Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Tony Conran@ Swansea

Tony Conran reads from his new autobiographical long poem What Brings You Here So Late at 4.00pm Wednesday 29th October in Room 216, Keir Hardie Building, Swansea Univeristy. Nigel Jenkins of the English Department's Centre for Creative Writing writes:

"It is difficult to image how English-language poetry in Wales would have developed from the 1960s onwards, without the hugely influential presence of Tony Conran – as poet, translator, critic, dramatist and general one-man cultural turbine! In 1967 he gave Wales and the world The Penguin Book of Welsh Verse. A book whose extended introduction represents both a concise cultural history of Wales and a challenging bardic manifesto. Conscious of the Welsh poet’s traditional socio-political stance, whilst at the same time invoking the powerful engines of modernism, Conran is one of only two or three Anglophone poets with the authority to deliver a major national statement, as in the controlled fury of his ‘Elegy of the Welsh dead in the Falkland Islands, 1982’. A nationalist with an internationalist’s deep interest in poetries way beyond his own country, he is capable also of ‘the ‘loneliness, tenderness and slenderness’ that he identifies as the defining qualities of the haiku, of which – as of so much else – he has been a pioneer in Wales".

Monday, 27 October 2008

5 Cwmdonkin Drive

On what would have been Dylan Thomas's ninety-fourth birthday, 5 Cwmdonkin Drive, his family home and birthplace has been restored to it's October 1914 condition.

For more details, follow the links for a virtual 'tour' of the house, and listen to Colette Hume interviewing Dr John Goodby on Radio 4’s Today Programme.

Monday, 20 October 2008

Paul Robeson Seminar Series

A new CREW initiative, in collaboration with the American Studies department, kicks off this week. The first Paul Robeson Seminar will take place at 1pm on Wednesday 22nd October, 2008 at the School of Humanities Conference Room, Basement, James Callaghan Building. Profesor Jon Roper will present a paper entitled 'Obama Who? Race and the race for the 'White(s) House'

The 'Robeson series' of lunchtime seminars on African American topics will consist of formal discussion papers and an informal reading group. It is our hope that these seminars will provide a fruitful forum for debate, creating a dynamic environment for research among staff, postgraduate and undergraduate students interested in the field of African American studies.

Why Paul Robeson?
Paul Robeson was one of the foremost African-Americans of the twentieth century. He was a world renowned singer and actor and a leading civil rights activist. Robeson’s connections with Wales are said to have begun in 1928, when he impulsively joined a group of marching Welsh miners singing in London’s West End. The next ten years saw him donating money to, and visiting, Talygarn Miners’ Rest Home, appearing in many concerts across Wales including an appearance at the Caernarvon Pavilion the night after an explosion had claimed 266 lives at the Gresford Pit near Wrecsam, and, most famously, a visit to Mountain Ash in 1938 for the ‘Welsh National Memorial Meeting to the Men of the International Brigade from Wales who gave their lives in defence of Democracy in Spain’. The 1930s also saw Robeson establishing connections with the multi-ethnic community in Cardiff’s Butetown, which was also home to the political activist and Pan-Africanist native of Philadelphia, and uncle by marriage to Robeson, Aaron Mosell. 1939 saw Robeson playing the role of David Goliath, an African American seaman who settles in a mining village, in one of the few movies which he did not later disown, Proud Valley. Hounded during the McCarthy era for his Communist sympathies, Robeson had his passport confiscated from 1950 to 1958. The persistent invitations made throughout the 1950s for Robeson to appear at the Miners’ Eisteddfod in Porthcawl, lead to the ‘Transatlantic Exchange’ of 1957 which allowed the Eisteddfod audience to hear Robeson’s voice via a telephonic link from New York. Following the return of his passport in 1958, he was introduced by Aneurin Bevan, and presented a Welsh Hymn Book by the leading Welsh modernist poet, T. H. Parry-Williams, at the National Eisteddfod in Ebbw Vale. In the October of that year he finally appeared in person at the Miners’ Eisteddfod in Porthcawl. His last significant contact with Wales occurred in 1960 when he appeared with the Cwmbach Choir at a Movement for Colonial Freedom concert in the Royal Festival Hall, London. In 2007 the Let Robeson Sing Exhibition was presented to Swansea University’s south Wales Miners’ Library.,18538,en.php,11474,en.php

Dr Rachel Farebrother, American Studies, Swansea University
Dr Daniel Williams, CREW, English Department, Swansea University

The Programme for 2008
Wednesdays 1-2pm in the James Callaghan Conference Room

Wednesday 22 October
Professor Jon Roper, American Studies, Swansea University
Obama who? Race and the race for the White(s) House

Wednesday 5 November
Dr. Daniel Williams, English, Swansea University
Paul Robeson, Jazz, and the Cold War

Wednesday 19 November
Reading Group: Poetry by Sterling A. Brown
Organiser: Dr Rachel Farebrother, American Studies, Swansea University

Wednesday 3 December
Wendy Hayes-Jones, Swansea Metropolitan University and PhD student in English at Swansea University. Race and Identity in the Essays of Ishmael Reed

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

CREW Literary Road Trip: South Wales Coalfield

During the CREW lunchtime meetings last semester, many of the students - and staff - suggested that we should visit 'literary sights of significance' in south Wales. Some of us wanted to see the physical landscapes of industry, de-industrialisation and post-industry we read of in the literature of the coalfield, others wanted to be able to locate the towns and villages where authors lived, and Daniel was rather determined that we should try and make it to 'Raymond Williams country', if only so that we could have a pint in the haunted Skirrid Inn. Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, Pandy proved to be a little too far but we did succeed to literally - and indeed literary - map the south Wales coalfield.

