Cymru Interlude #2 All the Poets Together and Coda

All the Poets Together

(What follows is an encapsulation, and sometimes a direct quote, from each of the poets and authors who have read for us over the last week and a half. In order of appearance: Menna Elfyn, Rufus Mufasa, Kathy Miles, Ifor ap Glyn, Jane Brox , Sally Shivnan, Twm Morys, Adam Hanna (trombone), Mike Parker, Dominic Williams, Pamela Petro and Paul Henry)

Mae cyfieithu ar gyfer bobl eraill; dw i’n ysgrifennu yng Gymraeg. Translation is for other people, I write in Welsh, but home is where we leave from.

Translation is a new way of listening/new voices to be talking/new stories to be proud of, jump off from-sweet-shop-mop-top-non-stop….

Translation is the language of the animals and you don’t want to know what the praying mantis is thinking.

Read my gestures: translation is my everyday, more trouble than it’s worth for someone else to do it and living in the hybridity is the new hero-tale, says the man with the big gut. 

Translation is difficult in the roar and flare of techno-urban-silos, when old lines are blurred and old forms feel foreign, but the silent monks read aloud.

Translations of the heart are imperfectly understood and leave bittersweet unanswered questions.

Translating the past involves a shift in character, leaning on a stick and explaining to the gathered listeners, then pounding the stick into the floor and exhorting all to join in. 

Translating means listening hard to a not-quite-in-common-language, breaking it down in your head and then entering the conversation via trombone.

Translation is a shift in season, in laws, in direction–walking the drover’s track, back and forth amidst the elements.

Translating feelings can be impossible in the mad/heart/pain stages…sometimes the criss-cross of black lines on white paper can turn the world right-side up again.

Translation takes you from a young dreaming girl to the top of a mountain, where you’ve always known what you meant only you never had the word.

Translation is a gaggle of old women, wandering through walls, bringing back old stories in a new place, full of vanished trees. †††


(What follows here is a form of coding, akin to social science methodology–data is preserved but so is anonymity. Of course, if you were there, you will know who you are. When I have to code at school, I use the English alphabet. Seemed like a better idea here to use the Welsh one.)

A asks about rules and systems, is methodical and waits until ready before inviting us all into imagined worlds: wants to make sure the floors are swept first.  Endlessly appreciative with guests and kind to the group.  Castles and rooks will never be the same again…or maybe they will be the same for the first time.

B is a chess tutor, which is not horrifying.  B is comfortable with religious allegory, expansive Welsh poets, wanderlust (and I’m not sure I’ve ever met a person who is comfortable with wanderlust) and a quiet smoke round the back.

C made the most of the manuscripts and jumped in with both feet in each workshop. Worked meticulously, line by line and sound by sound. Will return to a garden, when many of us will only have one in memory. Maybe ask C to guess who this one is…

D loves purple, sees things that others don’t, wrestles with riddles until the bitter end, is a champion glasses-repairer and belated sheep-parent.  Met D before I met D…that’s the beauty of D’s comics genius.

Dd calls out Marco/Polo and I accidentally defaced your property (sorry). Writes, thinks, lives with intensity, and in two languages. Perhaps Patient Zero, but Dd’s insights are more infectious.

E’s stories are immediate and visceral—a young girl wondering about the soot on her father’s face and imagining dragons, a first meal with an elder.  Congenial, honest, shows gratitude through prayer. Should stop ordering hamburgers here—or maybe the next one will be more delicious.

F likes to put sharp turns in stories and poems, has a genuine love of learning and can withstand earthquakes. Chasing sheep and adventure, F is an excellent advertisement for the program, but is no copy, a true original.

Ff creates whole worlds in a moment’s penmanship, and opens the door to conversation in the everyday, ordinary world. Unafraid to speak out against random stabbings, reminds me of a witty and urbane character from old black and white movies (maybe trying to hide a leopard?), would love to read Ff’s work with my kids.

G rocks—or slates, I suppose, and now has the prize book to prove it.  A flexible writer, willing to shift and discover something new. Avid reader, active listener, returning to the drawing board to tell new stories. No small potatoes, but big visions.

NG acts like it is a struggle to live in the space between glasses and no glasses, but in reality sees everything. Perches, listening.  Enacts longing as a pedagogical imperative. Incredibly generous, an honor to work with NG.

H has a mind full of texts, old and new, that mix around and collide with the intuitive and powerful stories that are already there.  Gets frustrated with the detangling process but doesn’t give up, so the struggle becomes beautiful and useful.  Extremely excited about sheep and popsicles.

I speaks when it counts, possesses a marvelous sense of humor, a willingness to question when something seems wrong, and a need for a mug that says Wales on it, damn it.

L is keeping everyone alive.  Has the best tattoo, really evokes a sense of place in a variety of pieces, gives great parenting advice and, like me, is still doing the day job in the evenings, even in Wales.

Ll are gloriously mismatched and desperately brave. Sometimes a walking convenience store. Yearning to be at home inside the self is a hireath worth fighting for. Thank you.

M has had a dangerous adventure looking for fairies, tumbling and stung, but tenacious. With a past at the North Pole and a future in the leafy canopy, it is no surprise that M will see the journey through.

N zooms in, rides to the rescue, is very good at counting. Sartorial splendor, not of the sock variety. Is connected, connects us all, and revels in interactions between drawing and speaking, between hurt and help.

O captures details, does meticulous research, appreciates nuance. She finds the murmur in silence, the sadness in waves and a hidden structure to help all of us articulate the world around us. Raise a glass to the tutor who also makes a beautiful pie.

P has measures of solo and measures of rest. Knew where the ice cream was the whole time. Explored and found hidden treasures but also found a place among the group. Already got credit in the other piece, but that’s what happens when you have a lot of gigs.

PH is the kind of person stories fall from trees for. An explorer who is always pushing forward, PH is nonetheless a calming presence, even when taking the piss out of all and sundry. Tremendous source of inspiration, thank you for making it all possible.

R watches, records, gathers and engineers stories even while whirling in an inward turmoil. A kind and grounded presence, R builds in ways to include others, even in dream landscapes. A bench is named after R, so there is a physical place for R in Wales.

RH, S, T, Th, U represent the rest of the Welsh people who lifted and led us on the way, who were much more than tour guides, tutors (special shout-outs to Sam, Susan and Paul), van drivers, a hostess, a chef, checkout clerks at grocery stores, hospitality workers, laundresses, bartenders, shopkeepers, the chaplain, the librarian…and the sheep, Floss, horses, mountains, waves, castles, rolling hills, rain, sun, gardens–from the depths of the earth to the depths of our hearts. Diolch!

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