Then spree

poetry & diary by Nia Davies

Tag: Wales

International poets in conversation

This weekend I am blogging for  Gŵyl Farddoniaeth Ryngwladol Gogledd Cymru – the North Wales International Poetry Festival over at http://northwalesinternationalpoetryfestival.blogspot.co.uk. In the lead up to the events I’ve been interviewing some of the fantastic international poets on the bill. So far I’ve posted mini-interviews with Greek poet Vassilis Amanatidis and Doina Ioanid from Romania, a poet well-known for her surreal prose poems. Tomorrow I will also publish conversations with Eiríkur Örn Norðdahl (Iceland) and Christine Huber (Austria) with more to come over the weekend. You can read more about the festival at http://www.northwalesinternationalpoetryfestival.org.

DI

Doina Ioanid

Vassalis Amanatidis

Vassalis Amanatidis

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Gŵyl Farddoniaeth Ryngwladol Gogledd Cymru / North Wales International Poetry Festival

Next week is the second Gŵyl Farddoniaeth Ryngwladol Gogledd Cymru – the North Wales International Poetry Festival. A brilliant lineup of poets from across Europe will be performing at events in Bangor, Mold, Aberystwyth, Caernarfon and Portmeirion. I’ll be performing with them at an event at the Blue Sky Cafe in Bangor on Friday the 18th of October.  Here is the programme (in pdf) NWIPF folded flyer and NWIPF folded flyer. Or visit: http://www.northwalesinternationalpoetryfestival.org.

I’m also blogging for the festival at http://northwalesinternationalpoetryfestival.blogspot.co.uk  starting with brief interviews with the poets involved.
NWIPF flyer

Transom

The new issue of US-based online journal Transom is entitled Neither Now nor England.  It features poems from a selection of British poets as well as their views on ‘making it new’, the highs and lows of the UK poetry scene and some  interesting commentary on their own pieces. I’m happy to be included among them with three new poems: ‘History of our bookishness’, ‘Three places’ and ‘man you might like’. Visit the issue here: http://www.transomjournal.com/issue5/Issue5.html

The Next Big Thing

I’ve been invited by the poet Amy Key to take part in this blog series where writers answer the same set of questions then pass them on to four other writers. You can read Amy’s interview here and find your way back along the trail of writers.


Where did the idea come from for the book?

Many of the poems in the new pamphlet Then Spree were written without a book in mind, but some of the origins of some of the ideas and impulses include:  things seen from night-bus windows, the glitches, fissures and blooms of language and the world as experienced by a diver. As well as… things my friends say, unusual auditory environments, off-record histories,  folk song and story, watery places and the up hill struggle to learn a foreign language (Turkish!).

What genre does your book fall under?

Poetry

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

There is perhaps one distinct character (other than myself) in Then Spree – the man (or creature) in ‘Periphylla Periphylla’ who is trapped in a submerged world which is part deep sea, part London street.

I had already written this drunk lonely character’s voyage on the number 38 bus and was half way through writing the second part of his walk through Canonbury when the man himself staggered up to me. On seeing me he stopped, looked me in the eyes, (I was sitting on a garden wall writing by street-light), then he stumbled on. I would like this man to play the Jelly man, but it’s most likely I will never see him again.

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

Song’s outer reaches

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

I’ve been writing poetry seriously since I was a teenager and the poems in this pamphlet date back to around five years ago. The manuscript took around 4 months to bring together and edit.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I am incredibly lucky in that I have been able to travel and meet people who have opened up the world for me.

The poetry of Lutz Seiler, Sarah Gridley, DA Powell, Denise Riley and others have been vital to me – especially in the last few years of writing the poems in this pamphlet.

A book of Manley Hopkins poems given to me at secondary school by my teacher Mr Martin seems to have had long-range impact and so have nursery rhymes sung to me in Welsh and English, recordings of Michael Rosen’s poems for children and perhaps most importantly for all my writing – folktales from all over the world, told by my grandmother Liza Watts who is a professional storyteller.

From early on the poet and editor Roddy Lumsden encouraged me, challenged my writing approach and provided me with an ever-evolving and inspirational reading list.

And I recently read this which I love: “It’s necessary to maintain a state of disobedience against . . . everything. One must remain somehow, though how, open to any subject or form in principle, open to the possibility of liking, open to the possibility of using.” Alice Notely in the Poetics of Disobedience.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

In Then Spree there are secret staircases, vengeful saviours, a man with a jellyfish heart, nudism, white noise, stray ballerinas, singing bowls and obsolete instruments.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

The pamphlet is published by Salt in the Salt Modern Voices series.

You can order a copy of the pamphlet on the Salt website

Three poems in Poetry Northeast

Three poems in Poetry Northeast

I’m pleased to have three poems, Born in a moody basket, His glorious and Ocean Nomad, published in the second issue of Boston-based magazine Poetry Northeast.

My first guest blog on the New Welsh Review website

“Outside a West London pub, Serogo repeated my name. I’ve been asked about it many times before but I’ve never got this reaction: “Ah Wales – freedom fighters!”…”

I have been asked to write some guest posts on the New Welsh Review editor’s blog. So for the first one I took the opportunity to bang the drum for West Papua and the people resisting the brutal colonial oppression of the Indonesian government. Please visit http://newwelshreview.blogspot.com to find it.

