This week’s Friday Poem is ‘When in Recovery’ by Emily Blewitt from her collectionThis is Not a Rescue.
In This Is Not A Rescue we are introduced to a poet whose voice is fresh and striking, who writes both forcefully and tenderly about refusing to be rescued, rescuing oneself, and rescuing others. This book is about finding love and keeping it, negotiating difficult family and personal struggles, and looking at the world with a lively, intelligent and sardonic eye.
Bryony Littlefair’s debut collection Escape Room explores the possibilities of freedom, goodness, meaning and connection under late capitalism. Can we escape the imperatives of money, gender and human fallibility to freely construct our own identities – should we even try This complexity is balanced with a resolute joy, humour and irony. If you’ve ever grappled with ‘a desire you could not understand / like wanting to touch dark, wet paint’, had an identity crisis at a corporate away day, or just not known what to do with your Sunday morning, the Escape Room is open for you.
Walking the Valleys is a collection of fifteen walks around the South Wales Valleys. Author Peter Finch suggests trying these interesting urban rambles which feature in the book alongside John Briggs’s lively photographs.
Aberdare: ‘Four and a half miles circular walk around Aberdare, Queen of the Valleys. A splendid walk that takes in the canal, the remains of the iron industry, the chapels and the bustling and once choir-filled town. Ups and downs throughout and thoroughly invigorating. End up at the Cynon Museum, best in the valleys.’
Gelligaer to Bargoed: ‘Six and a half miles from Pengam rail station to Gilfach International (smallest rail platform in south Wales) via townscape and open moor. Pass through an historical vortex – Roman remains, standing stones, Celtic crosses, Welsh castles, reclaimed coal tips and rushing rivers. Start at one rail station and finish at another.’
In her book The Edge of Cymru, Julie Brominicks recounts her year-long walk around the edge of Wales following the Wales Coastal Path and Offa’s Dyke Trail. Here she suggests some easily accessible sections of the route which made an impact on her
‘Porthmadog and Criccieth are both well served by connecting trains and buses making the coast path between them easily accessible for non-drivers like me. This is a dreamy walk. Even the fascinating steam trains, boats, traffic and noisy high street of Porthmadog seem to be tolerated by the surrounding mountains which speak of something else, stronger but silent. Afon Dwyryd is particularly poetic. In all seasons and weathers its light is nuanced, its estuary waters shift. There is intrigue in the shingly marsh at Borth-y-Gest and the labyrinthine paths and secretive inlets that follow. Less so along the beachy stretch from the headland to Criccieth but this stretch is good for being brisk. And Criccieth has a lot more going on than sweet tea-rooms, should you care to look.’
‘Meanwhile for drama with minimum effort, Llanilltud Fawr to Aberogwr is a spectacular walk largely atop an undulating clifftop plateau with less climbing than you might expect for such rocky theatre. These cliffs consisting of uplifted Triassic and Jurassic rock which is rare in Cymru, have a tendency to topple, leaving exposed rock the colour of honeycomb, and rubble like bombed cathedrals, fossils and the occasional dinosaur on the beaches. The views are expansive, the walk remote, and the wooded valleys strange unexpected islands of wildlife. Perhaps I’ve been lucky but late light here on each occasion I’ve visited has been an other-worldly chiaroscuro.’
‘A few precious (or should I say precious few) parts of the coast are accessible for all. The Millennium Coastal Park at Llanelli, in essence a well-designed modern promenade, is a glorious landscaped swirl incorporating wildflower planting, ponds and new woodlands. Meanwhile the promenade at Tywyn though old-school in its ruler-straightness is no less accessible. Much of my childhood was spent on Tywyn prom, whose salt-sticky handrail is as familiar to my skin as the foam creaming up the beach like a Guinness top. A stretch of coast path at Aberporth is also noteworthy – whilst only a mile long, it is fully wheelchair accessible giving users access to a lofty vantage point over the bay.
Walking to me, is opportunity to think, breathe, gain perspective. Yet often I feel it is perceived as a radical act. It seems I don’t ‘go for a walk’ in the expected way. I’m not mad about kit and dislike guidebooks, am not very good at directions and enjoy not knowing much where I am. Furthermore I don’t drive and I’m glad. For me, something is lost by driving some place to have a walk. Walking to me is less pastime more intrinsic, and it never ceases to puzzle me that to engage in the oldest and most reliable way of travelling can cause people so much surprise!’.
