This summer, I’ll be leading a new fortnightly course at the very wonderful Poetry School on poetry and the monologue.
We will read classic and contemporary wonders, discuss, share, suggest, create our own beautiful new work – and have much fun along the way. This course is ideal for those seeking to explore imaginative avenues in a friendly and supportive environment.
Booking is now open for this course and many others.
Following the departure of our gifted Chief Executive since 1998, Peter Finch, Literature Wales is now seeking to appoint a new leader to carry the organisation forward into an exciting and ambitious future.
We are seeking an individual with a raft of energy, creative and entrepreneurial flair, and the ability to provide a truly inspirational and visionary leadership which reaches out to all sections of our literary community and general public. This is a rare opportunity to lead literature provision, programming and appreciation at a time of great renaissance in the two literatures of Wales. The ability to speak Welsh is essential for this post.
For further details on the job description and how to apply click here.
Back from Spain, where there was gloriously nothing to do – except to swim in the Med, read, let Sangria warmly rise to the head in a lovely tapas bar and play cards on the terrace. All this while the waves rushed and retreated. I think I am coming to understand the true purpose of holidays more and more as time passes.
So, safely returned, if somewhat depressed.
And then, at about 4am on Sunday morning: sirens. Around the corner from us, the local boyz were tearing up the neighbourhood. Some even apparently brought along shopping trolleys, clearly wedded to Baden-Powell’s dictum: Be Prepared! Chief in their sights: JD Sports and our local, remarkably enlightened HMV, which does a good line in more specialist fayre (I once even discovered not one but two copies of the Director’s Cut of Reds) and has a wonderful staff straight out of Kevin Smith central casting (and I mean that in the best sense). The boyz apparently went for the trainers first and the XBoxes second. That makes sense. They also managed to cover most of the high road in coat hangers and mannequins from H&M and further attenuate the fortunes of local independent shopkeepers on their way home. Your intrepid reporter, it must be said, did not get out of bed as witness, but, instead, refreshed on Twitter from safely under the duvet. The future of all news reporting. The next morning, I awoke with the strangest dream fresh in the mind: it was 1980-something and I was in love with Mickey Rourke and the country was in tur–… Well, there’s no place like home. And sometimes, home is, indeed, so sad.
In other news, I am delighted to be joining Parthian Books as an Associate Editor. I’ve long admired Parthian’s style and substance; as discoverer of some of the finest fresh talent around, Parthian has published authors who have gone on to major wins and shortlistings for some of the biggest prizes, including Wales Book of the Year, the Betty Trask, the Dylan Thomas Prize, and The Orange Futures Prize. Great to be a part of a visionary indie that fuses the contemporary line with tradition (in the shape of the Library of Wales series) and the homegrown with the international (as a notable source of quality fiction in translation). I’ll be working on a number of projects for the publisher, including a new poetry series. More details on the Parthian website and this blog at the end of the month.
Last Saturday I went to see Tim Price’s For Once at the Hampstead Theatre. Tim’s a young playwright and screenwriter (TV credits including EastEnders and his award-winning drama for S4C, Y Pris). He’s been making waves as a talent in Wales for some time – and has also been making his own unique contribution to its theatre scene with the highly successful Dirty Protest company, which brings together new and established playwrights showcasing spanking hot-off-the-keyboard work in a… Mongolian yurt. Yes, a Mongolian yurt. For Once marks the first in a trio of major premieres of his work, including The Radicalisation of Bradley Manning – which has recently been commissioned by National Theatre Wales.
For Once is a three-hander study in provincial despair; a play meditating on the difficulties of access to communication, honesty and love from those we need the very most. The play’s starting point is the aftermath of a car crash, as Sid, the lone surviving teenager among his best friends, struggles with guilt – while his parents April and Gordon scramble to recapture a normalcy for him and for themselves that none of them, we discover, ever really possessed in the first place. As well as highlighting the stark reality of interplay, that extreme events tend to expose rather than derange existing human relationships, the play’s complementary theme is the difficulty of being young in the apparently idealistic setting of villages or small towns. Denied excitement in controlled environments, there is nothing to do but drive fast and drive dangerously, to nowhere. Mr Cameron, are you listening?
If this sounds bleak – well, at times, it is. The static set of a kitchen-diner area holds the characters suspended in their own frustratingly separate and yet united existences, and, in what is surely a fond nod to Osborne, an ironing board on which April rhythmically steams away at her husband’s shirts in anger and sorrow almost becomes a fourth character. But the play is distinguished by a rich humour, too. For even in tragedy – and sometimes especially in it – there can still be levity. Laughs about a labrador dog called ‘Neil’, middle-aged women who wear wooden jewellery and ludicrous middle-class pomposity all add to an impressive mix.
Comes highly recommended. For Once runs to 30th July. Visit the Hampstead Theatre website for more details.
When it comes to New Year’s resolutions I’ve always resolved to loathe New Year. The forced gaiety. Having to pay a tenner for the privilege of sitting in your local, charmless boozer. Random embraces conditioned by drink and the sheer untruth of intensity. The awful greyness of New Year’s Day which follows, which can always be depended upon, as you crapulently shiver on the sofa, wondering what the hell happened over the last twelve months and, possibly, your entire life… Am I depressing you? Sorry.
This New Year, however, was different for me. 2010 proved to be one of those years that come around so rarely you’re surprised to encounter them again. I’ve tried to do some calculation of it. I would say for me they average out at putting in an appearance once a decade. (This is a strike rate some way below the seven years self-renewal theory that some theorist once theorised about.) It’s been a time of tremendous professional activity and a feeling of real achievement (something that perfectionists don’t experience that often) – and that might, superficially, account for the sense of a year that truly feels like an event and a consolidation of sorts. But this year has become one characterised by the kind of purpose that only ever comes from personal revelation. Through a glass, darkly. Indeed. Best and worst of times, until I reached its end and realised that it was, in fact, all gravy. Ah, yes. The present torments us, the past enlightens. And how. So, this year’s crossing over: gratitude for my lot. I should like to reveal more but it will all have to wait for the memoirs, which hopefully won’t have to be self-published.
Thank you so much for reading my occasional musings. My meter tells me that you come and you linger. I am glad of it. I promise to update more regularly in 2011. 11: lucky number of resolve and unity. Here’s hoping for us all.
I want to wish you a Happy New Year. Blwyddyn Newydd Dda!
And now: to poems.
I am now editor of New Welsh Review .
This blog will shortly be up and running again but largely only to provide details on readings or courses I am giving. I’ll also occasionally update on two works-in-progress that are currently on the boil. Do feel free to have a look at some poems from my first book that are still uploaded in the meantime.
And I do hope you take a look at New Welsh Review, a magazine packed with brilliant writing from Wales and beyond. Click here to visit our website and take a look at what we do and who we are. You can also read, for free, some examples of the great writing New Welsh Review has published and championed over its twenty-one-year history in our online virtual yearbook; find out who’s in it; find out how to maximise the chances of appearing it in yourself with our guidelines; and, of course, get the lowdown on the science bit: ‘How to subscribe’.
We also maintain a blog with news, views and guest contributors. Click here to read the New Welsh Review Editor’s Blog.