Reading my poetry at the Betsey Trotwood, London

Recorded by Jess Shankleman at Salt Plus, February 15th 2011:

Nia Davies at the Betsey Trotwood

Penbryn, Llangranog. May

carreg y ty

I’m in Penbryn, Cardigan Bay and all the animals are at it: midges, ponies, birds that come in pairs, even the slugs. Swallows are back from their adventures. I came here once before, ‘tippled and toppled down the hill to the beach’ according to my mum. But it’s another discovery for me now.  It’s a new pocket where the rocks are black – heaped and shattered in waves and strata that curl up to make dark looming cliffs. Where squalls have hurled themselves in briny tempests and broken up the windy shore line.  And the forests are bright green and humming with the bees nosying in to  the wildflowers. Kestrels hover as if hung by string above their prey.  My caravan is parked in a grassy place ‘where you can lie on your back and look at the stars if you want to! No light pollution here.’  The cows are heavy with udder and calf and the hedgerows are singing. The birds even do jazz with drum wing-beats and trumpet-voices.

“Wales is a small coat made of deep pockets.” Horatio Clare

Culver Hole

Culver hole isn’t on my OS map. It’s a secret. A lowtide fortress for smugglers or is it pigeon-racers?

The sea spits a brain-splintering light today, here on the south shore of the Gower. Down we clamber to the shingly rock, the worn plaster-shattered plateau. This is Overton Mere – a mere mere – no sand in this crevice.

We travel with a dog, Ed – a dog with no strap to strap on, with a smaller-than-he-thinks complex. A little legged dog who has to be carried like a baby on the homeward road. ‘The reefs are working the waves,’ says Leon and I wonder how the moving parts get worked on by the solid parts. But maybe that’s the surfer’s trick – to be knowledgeable in crashable substances.

Perhaps message bearers hid here in the well-worn sea smooth crack of the cliff. The blues are pale and the cobbles round. But above the tide-line the rocks stay jagged, unworked on by the waves. In the crack is what seems like a building’s façade; stonework that includes windows and doors. It towers well above the beachy bottom.

It’s all perfect for bouldering, hanging, swinging but my limbs have gone dis-flexy since London claimed me. Leon is up in the masonry before we know it whilst Zoe and I are left wondering where our courage has gone to. We try to dangle on the rope but uneasiness takes over. Neither does the hobbly ladder dangling on another bristly rope and clanging against the cliff-face inspire much confidence. Ed is more interested in rock-pooling. Leon says it smells like pigeon shit in there. And so one purpose of the place is made clear – it’s a pigeon roost.

And maybe smugglers took roost here too. Inside there are walkways and stairs. Perhaps the hole’s one-time occupants caught the brandy flotsam and the rum jetsam. Little crafts could row right up to one of the portholes to drop off their contraband.

Nothing about Culver hole is very clear. But the name may come from the Old English for pigeon and, according to my google search, this place may have been somewhere to farm pigeons in a time when foul winters drove ‘desperate people’ to eat these scraggly birds. It is the home of the Blue Rock pigeon, a species gone interbred and feral. They are quick-shaggers, independent of tilling and sowing and back breaking. Tasty.

It also isn’t far from Port Eynon’s Salt House which is could be another clue. There are mentions of a pirate lord, John Lucas, who built a smuggling empire on this coast in the 17th century. Kind, powerful and criminal in turn, so the story goes, eventually he was beheaded by Cromwell. In other lore I find that Culver hole may have been used to store ammunition and could have also been the sea entrance for a long-gone castle.

And then I find, that in an archaeological dig in 1989, ‘a small fragment of an antler was found trapped in an alcove’. Well well, the mystery deepens and it smells distinctly of pigeon poo.

(copyright, Nia Davies, March 2010)

Diary – Dyfi

There’s sweet haze over the sand behind Borth. The light over the beach looks dusty but it’s really full of moisture, marking where the Irish sea is thrown up in the sundown.

The train snakes past Ceredigion’s green dragon hump with their spiny fences and blackened marks on the undulating horizon. For a long time now, I have thought of these hills as a perfect combination – soft but exposed – mossy green tufts with odd, crooked edges.

From the estuary we follow the Dyfi inland. Pink strips of sun-cloud reflected on the river’s surface make a glistening strip that coils bright through the dark soaked grass. Green eve turning blue.

I’m thinking of rivers, thick and furious in places, swollen but calm in others. Rain here, in the words of my taxi driver in Aber, is ‘like a dishcloth – always needs to be wrung out’. It’s a place of literary cabbies and a land ripe for kayakers. In Cumbria there are ‘extreme care teams’ – canoeing rescuers paddling around checking that the stranded sheep have got plenty of bales to chew on. I imagine these flooded fields hide sheep corpses – there are no paddling saviours here. Oh well, they must make do.

The Dyfi’s watershed is an ever-damp net that is always catching the Atlantic’s squalls in its lush skirts.  And Aberdyfi’s sea-front’s glints white, ever bewitching. The unavailability shines at me across the water. I have never ventured that far, making the place practically exotic.

Meanwhile, London’s giant grey pull is hauling me back after a few frenetic days in Aberystwyth. The cities have undergone a brief role reversal.

But now I’m thinking rivers: the one I was floating down in my dreams recently. The kind of summery luxury only dreamt of in December. I was drifting downstream, past the buzz of water-skaters and the trees spilling in on both sides. Roger Deakin passed by and I greeted them lazily.

Watery imagination is elliptical. And now I come round to it – perhaps I am sailing past some sort of psychic conference – where my Elysium future on earth is cupped in the hands of certain powerful people currently in conversation in Copenhagen.

© Nia Davies, 2009