Wales

Gillian Clarke

Blog posts in total 6

Posts

  1. Home soon! No more gigs, no travelling, no going anywhere before Twelfth Night. There's work to do, poems to write, competitions to judge, manuscripts to read, correspondence to catch up with, but it can all be done at home at the table in the glass-walled room from where I can see miles of Cere...

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  2. Saturday 27 November Y Drwm, National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth Another veil of snow, and all has turned to ice. It's very, very cold. People phone: 'Is the reading still on? Are you going?' Of course! Try and stop me. The Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, is on the train from Manchester. The coldest November for decades would not stop her keeping her promise. The car takes the first icy hill in the helpful tracks of tractors. After the mile to Post Bach, the A486 is clear. Kites are aloft, flying in pairs and in fours, scanning the land for carrion. David drops me at the library and goes to meet Carol Ann's train. Aberystwyth looks gorgeous, the town spread below, the great library building high above the sea, the curve of Cardigan Bay against miles of snow covered mountains. We take it in joyfully, then retreat for a warming bowl of broccoli and stilton soup, bread and cheese, in the National Library café. The Drwm is drumming with life as we enter. The audience applauds, and I feel like applauding them too for coming through ice and snow to be with us. Fifty per cent of the atmosphere of every good poetry reading is created by the audience. The circular shape of the Drwm helps too, a cosy, enclosing arena that seats 100 people. Rocet Arwel Jones introduces us eloquently, and Dafydd John Pritchard reads a special poem written in response to Carol Ann's The World's Wife. The perfect Welsh introduction. A full house, an audience alert to the movements between solemn and light moments. These are what a good audience gives to make a warm afternoon in a cold world. We rise to the occasion, enjoying ourselves. There is no strain in communicating music, meaning and perhaps magic to such a gathering. Carol Ann reads some of her innovative new bee poems, the movingly beautiful elegies and remembrances to her mother, poems of war (Afghanistan, and older wars recalled). Her litanies come close to inventing a new form, using a historically sacred form to weave the ordinary with the epic. The audience love John Barleycorn, listing old pub names, and her rebuke to Royal Mail for abolishing the poetry of county names in favour of postcodes only. Try replacing 'all the birds of Oxfordshire' etc with 'all the birds of CF11', or equivalent! Turn in your grave, Edward Thomas. I read mostly unpublished poems, a new Carol of the Birds, and a few old ones to mark the season of Advent. Afterwards we linger to talk with old friends, people we've tutored at Ty Newydd, met at other gigs. Then an elegant bone china cup of tea and a slice of home-made lemon cake with friends in St David's Road, and off to the station for the little train which will carry Carol Ann across the icy map of mid-Wales, where, in the night, the temperature at Llysdinam plunges to -18 celsius. Another typical Welsh gig, as Carol Ann would say. Gillian Clarke National Poet of Wales Gillian Clarke is blogging for the BBC during her seven-date poetry tour of Wales, which runs until 10 December 2010. For more information on the National Poet's tour of Wales visit the Academi website.

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  3. Friday 26 November Snow! Just a veil in Ceredigion as we set off for Carmarthen, a completely white world as I write at Blaen Cwrt on Friday morning. Serious snow, crisp and deep and even. Though only November, it's very cold. For me and Menna Elfyn, sharing the stage tonight, it's just 10...

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  4. Between reading with Paul Henry at the Wyeside, Builth, and my gig with Menna Elfyn at Trinity, Carmarthen next week, I fly to India for the Hay Kerala Festival. We pass over Mosul, Baghdad, Basra. I disobey the air hostess and lift my blind. I want to see the world, snow-capped mountains sout...

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  5. A poet's life is never dull. Tuesday 19th October and I'll be in Betws-y-Coed with Ifor ap Glyn. He is a good poet, and very entertaining - but will anybody come to the gig? The drive north from Ceredigion is glorious. Vast rain-clouds peel off the Irish Sea, sweeping east and leaving a clear blue sky. From the moment we turn inland at Aberystwyth, the mountains are red with bracken, trees turning gold, with the most intense rainbow I ever remember over the slate grey town of Blaenau Ffestiniog. The room in the Gwydyr Hotel awaits. Dwynwen from Llanrwst sets out her stall of books for sale, the Academi banner is hung. We talk over high tea, egg and chips and a glass of Sauvignon Blanc. The usual early birds don't arrive. Fearing the worst, Ifor and I prepare for a change of plan. We abandon the lectern, draw comfortable chairs close, and wait. In the event we're not a crowd but an intimate group, which has its own charm. Ifor and I read a few poems a time, responding to each other, matching poem to poem. He has prepared translations to hand to the audience, and reads in Welsh and in English, weaving between the two as nimbly as a sheepdog. One curious fact: I am exhausted! It takes far more energy to communicate poetry to a few in a big room than to light the spark with a full house of adults, or an audience of 2000 teenagers. Thursday 21st October - off to Builth Wells to read at the Wyeside Centre with Paul Henry. I am as confident in Paul as I was in Ifor, but success lies with the audience. They can make or break the magic, so I'm nervous. Again, the drive is beautiful, 60 miles through red mountains even rosier in the light of a low sun, with sudden visions of yellow - a golden tree, a sunlit slope. Is there a lovelier season to travel through Wales? I need not have worried. It turns out to be a great evening. Builth is a town with a heart, a feeling of community, and the Royal Welsh has established a habit of gathering. In the excellent High School poetry is valued in English and in Welsh. The venue is warm, arty, purposeful, and as we arrive people are gathering in the bar. The little theatre space is comfortably full. People have come from Hereford, Presteigne, Cardiff. Paul is funny, warm, and moving too, and the lovely audience makes the magic happen. Phew! What a relief! There's a long and winding road to go before Christmas. Gillian Clarke National Poet of Wales Gillian Clarke is blogging for the BBC during her seven-date poetry tour of Wales, which runs until 10 December 2010. For more information on the National Poet's tour of Wales visit the Academi website.

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  6. Tour of the troubadours! The phrase has a Medieval ring that gives me a little romantic kick, though my horse is a car and the old cart tracks are the A-roads and M4 that take me criss-crossing my country over the borders of language. I'm leaving home a few days at a time, gigging with some o...

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