Crazy Encounters of the Poetic Kind
‘“All Roads Lead to Rome” is the modern reading of a medieval statement, apparently originally a reference to Roman roads generally and the Milliarium Aureum (Golden Milestone) specifically. As a proverb, it refers to the fact that many routes can lead to a given result.’ Wikipedia)
When you identify as a poetry person, reader or writer, you're on a meandering road that doesn't just fork, it twists and turns and somersaults and stretches for miles. As a chemistry student at Swansea University I'd written poetry for my own enjoyment but was more likely to be found playing the name game or the matchbox game in the JCR Bar than I was attending poetry readings.
My mother had a Brother word processor and I used to type up my poems on that and save them on 2.8" floppy disks, which you can read about on the Museum of Obsolete Media (I have a tshirt from the Museum of Techno but I'd love one from the Museum of Obsolete Media!). I printed everything I wrote out on A5 paper and stored it loose leaf between a pair of blue textured A5 sheets Sellotaped together, approximating a book cover. I showed one of my uni friends those poems towards the end of our first year, but very few other friends knew that I wrote poetry; I did, even at that early stage think of myself as 'a poet', or at least somebody who wrote poetry, but I didn't feel brave enough to admit that very widely.
My poetry journey started in earnest with the Swansea Year of Literature, which as far as I can tell dates to 1995, at least that's when The Dylan Thomas Centre opened as Tŷ Llên (‘House of Literature’) and I'm pretty sure the two things coincided. I saw many authors and poets reading at those events, my favourites being Irish poets Matthew Sweeney and Micheal O'Siadhail, and Yorkshire poet Tony Harrison, Scottish author James Kelman, whose book ‘How Late it Was, How Late’ Wiki notes “Won the 1994 Man Booker Prize amid much controversy.”, and Michael Ondaatje reading from ‘The English Patient’ which was another Booker Prize winner, this time from 1992.
I loved Swansea and lived there for 10 years in total, as a student, an unemployed creative idler, and in my first adult job, employed by the Driver Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA). My journey then took me to London to work for the Dept. For Transport, then named DTLR — Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions, or, as one internal wag (not me!) quipped, Department for Transport and Loads of other Rubbish, a statement that found its way to the national press. London life has featured in a few of my poems since then. I seem to have yoyoed along the M4 corridor, east from Swansea to London, West back into Wales, east again to Bristol and then west again to Cilfynydd (roughly pronounced Kill-vun-ith), a lovely little town high up on a mountainous hill overlooking Pontypridd. Technically speaking they could have extended the M4 further west so I could have driven over to the States, but I know I'd be writing this post on a laptop, still stuck in an M4 traffic jam trying to get to America; maybe there's a poem in that ;)
My poetry footsteps have now brought me back to bardic Wales, which has been a blessing for my writing. I've written more poems in the time I've been back, five years this year, than at any point of my life. I find it very intriguing how the places poets live can inspire and invigorate their output.
There and Back Again, a Poet's Tale
So now I'm back in Wales and my weekly writing impetus comes through a creative writing group, tutored by poet and playwright Mair De-Gare Pitt, herself a Swansea University alumna. The group meets at The Power Station, an adult education centre in the county of Torfaen (pronounced ‘Tor-vine’). The group consists of a mixture of short story writers and poets, so there are a lot of different ideas floating around the room, alongside the aroma of cooked breakfasts permeating up from the cafe.
Very recently a new group has started at The Power Station, a short course focussing solely on poetry, funded by Literature Wales. It is run by Clare Potter. If you click on that link you'll be taken to a page on the Aberystwyth University website where there is an interview with Clare, in which she talks about many things, including Welsh identity and her poetic journey. It's a 30 minute video and well worth watching.
At the first class Clare told me she was sure she'd met me somewhere before. I agreed it was possible but I wasn't sure I'd have made any memorable impression! Apart from reading three poems at Risca Library in 2015, repeated a few weeks later at Mair Pitt's launch event for the Cinnamon anthology, ‘Quintet’ in Newport, I've only been in the audience not standing up and reading any poems myself.
Taking you back to where this post started, my university days, my main group of university friends were first language Welsh speakers and members of the Gym Gym, Gymdeithas Gymraeg to give it its full name, the Welsh language society. Clare Potter is a bilingual poet, writing and performing in English and Welsh language. At the second of Clare's classes we talked a little more and it transpired we'd both been students at Swansea University at about the same time. I asked if she'd been a member of the Gym Gym, and indeed she had. Not only that but she'd been in the very same academic year and her room had been on the Welsh speakers floor, the one below where my room was in Nuadd Sibly (Sibly hall). So we'd been in the same circle of friends without either of us knowing the other liked and wrote poetry ... until I materialised at her poetry class. Just for clarification, don't forget I was sighted in my Swansea days so my new friend, the white cane wasn't any assistance in figuring out how we'd previously met.
Could it get any crazier? Of course it could! Clare's book ‘Spilling Histories’ was a 2006 Cinnamon Press publication :)
#Poetry #ClarePotter #MairPitt #CinnamonPress #SwanseaUniversity #GymGym