Real Dorset is the latest addition to the Seren Real Series of psychogeographic guides. Whilst writing the book, Jon Woolcott explored much of the county on foot and suggests visiting these note-worthy places.
‘At events for Real Dorset, I’m always asked to name my favourite place in Dorset, or sometimes a favourite walk. It’s like picking your favourite child. Each time I choose a different place. Variety is Dorset’s wonder, from the high chalklands of Cranborne Chase to the flat clay of Blackmore to the folded valleys of the west. But my (new) favourite walk is where the land drops swiftly to the sea, around the Valley of the Stones in the south.
Dorset has few stone circles or dolmens – but most are gathered together around the Valley of the Stones, an ancient natural quarry formed by glaciation from which the stones for the monuments were dragged. These are all easily accessed from the South Dorset Ridgeway, which some have speculated was once a processional route between the megaliths. Walking from the sensationally ugly Hardy Monument, built for Nelson’s captain (‘Kiss Me Hardy’) you can find The Hellstone, a dolmen dramatically reconstructed by the Victorians, The Grey Mare and her Colts, a long barrow covered mostly now by earth, and the remote Kingston Russell Stone Circle. Close to the Hardy Monument itself, is a new stone circle, built only in 2018 and which aligns to the midsummer sunrise. Aside from the stones, the views are magnificent and the walking generally easy and flat. Take a sandwich, watch the stones, feel the ancient power.
Map: OS Explorer OL15 (Purbeck and South Dorset). By car: park in the National Trust car park at the Hardy Monument. By public transport: First Bus run services along the coast which stop at Portesham.’
If you’re still hungry for some walks but fancy yourself more of an urban explorer, check out these suggestions from Cardiff poet Peter Finch. During lockdown, he decided to walk to Cardiff border, as Covid restrictions confined people to staying within their local authority. Walking the edge allowed Finch to view the city as never before, and you can too on these routes.
The Peterstone Gout Diversion Peterstone Wentloog to the Gout and back (via the golf club)
An easy circular three mile ramble on Cardiff’s weirdly flat out of this world coast land. Pills, drainage reens, sea-operated sluices, the remains of a medieval harbour, site of the great flood of 1607 and a golf club that will let non-members into the clubhouse. ‘
Graig Llysfaen Breath-taking views from this slide along Cardiff’s protecting ridge. Start at the Ty Mawr, take in a cold war communications tower, Cardiff’s most northerly extremity in a farmer’s field and the magnificent trees of the Coed Coesau Whips. Start at the Ty Mawr and finish at the Maenllwyd Inn.
This week’s Friday Poem is ‘Valet’ by Dai George from his collection Karaoke King.
Dai George’s confident second collection Karaoke King, addresses the contentious nature of the times. Always deeply thoughtful but also alternately ebullient, angry, curious, ashamed, the poet moves through urban and digital spaces feeling both uneasy and exhilarated. There is a feeling of history shifting, as a younger generation confronts its ethical obligations, its sense of complicity and disappointment. Ecological crisis hovers in the background. Karaoke King also contains numerous reflections on popular culture, culminating in ‘A History of Jamaican Music’, a sequence at the heart of the volume speaking to urgent contemporary questions of ownership and privilege, pain and celebration.
This week’s Friday Poem is ‘The Crux’ by Vanessa Lampert from her debut collection Say it With Me.
Say It With Me, Vanessa Lampert’s debut poetry collection, is a call to unite. These wry, candid poems playfully record the foibles and fables of domestic life. Portraits concerning memory and family juxtapose poignant poems of parenthood, loss and the body in triumph and decline. Through perceptive, vivid storytelling, Lampert lays bare human truths that are curious, funny and moving.
You’ll Never Be Anyone Else offers a unique story of survival and empowerment told in spite of experiences of violence and prejudice. A confident exploration of identity, self-acceptance and experiences of ageing, Clyne uses playful wit, and colourful imagery to explore Jewish and lesbian identity through various stages of life. Clyne is a distinctive new voice with a powerful message about being true to yourself.
