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The Poet Speaks

The Poet speaks

This is going to be a short blog post because I am very busy with Christmas festivities :) I did, however, think you might like to see a couple of videos of my graduation ceremony on Wednesday 18 December, 2019.

Interview with the Poet

As I came to the end of my MA course I was contacted by the university media team. They asked me if I'd be willing to talk about my experience of studying at Swansea University as a blind person. Most definitely, I replied! The video was made public on graduation day and you can watch it here :)

a Graduation Interlude

One of my favourite classical composers, Robert Schumann, wrote a piece titled The Poet Speaks in his Op15 set of pieces, Kinderszenen (Scenes from Childhood). Why not take two minutes out of your busy day to listen to this piece by a true poet of the piano. The Poet Speaks, played by Clara Haskill.

Haskil was born into a Sephardic Jewish family in Bucharest, Romania, and studied in Amsterdam under Richard Robert (whose pupils also included Rudolf Serkin and George Szell) and briefly with Ferruccio Busoni. She later moved to France, where she studied with Gabriel Fauré's pupil Joseph Morpain, whom she always credited as one of her greatest influences. The same year she entered the Conservatoire de Paris, officially to study with Alfred Cortot although most of her instruction came from Lazare Lévy and Mme Giraud-Latarse, and graduated at age 15 with a Premier Prix.

[...] In 1913 she was fitted with a plaster cast in an attempt to halt the progression of scoliosis. Frequent illnesses, combined with extreme stage fright that appeared in 1920, kept her from critical or financial success. Most of her life was spent in abject poverty.
(from the Wikipedia article on Clara Haskill)

stepping into the World

at the start of the graduation ceremony it was explained to the congregation that the students were graduands at the start of the ceremony and, through the act of walking across the stage to shake hands with the chancellor of the university in front of the academic heads of department, the students would become graduates. The current chancellor of the university, Professor Dame Jean Thomas, graduated from University College Swansea in the 1960s with a first class honours degree in chemistry. I'm glad I didn't know that before the ceremony else I might have ended up discussing the third class honours degree I graduated from UCS in the 1990s!

After shaking hands with the chancellor, most students immediately moved onwards off the stage. As I shook hands and responded to the chancellor's kind, “Congratulations, well done,” I responded “thank you,” and then added the Welsh, “diolch yn fawr.” I've never been very good at writing Welsh down but, because the vast majority of my undergrad friends in the 1990s were first-language Welsh speakers, I can understand a moderate amount of Welsh and can respond with a much smaller amount of Welsh. Prof. Thomas asked me (in Welsh) if I spoke Welsh, to which I answered “tipyn bach,” (a little), to which Prof. Thomas replied (in Welsh) “me too.”

Until I watched this video of me, I was unaware how much applause and cheering I got as I walked to the centre of the stage. I remember other students receiving as much (and some a bit more), but I don't remember many other students being clapped as they left the stage as well! :)

Published ineducationPoetry


  1. Congrats on such a great accomplishment with your graduation. The interview was a nice read and I liked the videos as well.

  2. Giles Giles

    Thank you Cindy 🙂 I hope you have a lovely Christmas 🙂 xx

  3. Nell Nelson Nell Nelson

    Applause and WOOOOOOOs too, and looking very handsome in those robes. What a memory! Thank you for sharing it, and merry everything, Giles. x

  4. Frances Browner Frances Browner

    Oh, I didn’t really realize your whole story until now, Giles, what a remarkable journey you have been on. Love your voice, hope to hear it in person someday, reading our poetry. Congratulations again on your graduation, and best of luck in the future. Love that piano piece, have it playing quietly in the background here.

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