In early (and rather appropriately drizzly) May, armed with a road atlas (which proved our downfall as we are certainly not geographers) autobiographies, novels, poetry anthologies, Meic Stevens's Literary Pilgrim, waterproofs, and a rather impressive people carrier, we set off to the coalfield.

The road-trip was punctuated by various literary landmarks and points of interest, marked on the interactive map below. At each stop we bemused and no doubt enlightened those who saw us as we piled out of the people carrier (complete with Gangster-rap-black-out-windows), gathered in a group, tried to identify landmarks or more often than not libraries, and read from a relevant text e.g. an Alun Lewis outside Aberdare library, Idris Davies outside his birthplace (opposite Rhymney library), a Dylan Thomas reading, interupted by a coal delivery, next to the Dr William Price monument in Llantrisant.

Cemeteries also proved to be a theme of the day, as the group had identified the Aberfan cemetery, the cholera cemetery above Rhymney, and the Jewish cemetrey outside Merthyr Tydfil as other places we would like to visit, despite us not being morbid souls. Aberfan in particular, proved a moving and poignant stop, even more so than we expected.

Highlights of the day included: -

:: Discovering that Gwyn Thomas' birthplace is opposite a chip shop (Perhaps the inspiration for 'Chekhov and Chips' )

:: The landscape surrounding Blaen(y)cwm, birthplace of, and insipration to, Ron Berry

:: Attempting to find the Welsh/ Yiddish headstone in the Jewish Cemetery near Cefn Coed y Cymmer (someone had been told by John Davies of its existence, but we failed to find it), while also rescuing some errant sheep.

:: Debating whether J.O. Francis's Merthyr birthplace was now Woolworths, Phones 4 U or a bakery, and deciding that Glyn Jones's birthplace was just the wrong side of Aldi for us to venture to.

:: Successfully locating the cholera cemetery above Rhymney, using the directions and descriptions provided in Chris Meredith's Shifts:

'The fat clouds thronged over the horizon and he could see the old view, ridge after ridge, distantly the tip of the big open cast above Merthyr. Nearer to him was the mound of Garn y Gors, below that, the mountain road, and a few hundred yards away, on the north shore of the pond, the cemeteries. [...] He opened his eyes. There were clouds. And when he looked down again, there. across a few dozen yards of coarse grass, was the cholera cemetery he had come to see'(Shifts, 160-61)

Who needs maps when you have psycho/cultural/literary geography?

View Larger Map (for more detail please click on the map, photos to follow)

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Raymond Williams: Culture and Society@50

A one day conference arranged by CREW

November 7th, 2008
The Dylan Thomas Centre, Swansea.
09.15 – 17.30

Speakers: Stefan Collini, Cambridge University. Dai Smith, Swansea University. Catherine Belsey, Swansea University. Anthony Barnett, Founder, OpenDemocracy. Film producer Colin Thomas will discuss and screen his award-winning documentary ‘Border Crossing’.

Online booking available via the Dylan Thomas Festival Website.

Registration: Full: £45. Students: £30 (Includes all papers, morning and afternoon tea/coffee, and lunch).

Appearing in 1958, Raymond Williams’s seminal volume Culture and Society offered a history of the ‘idea of culture’ as it developed in response to industrialism. Challenging dominant forms of elitism and paternalism, the book reinforced Williams’s claim that ‘culture is ordinary’ and sought to endorse the positive cultural values promoted by working class creativity. It was followed in 1961 by the publication of The Long Revolution written in parallel with it. In the 50 years since its publication Culture and Society has generated a great deal of criticism and debate. This one day symposium invites some of Britain’s most challenging thinkers to explore both the making and afterlife of Williams’s career-making volume and the political perspective of its companion . They have been invited to consider the broad framework he set out, in terms of culture, class, national identity, literature, politics and the nature of change.

Arranged by CREW (Centre for Research into the English Literature and Language of Wales), with support from the Raymond Williams Society, the conference is timely in that 2008 has seen the appearance of Professor Dai Smith’s celebrated biography of Williams, A Warrior’s Tale, and the handing over of the Raymond Williams Papers to the library at Swansea University.

Organiser: Dr. Daniel G. Williams, CREW (Centre for Research into the English Literature and Language of Wales), Swansea University.