Golem: man made from clay and Kabbalistic spells, by rabbis to protect Jews from persecution. Truth: תֶמֶא†was written on his forehead and God’s name on his tongue.
Tchotchkele (diminutive of tchotchke): a trinket, a cute child. Mazel tov: good luck. Cnadle: a dumpling. Schmutter: a rag.
This week’s Friday Poem is ‘My Welsh Wool Coat’ by Amy Wack from the anthology Where the Birds Sing Our Names. Edited by Tony Curtis, money raised from sales of the book go to Welsh children’s hospice Tŷ Hafan based in Sully, South Wales.
Where the Birds Sing Our Names is an anthology created to raise money for Tŷ Hafan, a charity which provides care and support for children with life-limiting conditions, and their families, across Wales. Contributors include four National Poets – Gillian Clarke, Jackie Kay, Michael Longley and Gwyneth Lewis, as well as some of the best-known writers in the UK and beyond – from Max Boyce and Lord Rowan Williams to the young singer-songwriter Kizzy Crawford.
“This anthology enriches the reader. It is a book to be savoured and enjoyed – the celebration of each wonderful moment from conception through a toddler’s first steps and all the family dynamics of life: the simplest of encounters, of depth and beauty.” – Baroness Finlay of Llandaff.
Where The Birds Sing Our Namesis available directly from Tŷ Hafan in their shops or online. All proceeds from sales of the book go directly to the charity, no other fees are deducted.
On Saturday 22nd April at 3:30pm, contributors to the anthology Tony Curtis, Rhian Edwards, Jonathan Edwards and Christopher Meredith will be reading at Abergavenny Writing Festival. The event is free and copies of the book will be on sale. Find out more and register here.
This week’s Friday Poem is ‘Magdalen’ by Damian Walford Davies from his collection Judas.
In short-lined, intensely suggestive dramatic monologues, Damian Walford Davies vividly summons moments of fear and swagger, doubt and passion, despair and nonchalance as outlaw Judas finds himself haunted by his chequered and extraordinary past. Drawing on conflicting representations of Judas spanning twenty centuries, this chain of poems sets out to challenge orthodoxies and easy pieties. Judas offers an imaginative map of ancient enmities – and dares to hint at resolutions – in the form of a dramatic autobiography of the man whose most famous act (they say) was a kiss in the dark.
This week’s Friday Poem is ‘In Spring’ by Rhiannon Hooson from her collection The Other City. Rhiannon’s new collection Goliat was published in 2022.
Shortlisted for Wales Book of the Year,The Other City is full of sharply focused, beautifully resonant and deeply felt poems. The poet charts a course through real and imagined landscapes, where actions are done and undone, and the everyday made unfamiliar. Drawing on the personal and political histories of the Welsh countryside where she grew up, as well as more enigmatic mythologies, the poems map a journey through both the familiar and the foreign, giving us glimpses of unsettling spaces, where light falls “like silk pegged out to rot across the snow”.
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On Tuesday 11th April, hear Rhiannon reading from her new collection Goliat in the Seren Showcase at Waterstones Cardiff. Tickets £6. Starts at 7pm. Book via the Waterstones website.
An intelligent and beautiful book, Goliat offers absorbing stories of a precarious world on the brink of climate emergency. Employing startling imagery and a deep sense of history, these poems explore the irreplaceable beauty of a wild world, and the terrible damage that humans might do to each other and the earth.
This week’s Friday Poem is ‘For Natalia’ by Eric Ngalle Charles from his debut collection Homelands.
In Homelands Eric Ngalle Charles draws on his early life raised by the matriarchs of Cameroon, being sent to Moscow by human traffickers, and finding a new home in Wales. Rich in tone, subject and emotion, Charles’ poetry moves between the present and the past, between Africa and Europe, and between despair and hope. It discovers that historical injustices now play out in new forms, and that family tensions are as strong as the love within a family. Despite the difficulties Charles has faced, Homelands contains poems of fondness, warmth and humour and, as he returns to Cameroon to confront old ghosts, forgiveness.
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