Editorial: Summer 2016

Sharon Morris’s poems and photography in this issue bury deep into the Preseli hills. Here Morris uncovers signs of great significance in poems haunted in two languages by a mother and a culture past – a very ancient past. Preseli is particularly dense in Neolithic signs: the Bluestone quarry of Carn Meini that produced the stone transported to Salisbury Plain to make Stonehenge, the tomb of Pentre Ifan, tumuli, cairns, standing stones and circles, dolmens. They make a kind of obscure poetry – a language where the meaning is now ambiguous, uncertain. We don’t know very much about the meaning of these stones only that they were made and moved by humans, people with a shared culture important enough to be erected in a hefty material far more durable than paper or pixels.

Signs that point to more than one possible conclusion happen to be explored elsewhere in this issue. ‘Exit’ by Menna Elfyn connects a lifetime of possibilities of what the sign and the letter X may signal – X is ‘an alien letter’ to the poet growing up in Welsh, X is heaven, a ‘dazzling azimuth’. Later the departed leave through the side door of the crematorium, exiting forever. In SIGNS LIKE THESE , reviewed in these pages, David Greenslade understands the tricksy fun of the sign-as-poem. A sign in an unfamiliar language, an alien letter, or a sign that confuses, with no discernable meaning, these are the doubled-up pieces of language that poetry loves to deal with.

The multidirectional signalling of poem-as-sign or sign-as-poem is not only visual. This issue includes a focus on poetry and disability. The essays, reviews and poems here – by Cath Nichols, Giles Turnbull and Kobus Moolman – remind me that people experience the language-word by multiple perceptual routes and degrees and not everyone shares the same precise embodiment or perceptual dimension as I do. And no matter how disconnected I can feel doing the majority of my reading at a computer all day, their writing, together with Meirion Jordan’s in this issue, reminds me that all language is experienced in the body.

In one of Sharon Morris’s photographs a woman holds her hand over her face. She faces the camera square-on but obscures us from her expression. Does the hand hide or shield? The gestures of the body are also an ambiguous poetic language. But this language is temporary. Whether we leave through the sidedoor of the crematorium or are left ‘excarnate’ in the wild in a stone tomb, only our signs, marks left in the world, are left behind. And also our love. Sharon Morris:

We visit
the cul-de-sac
of bungalows
at Newport,
take a photo
with a mobile phone —
that’s all it takes
to enter through the eye
into the heart
yn ddistaw
and stay there
yn agos.

 

NIA DAVIES

Summer 2016 is available here

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