Archive for October, 2015

Poem: The Birds of Rhiannon

By Rhian Edwards


The Birds of Rhiannon

Before I was mortal, I was haloed
in feathers, my trinity of familiars;
whose birdsong was legend, serenading
the dead from their dreams, lullabying
the living to torpor.  For the sake
of this world and him, I swallowed
my guardians, let them nest in my belly
and take turns in my throat. The sparrow
became my repartee, my grappling chatter
that flutters away the dead air. The mockingbird
staked claim as my mimicking tongue, parodying
the world as it heard it, to be droll,
to belong. And the thrush was poetry,
my childsong, my verse-voice, the brittle
thread to my blueprint life.

For the sake of my world and him,
I crowded my belly with children,
each deafened in utero by the never-ending
twittering. My birds heckled my sons
for mirroring the man that caged
them within this ungenerous flesh.
My unborn tried walling their ears,
even taking their leave before
they were finished. My pets pecked
and fought over what remained.
But now that a girl is unfurling,
the facsimile of me, their familiar,
they coo and brood over her, sing her
to flower, while laying eggs of their own
under her unspeakable tongue.

From Poetry Wales Summer 2015

Rhian Edwards’s first collection Clueless Dogs won Wales Book of the Year 2013

Review: Gwalia Patagonia by Jon Gower

Reviewed by Dylan Moore

Gwalia Patagonia

Half a decade in the writing, Gwalia Patagonia has been a labour of love for self-confessed ‘professional Welshman’ Jon Gower. For such a small colony (just 162 people originally set out on the old tea clipper Mimosa), in such an obscure end of the world – ‘grey – tough and stunted – wiry, desert shrubs on parched dry scrubland’ – Y Wladfa has attracted an inordinate amount of attention, especially this year, from both academic historians and the popular media. Who better then, than Gower, whose most successful book, The Story of Wales, spans both realms, to pen a volume on the colony to mark its 150th indefatigable year?

It can feel like home,’ he argues in the prologue, emphasising how, extraordinarily, this very un-Wales-like place continues to exert its almost mystical hold on the national imagination. Quite reasonably, the author questions at the outset, ‘the need for another book about the place.’ But ‘I was somehow doomed to write one,’ he goes on to protest, ‘writers don’t have much choice. The books come to seek us out.’ Of course, this is true. Gower and Patagonia were made for each other. The author is the kind of researcher who will make it his mission to read all the previous books, watch all of the documentaries and films then visit every Welsh tearoom in South America. Gower’s passion for Wales and Welshness in all its forms and his inimitable prose style – evocative, effervescent, exuberant – meets its perfect match in the challenge of describing the wildernesses of Chubut.

The writer clearly delights in employing the full breadth of his Brobdingnagian vocabulary. South Atlantic wave patterns are in ‘aquamarine flux’; Puerto Madryn is ‘[h]arsh and dessicated in the arc-lamp heat of summer’; fruit farms are ‘kaleidoscopic’. Pick a page and luxuriate in imagery. But there is more – much more – to Gwalia than descriptive indulgence. There are explorations of the origins of the colonial project and the relationship between the Welsh settlers and the indigenous Tehuelche, chapters focusing on Y Wladfa’s principal towns and others giving voice to the people whose tenacity keeps the Welsh language and Welsh customs alive today, thousands of miles from their forebears’ home.

Gower’s back catalogue contains histories, psychogeographies and travel writing in addition to accomplished fiction, and in Gwalia there is balance and blend of all these styles. As well as giving voice to the inhabitants of the land, the book is haunted by the ghosts of the author’s prodigious reading. If Borges and Marquez are obvious touchstones for any writing about the southern portion of the American continent, it is fascinating to be introduced to lesser-known figures who nevertheless loom large in the writing of Welsh Patagonia. Gower is clearly enchanted by Y Wladfa’s unofficial writer-in-residence Eluned Morgan, daughter of Lewis Jones (for whom Trelew is named), while being less than impressed by the occasional chicanery of Bruce Chatwin, not to mention slightly miffed that his most famous literary predecessor in the region beat him to a description of some ‘Neapolitan ice-cream’ cliffs.

The volume’s structure, with chapters of history followed by chapters of travel and chapters of more personal writing, suits Gower’s propensity for indulging esoteric passions as well as his capacity to encapsulate big-picture visions. He is a Philomath, a bibliophile and a helpless addict of ‘ornithology porn’. But however enjoyable the indulgences that are the hallmark of the writer’s work, only one question really needs to be asked, soberly, of Gwalia Patagonia. Was it worth it? Five years of writing, a six-foot writing desk’s span of reading and a Creative Wales Award to fund the fieldwork, to produce a book about a place already over-trampled by hopeless dreamers and literary giants. The answer, of course, is a resounding ‘yes’; Gwalia Patagonia won’t be the last word on Y Wladfa, but it may be the last for some time.

North Wales International Poetry Festival 2015

Gwyl Farddoniaeth Ryngwladol Gogledd Cymru 2015

The fourth North Wales International Poetry Festival brings together leading poets from Wales and around Europe in a rich multilingual mix of voices.


Wednesday 7th October
Words & Words & Words
19.45, Arts Centre, Aberystwyth. £5
An evening of innovative poetry and spoken word curated by Mary Jacob and presented by Nia Davies. With  Karlis Verdins (Latvia) Jana Putrle Srdic (Slovenia), Nikola Petkovic (Croatia), Ivana Simic Bodrozic (Croatia) and Marko Pogacar (Croatia)  and Matthew Francis, Hywel Griffiths, Eurig Salisbury (Wales).

Thursday 8th October
Panel discussion: Border poetics: Writing across forms
15.00, Room 018, Main Arts, Bangor University. FREE
With Nikola Petkovic, Marko Pogacar, Ivana Simic Bodrozic, Jana Putrle Srdic, Karlis Verdins

Thursday 8th October
International Poetry live with Poetry Wales
18.30, Blue Sky Café, Bangor. FREE
Jana Putrle SrdicKarlis VerdinsRhys Trimble and Guto Dafydd. Introduced by Nia Davies, editor Poetry Wales.

Friday 9th October
Croatian Poetry in Translation
18.00, Cledwyn Terrace Room 3, Bangor University. FREE
With Nikola Petkovic, Marko Pogacar, Ivana Simic Bodrozic. Readings and discussion with Dr Zoë Skoulding, Bangor University.

Friday 9th October
Words and Beyond: Audiovisual Poetics
19.00, Cledwyn Terrace Room 3, Bangor University. FREE
Oscar Martin Centeno – introduced by Dr Diana Cullell, Liverpool University

Saturday 10th October
Whistlestop Words and Music
12.00, Whistlestop Café, Bangor Pier. FREE
Fiona Cameron: launch of Bendigo,
Spectralate: launch of The Students’ Companion / Cydymaith y Myfyrwyr
Air Poems: students of Bangor University
Free Chowder!

About the poets traveling to Wales:

  • Karlis Verdi?s (Latvia) is a poet, translator of T.S Eliot, Walt Whitman, Joseph Brodsky and others, literary critic, researcher at the Institute of Literature, Folklore and Art at the University of Latvia, and musician in the literary band Maukas (Sluts).
  • Jana Putrle Srdic (Slovenia) is a poet and translator of English-language poetry.
  • Nikola Petkovic (Croatia) is a poet, novelist and Professor at The Department of Cultural Studies, University of Rijeka.
  • Ivana Simic Bodrozic (Croatia) is a poet and prose writer and has published five books including the award-winning autobiographical novel Hotel Zagorje.
  • Marko Pogacar (Croatia) has published four poetry collections, three books of essays and a short story collection. He is the editor of Quorum, a literary magazine, and Zarez, a bi-weekly for cultural and social issues. His texts have been translated into some thirty languages.
  • Oscar Martín Centeno (Spain) is a poet and multimedia artist who combines poetry with the use of digital technologies. He also makes documentaries and digital presentations on art and culture.

The 2015 North Wales International Poetry Festival is part of the LITERARY EUROPE LIVE project co-funded by the Creative Europe Programme of the European Union. It is hosted by Bangor University and Aberystwyth University in co-operation with Literature Across Frontiers, Poetry Wales and Wales PEN Cymru with support from Arts Council Wales, the Croatian Writers Society and the Ministry of Culture of Croatia, Culture Capital of Latvia, Latvian Literature Centre, the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Slovenia and Liverpool University, Whistlestop on the Pier and Blue Sky Cafe Bangor.NWIPF2015 banner