughts.