Friday, 18 December 2009

CREW in Polish

Polish literary magazine, Literatura na Swiecie, has just put out a special Welsh edition. Included are works by CREW's M. Wynn Thomas and John Goodby. Gwyneth Lewis, Peter Finch, Gillian Clarke, Robert Minhinnick and Niall Griffiths are among the many other writers featured.

Friday, 27 November 2009

Review 3. Amy Dillwyn, A Burglary

A Burglary or, 'Unconscious Influence' by Amy Dillwyn
Edited with a new introduction by Alison Favre (Honno, 2009), pp. vii-xix, 350, £10.99.

Reviewed by David Painting.

Twenty years ago the Swansea author Amy Dillwyn was known, if at all, as a rather eccentric Grand Old Lady still remembered for her mannish clothes and for smoking cigars. When her biography appeared in 1987 a fuller portrait emerged of a splendidly clever woman who openly defied Victorian convention, ran a major industry virtually single handed and, incidentally, published several forgotten but very readable novels.

Until quite recently few readers have had any opportunity of finding out just how readable her fiction might be, but now thanks to the pioneering Honno Classics series we have seen attractive reprints of two of Dillwyn’s early novels with the possibility of more to follow. The first The Rebecca Rioter (1880) has already been well received and we now have A Burglary or, ‘Unconscious Influence’ first published in three volumes in 1883 and newly introduced with a perceptive and stimulating essay by Alison Favre.

To read the complete review CLICK HERE

Review 2. Jack Jones, Black Parade

Black Parade, by Jack Jones
Parthian, 2009. Library of Wales series. Pp xiv, 414. £8.99

Reviewed by Daryl Leeworthy, Swansea Univeristy.

Few periods in Welsh history can compete with the interwar years in either historical intensity or their proletarian writings. The trauma of unemployment and economic depression prompted several of the most famous examples of Welsh writing in English. Lewis Jones’s twin novels Cwmardy (1937) and We Live (1939), Jack Jones’s Rhondda Roundabout (1934), and Gwyn Jones’s Times Like These (1936) all resonate with the temperament of the period. They are all overshadowed by Richard Llewellyn’s How Green Was My Valley (1939) in popularity of course but a case can be made for Black Parade (1935) as being the far more accurate and representative novel of the Valleys and their tumultuous history.

The novel is set in Jones’s native Merthyr; as the talisman of industrial South Wales the setting emphasises the blurring of fiction and fact that so marks Welsh novels of the thirties. Indeed, the novel, throughout, introduces us to historical characters – A. J. Cook, the miner’s leader; Wal Hannington, the Communist activist and writer; Lloyd George, Keir Hardie, and D. A. Thomas all get a mention – all of which underscores the realism that shoots through the story.

To read the full review CLICK HERE

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

CREW Reviews 1. Diane Green, Emyr Humphreys: A Postcolonial Novelist?

CREW's new initiative, an online review of books, aims to publish high-quality reviews of English language fiction and non-fiction commissioned from postgraduates, academics and the wider literary/artistic community. We hope these will serve to promote the vibrancy and currency of the academic and literary culture of Wales. For further information see:

Emyr Humphreys: A Postcolonial Novelist, by Diane Green
University of Wales Press, 2009. pp. 290 £19.99. CREW series of Critical and Scholarly Studies, 'Writing Wales in English'. General Editor: M. Wynn Thomas.

Reviewed by Steve Hendon, Cardiff University

Twenty years ago, Bill Ashcroft, a cultural theorist in the vanguard of postcolonial studies, observed that ‘above all, the post-colonial is a discourse of place.’ Diane Green’s book provides material evidence that Emyr Humphreys was aware of this idea many years earlier. She sustains a convincing argument for one of the ‘defining figures’ of Welsh Writing in English in the last fifty years to be examined in postcolonial terms, both in respect of Wales in a period that is post-colonization, and through postcolonial methods that read across literary and cultural boundaries.

To read the full review on the CREW website CLICK HERE

Friday, 20 November 2009

Kathryn Gray@CREW

Kathryn Gray, poet and editor of New Welsh Review, will be guest at our Postgraduate Discussion Group on Monday, November 23rd. This will take place in Kier Hardie Room 241 at 3pm.

At 4pm on the same day Simon Brooks of the Welsh Department, Cardiff University, delivers the Richard Burton Centre's 'State of the Nation' lecture on the Welsh Language and Multiculturalism in the Arts and Humanities Conference Room.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Lynette Roberts Conference Report

Professor M. Wynn Thomas writes:
A conference to mark the centenary of the birth of the remarkable late-Modernist poet Lynette Roberts was held on Saturday, October 31. A refreshing feature of attendance was its mixed nature – professional and lay, Welsh and English, postgraduates and published scholars, young and not-so-young. Particularly notable was the presence of one or two who remembered Roberts, in her later years, cutting an exotic figure in Llanybri and Carmarthen, dressed in colours as vivid as her extraordinary poetry.

The group of invited speakers, organized by Professor Patrick McGuinness of St Ann’s College, Oxford (who co-hosted the conference along with CREW), addressed many different aspects of Roberts’ work. Both her debts to Welsh culture (including her interest in the Welsh school of anthropologists during the thirties) and her place as a significant cosmopolitan figure in the late resurgence of Modernist styles were fully explored. A highlight was Patrick’s concluding interview with Roberts’s daughter, Angharad Rhys, who amused the audience by recalling that the family regularly received gifts from both Robert Graves and T. S. Eliot. ‘Eliot’s presents,’ she recalled to general incredulity, ‘were better. Graves made his own presents – toffee, fudge, that kind of thing. But Eliot gave useful, sensible presents, like money or something like a bike.’ Events were rounded off by a memorable evening of readings by contemporary poets – Menna Elfyn, John Goodby and Nigel Jenkins – and from Roberts’ own work by Margot Morgan.

The event was deemed a notable success, and such was the quality of the papers read that Patrick McGuinness hopes to ensure that they assume permanent form in print. Warm thanks are due to Dave and Jo, at the Dylan Thomas Centre, and for Fliss Wagstaff, who provided excellent support on the day. Without them, there would have been no celebration event and thus no opportunity for celebrating the success of a landmark conference.

Afterword: As we go to press, a copy of this week's Times Literary Supplement lands on my desk.

Seminarau Paul Robeson Seminars: Year 2

This year's series of Robeson Seminars in African American Studies have already begun.

Further information from
Rachel Farebrother,
Daniel Williams,

School of Arts and Humanities
Paul Robeson Seminar Series in African American Studies

Seminars are held in the Arts and Humanities Conference Room, Basement Floor, James Callaghan Building, unless otherwise stated.
All welcome.

Monday 19 October at 4.00 pm
Dr Rachel Farebrother (Swansea University)
‘India in The Crisis

Wednesday 11 November at 1.00 pm
Dr Andrew Warnes (University of Leeds)
‘Jitterbugging and Barbecue: Some Notes on the Impact of African-American Culture in Australia, 1943-5’
(Note change of venue: Keir Hardie 230)

Monday 30 November at 4.00 pm
‘Race to the Bottom’
(reading group on Obama a year on)

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Lynette Roberts Conference

2009 is the centenary of the birth of Lynette Roberts (1909-1995), the modernist war poet who produced her most important work in West Wales.

Organized jointly by CREW and Patrick McGuinness of St Anne’s College, Oxford, the conference opens on Friday 30th with a showing of the recent BBC4 film about her, in the company of writer and presenter Owen Sheers, and ends on Saturday 31st with a poetry reading by poets from Wales and beyond.

Conference speakers will include Deryn Rees-Jones, Patrick McGuinness, Stella Halkyard, John Goodby, Charles Mundye, Zoe Skoulding and the poets will be Deryn Rees-Jones, Menna Elfyn and Nigel Jenkins. Angharad Rhys, Lynette's daughter, will talk about her mother's life, and there will be an exhibition of photographs, books and papers from the Lynette Roberts family archive.

The price is £15. £10 for students.

Full details here:

More information is available from Professor Patrick McGuinness, St Anne's College, University of Oxford, OX26HS (
Registration is with the Dylan Thomas Centre on 01792 463980

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Symposium Report: Raymond Williams, Wales and Japan

The symposium on Raymond Williams in Transit: Wales – Japan took place on Friday 16th October, and proved to be a very stimulating event. Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research at Swansea University, Noel Thompson, opened proceedings by evoking the cultural tradition within Marxist thought, with its roots in Marx's 1844 manuscripts and its most influential formulations appearing in the works of Ruskin and Morris, and later, Raymond Williams himself. Chris Williams offered a fascinating comparative account of Welsh and Japanese coalfield societies, with the main areas of difference being the relative absence of independent trade unionism in Japan, and the nature of post-industrial depopulation in the two nations. M. Wynn Thomas, who chaired the morning’s proceedings, suggested during the lively ensuing discussion that cultural factors seemed to be the determining elements in the form taken by industrialisation in different contexts. Shintaro Kono’s paper centred on an illuminating comparison between Raymond Williams and the Japanese novelist Soseki Natsume. Drawing on Williams’s theorisation of the relationship between the country and the city, Shintaro explored the impact of modernity on Japan, and the forms of cultural inferiority and resistance that the ‘Westernising’ process of modernity had on Japanese society. Williams’s notion of the ‘double vision’ that resulted from the movement from the country to the city offered a highly productive model for comparative literary study.

Takashi Onuki’s paper on the process of translating Raymond Williams, concentred refreshingly on Williams’s writings on drama, particularly his early Drama in Performance, and minor masterpiece, Modern Tragedy. Takashi explored the multiple meanings of the word ‘action’ in Japanese, and used that exploration as a basis for discussing the many uses of ‘action’ in Williams’s own criticism, while drawing for comparison on the works of Brecht and Hannah Arendt. Gwenno Ffrancon explored the role of Wales in the imaging of industrial society in contemporary Japanese animator Miayzaki’s film ‘Laputa: Castle in the Sky’. Miayzaki’s visit to Wales during the 1984-5 miner’s strike influenced his own political orientation, and was used by Gwenno as a basis for comparing the animation industries in Wales and Japan.

It was a delight and privilege to have welcomed Shintaro Kono and Takashi Onuki to Swansea, and it is confidently hoped that further collaborations will develop from this event.
Shintaro Kono's account of the visit in Japanese (with pictures) can be accessed here:

The State of Welsh Writing in English

YouTube viewers of the discussion between Slavoj Zizek, Alain Badiou and Cornel West, would have enjoyed the session on ‘The State of Anglophone Literature’ which took place on Monday October 12th and featured M. Wynn Thomas, John Goodby and Daniel Williams. Wynn discussed the publishing scene in Wales in the years after devolution and focused on the role of the Welsh Books Council. While there is much to celebrate in relation to the publishing scene in Wales today, the economic crisis will have an effect in coming years and the absence of Welsh writing in English in our schools continues to be a major area of concern. Wynn lamented our apparent inability to develop a discourse sufficient to argue the case for liberal arts in an age dominated by the language of business and economics. Daniel Williams looked at some contemporary trends in literary criticism, and while welcoming comparative, transnational approaches, suggested that the danger is that we overlook cultural distinctiveness. He suggested that the challenge for critics of Welsh writing in English is to resist the tendency to apply theories from above, but to develop theories that allow us to explore the burden, the privilege, and specificities of biculturalism.
John Goodby argued that the process of canonising Welsh Writing in English in recent years had functioned to exclude the most valuable poetic tradition of all – that of experimental poetry with its roots in the modernism of David Jones, Lynette Roberts and Dylan Thomas, and which continues today in the works of writers such as Peter Finch, John James, Wendy Mulford and Childe Roland. Several of John’s most recent initiatives are aimed to bring this tradition from the margin to the centre of our field of study.

The session, chaired by Kirsti Bohata, was the first of ‘The State of the Nation’ series, arranged by Jonathan Bradbury for the Richard Burton Centre. The next session will be on October 26th when Professor Kevin Morgan of Cardiff University will explore ‘Devolution’s Dividends’.

Monday, 19 October 2009

CREW goes Digital

CREW recently co-organised the annual Digital Resources in the Humanities and Arts (DRHA) conference along with Queen's University, Belfast and the Digital Humanities Observatory (DHO), Royal Irish Academy, Dublin. CREW was also working in partnership with the National Library of Wales (NLW) which provided generous financial support.
DRHA 2009 took place in September, in an unusually sunny Belfast. Because of the organisers' Welsh-Irish background there was a particularly strong 'Celtic' flavour to the conference. One of the keynote speakers was Andrew Green, the Librarian of the NLW. NLW was an early practitioner and advocate of digitisation and remains at the cutting edge of digital technology and policy. Appropriately enough, Andrew Green talked about the future of digitisation in a world post-google and speculating on the perhaps more sinister side of 'big digitisation' by commercial companies. The full text of his talk is available here.

Queen's Keith Lilley presented on Mapping Medieval Chester (a project led by Swansea's Catherine Clarke). Dafydd Johnston and Alexander Roberts gave a talk on the Dafydd ap Gwilym digital edition which was created at Swansea.

Not only did Lyn Lewis Dafydd (NLW) give a cutting-edge paper on metadata, he also treated a packed lecture hall to a performance of the 18th century ballad, 'Mochyn Du' - an unexpected and memorable way of presenting the Welsh Ballads project . Culturenet Cymru, Lampeter and Cardiff also contributed (a full programme is still up on the conference website).

The DHO emerged from the conference as the true, if financially endangered, heroes of the digital humanities scene under the formidable and inspiring leadership of Susan Schreibman. As Jane Ohlmeyer, our final keynote, passionately and persuasively argued: what we need in the Digital Humanities is a sustainable infrastructure supported by a national policy, delivering a trusted digital repository and ensuring digital content can be accessed and shared beyond individual digital silos.

Wales, with it's particular educational, cultural and political institutions, seems extremely well placed to develop such an infrastructure. Watch this space.
Some rather dark conference pictures: James Cummings and Hugh Denard; Susan Schreibman introducing Jane Ohlmeyer and Marie Wallace; Kirsti Bohata indulging in a well-earned drink; poster and drinks reception in the Great Hall, Queen's.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Raymond Williams, Wales and Japan / RW, Cymru a Siapan

On Friday October 16th, 2009, CREW with the support of the Richard Burton Centre for Welsh Studies and JSPS/MEXT Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research will host a one day symposium on Raymond Williams, Wales and Japan.

Following on from the success of the biography by Professor Dai Smith (Raymond Williams Research Chair at CREW), and last year’s conference celebrating 50 years of of ‘Culture and Society', this one day symposium draws on Williams’s work for comparative analyses of Wales and Japan from two eminent Welsh academics, and hears of Williams’s influence on contemporary Japanese cultural thought from two Japanese cultural critics associated with the leading journal Eigo Seinen (The Rising Generation).

The speakers are:

Shintaro Kono, Assistant Professor at the Graduate School of Commerce and Management, Hitotsubashi University. Co-translator of Eqbal Ahmad's Confronting Empire, Fredric Jameson's Cultural Turn, Edward W. Said's Power, Politics, Culture and Culture and Resistance into Japanese.

Chris Williams, Director, Richard Burton Centre. Professor Williams is currently completing Portrait of a British Town: Newport Society in 1851, to be published by the University of Wales Press. He is also working on The Victorians and the Alps and a pocket-guide to the mountains of Wales, and is co-editor of two volumes of the Gwent County History.

Takashi Onuki, Associate Professor of Kushiro Public University of Economics. Has published articles on David Hare, David Edgar, Arnold Wesker, as well as Raymond Williams, and is co-translator of Eqbal Ahmad’s Confronting Empire and Edward W. Said’s Reflections on Exile and Other Essays.

Gwenno Ffrancon, Senior Lecturer in Media Studies, Swansea University Main research interests are imaging Wales, Scotland and Ireland on screen; film and television in Wales; the history of film in Britain and America during its Golden Age and the careers of some of Wales’ foremost actors including Emlyn Williams, Hugh Griffith, Rachel Thomas, Richard Burton, Rachel Roberts and Siân Phillips. Cyfaredd y Cysgodion, was nominated for the long short list of the Academi Book of the Year Competition for 2004–5. She is currently researching a biography of Swansea-born actress Rachel Thomas.

A programme can be downloaded from the CREW website:

For further information contact the organiser, Dr. Daniel Williams:

Ar ddydd Gwener, Hydref 16eg, 2009, bydd CREW, gyda chefnogaeth Canolfan Richard Burton a ‘JSPS/MEXT Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research’, yn cynnal cynhadledd undydd ar Raymond Williams, Cymru a Siapan. Yn dilyn llwyddiant bywgraffiad yr Athro Dai Smith, a’r gynhadledd y llynedd fu’n dathlu hanner canmlwyddiant y gyfrol Culture and Society, bydd y gynhadledd undydd hon yn cynnwys cyfraniadau gan ddau o academyddion blaenllaw Cymru, yn ogystal â chlywed am ddylanwad Williams ar feirniadaeth ddiwylliannol gyfoes Siapan gan ddau academydd o'r wlad, sy’n gysylltiedig â’r cyfnodolyn Eigo Seinen (Y Genhedlaeth sy’n Codi).

Y siaradwyr fydd:
Shintaro Kono, Athro Cynorthwyol yn Ysgol Ol-Raddedig Masnach a Rheolaeth, Prifysgol Hitotsubashi. Cyd-gyfieithydd Eqbal Ahmad, Confronting Empire, Fredric Jameson, Cultural Turn a Edward W. Said Power, Politics, Culture a Culture and Resistance.

Chris Williams, Cyfarwyddwr Canolfan Richard Burton. Mae’r Athro Williams wrthi’n cwblhau Portrait of a British Town: Newport Society in 1851, a fydd yn cael ei gyhoeddi gan Wasg Prifysgol Cymru. Mae e hefyd yn gweithio ar The Victorians and the Alps a chyfrol boced ar fynyddoedd Cymru, ac mae’n gyd-olygydd dwy gyfrol o Hanes Gwent.

Takashi Onuki, Athro Cysylltiol â Phrifysgol Gyhoeddus Economeg Kushiro. Mae e wedi cyhoeddi erthyglau ar David Hare, David Edgar, Arnold Wesker, yn ogystal â Raymond Williams, ac mae’n gyd-gyfeithydd Eqbal Ahmad, Confronting Empire a Edward W. Said, Reflections on Exile and Other Essays.

Gwenno Ffrancon, Uwch ddarlithydd yn yr adran cyfathrebu a chyfyngau, Prifysgol Abertawe. Ei phrif feysydd ymchwil yw delweddu Cymru, yr Alban ac Iwerddon ar sgrin, ffilm a theledu yng Nghymru; hanes ffilm ym Mhrydain ac America yn ystod ei Hoes Aur a gyrfaoedd rhai o actorion mwyaf blaenllaw Cymru gan gynnwys Emlyn Williams, Hugh Griffith, Rachel Thomas, Richard Burton, Rachel Roberts a Siân Phillips. Cafodd Cyfaredd y Cysgodion, ei enwebu ar gyfer rhestr hir Cystadleuaeth Llyfr y Flwyddyn yr Academi 2004-5. Ar hyn o bryd mae hi’n ymchwilio bywgraffiad o’r actors o Abertawe Rachel Thomas.

Gellir lawrlwytho rhaglen o wefan CREW:
Am wybodaeth bellach cysylltwch â’r trefnydd, Dr. Daniel Williams:

Thursday, 3 September 2009

The Meaning of Pictures

The latest publication to emerge from CREW is Peter Lord’s handsome volume The Meaning of Pictures (University of Wales Press).

Over the last twenty years, Peter Lord has revolutionised understanding of the visual art of Wales by drawing attention to the rich tradition of ‘artisanal art’ (usually mistakenly termed ‘folk art’). This is the remarkable body of nineteenth-century work produced by the usually itinerant artists, lacking formal academic training, who produced images of the rural minor gentry and bourgeoisie, in the process creating a composite image of ‘Nonconformist Wales.’ As Peter Lord emphasises in this new study, American paintings in this genre came to be very highly valued in the United States during the twentieth century. A museum of folk art containing images and artefacts in this artisanal tradition now stands next to MOMA at the very heart of New York, and any new paintings that appear in the salesrooms are likely to command astonishing prices. However, Wales had almost completely ignored this heritage under Peter Lord began to unearth it, and his resultant claims for its cultural importance generated a huge controversy in establishment fine art circles that continues to resonate to the present day.

Peter Lord includes in this new volume a gripping account of his epic struggles to ensure a fair ‘viewing’ for Welsh artisanal art in Wales, and in the process reflects ironically on the recent example of a Welsh artisanal painting sold in New York for an astonishing sum. But the book also includes many important additions to Peter’s imposing corpus of studies of individual artisanal images and figures, thus deepening our appreciation of Wales’ visual heritage.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Polish Translation of M. Wynn Thomas's Work

A forthcoming issue of the prestigious Polish journal, Literatura na Swiecie, will be dedicated to contemporary Welsh writing. The first major presentation of contemporary English-language Welsh literature in Poland will include excerpts from Gwyneth Lewis, Gillian Clarke, R.S.Thomas, Robert Minhinnick, John Sam Jones, Niall Griffths, and others.

It will also feature two essays of literary criticism by M. Wynn Thomas: "Hidden Attachments" (from his book Corresponding Cultures) and, co-authored with Jane Aaron, "Pulling You Through Changes. Welsh Writing in English Before Between and After Two Referenda" from Welsh Writing in English which Thomas also edited.

Friday, 21 August 2009

Dr Karen Karbeiner's Visit

M. Wynn Thomas writes:

On one of the rare gorgeously sunny day we've enjoyed this dismal summer, I had the the pleasure of the company of Dr Karen Karbiener, a Whitman specialist from New York University, on a trip to Dylan Thomas country. At Cwmdonkin Drive she was enchanted when we were unexpectedly approached by an immensely friendly gentleman whose family turned out to have occupied the birthplace immediately following the departure of the Thomas clan. As for the Boathouse visit, it brought to her mind the photograph of Whitman that Thomas had pinned to the wall of his writing shed.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Hay Poetry Jamboree: John Goodby Reports...

The first Hay Poetry Jamboree (28 MAY – 30 MAY 2009) organised by John Goodby and Lyndon Davies, and supported by Swansea University School of Art /CREW, the Dylan Thomas Centre, Library of Wales and Academi, took place at the Oriel Gallery in Hay-on-Wye on 28th—30th May. It was made possible by the generosity of Geoff Evans, Oriel’s owner, who allowed free use of the gallery (a listed seventeenth-century building with Victorian chapel attached), and of the artist-poet Christopher Twigg, who bravely allowed his home at Church House, Talgarth, to serve as a dormitory-cum-junketing centre and yurt-pitching zone for many of the poets and performers.

Buoyed by such gifts and sponsorship, plus much goodwill, the Jamboree ran as an unsolemn antidote to the ‘High Street poetry’, as Ric Caddell once called it, on offer at the official Hay Festival of Literature. Rather than blandly glittering prizes and commercialist razzmatazz, the event showcased five leading Welsh poets in the experimental tradition of David Jones, Dylan Thomas and Lynette Roberts—that tradition which, while it tends to be neglected, is Wales’s most important contribution to twentieth century literature.

Electrifying performances by Peter Finch and Boiled String on Thursday evening, got proceedings under way in appropriate style. They were followed, at Friday’s main event, by a memorable reading from her latest collection, The Land Between, by Wendy Mulford, and by John James, whose set included striking new ‘sonnet’ pieces and powerful elegies for Barry MacSweeney and Andrew Crozier. Chris Torrance and David Greenslade brought the poetic proceedings to a close in a packed and lively final session on Saturday evening, after which discussions went on far into the night in Church House’s owl-haunted, river-run garden, over much Romanian potín and seventeen meals from the local Chinese takeaway.
Between the three keynote readings came two rapid-fire mini poetry-fests, on Friday and Saturday, featuring a further dozen poets, among them Samantha Rhydderch, Graham Hartill and Chris Ozzard. There were also two academic lectures, by Alice Entwistle (University of Glamorgan) on Welsh women’s experimental poetry, and Matthew Jarvis (the Antony Dyson Fellow at Lampeter University) on Wales’s alternative poetries. There were many other memorable highlights and portents: among them the blackbird which entered the gallery and took part in proceedings on Friday afternoon, Messrs Harthill and Ozzard’s shamanic / shambolic attempts to conjure up a Cabaret 246 member last sighted in 1993, and John James’s prediction that the Hay Jam would become the new CCCP (the Cambridge Conference of Contemporary Poetry). These aside, glorious weather played its part in the high attendance throughout the three days, as did the postgrad CREW horde, which hit on Hay on Saturday to push attendance up to the fifty mark. But the turnout, and the general buzz around the events, was a reflection above all of the current revival of innovative poetry going on in Wales.

Over the last few years, this revival has shown itself in many and varied ways—in the poetry lists of Parthian, Salt and Shearsman, the Glasfryn seminar series, and the hospitality to experiment of Poetry Wales under Zoe Skoulding, for example. In this sense, the Hay Jam belonged to a broader movement, although its success could not have been predicted. And, while almost no-one from poetry officialdom attended it, its grassroots success makes a repeat highly likely. If that does happen, the organisers have gone on record as saying that they will relish the challenging proximity to Britain’s largest literary festival, and attempt once again to champion their belief that versified anecdote is one thing, but a real poetry of the present invariably involves risk, discussions under the stars, yurts, strong spirits, and the dislocation of language into fresh meaning.

Past Students 1: Mary Tickel

We're delighetd to hear from past students who tell us that the CREW blog helps them keep in touch with our activities. Anyone who'd like to tell us a bit about what they're up to now are welcome to send us a post. We'll kick off with this very welcome picture and message from Mary Tickel in Tennessee.

"I studied at Swansea in 2003-2004 as an undergraduate exchange student from the University of Tennessee. In Swansea I studied Welsh Writing in English and also Beginner's Welsh. After returning to the United States, I continued studying for a degree in Literature. I graduated in 2006.

I have since earned a Masters of Science in Information Sciences. This is an academic way of saying that (among other things) I have librarian training. My first love is literature and I am an "information junkie". I've combined the two interests with Information Sciences courses. For example, I took classes in Childrens' and Young Adults' Literature and Resources. Through my training, I not only help people find the information they want and need. Now I can also claim that being a Harry Potter enthusiast is an important part of my job.

For the past academic year, I have been working in a theological library as part of my student work hours. This second Masters is for Theological Studies. The theological school has a small campus. However, we have many students from various ethnic and national backgrounds. In addition, living in New York State (the American North) is a bit of a culture shock for someone who has lived in Tennessee (the American South) for most of her life. I credit my year in Swansea (including the Border Studies covered in the Welsh Writing in English course) with helping me prepare for this new experience. My current courses include Church History, Patristics, the New Testament or the Old Testament (depending on the academic term) and Liturgics. Part of the degree requirement is for candidates to write a 40-60 page thesis. So how do I bring my interests, academic background, and training into the project? By writing about Harry Potter, of course.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Hay Poetry Jamboree:


Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Celebrating the Royal Literary Fund Writing Fellows

Ten years ago, the Department of English was approached by the Royal Literary Fund with the proposal that a partnership be formed that would allow the RLF to place a Writing Fellow in the department whose responsibility would be to help develop the basic language and writing skills of students right across the University campus. This proposal was warmly embraced by the Department, so that Swansea became one of the half-dozen universities to pilot a scheme that has, by now, been extended to almost 100 HE institutions across the UK.

The first Fellow to be appointed under this new scheme was Sally Roberts Jones, who ensured it got off to an excellent start. Her groundbreaking efforts enabled Stevie Davies, the next Fellow, to consolidate and develop the scheme quite dramatically, so that it became acknowledged by the RLF as a model for all other partner HE to emulate. With the arrival of Lucy English and Roger Garfitt the scheme took on other dimensions and further increased its impact, so that when Sally Roberts Jones returned, in partnership with Menna Elfyn, the scheme seemed at times in danger of becoming overwhelmed by campus-wide demands. In autumn, 2009, Jo Mazelis will succeed the retiring Sally to ensure, in partnership with Menna, that this invaluable service continues to flourish.
To celebrate the RLF-Swansea University partnership, a special event, hosted by the Vice-Chancellor, was held in the university’s Council Room on April 23, and attended by some 30 invited guests. In welcoming everyone to the gathering, Professor Richard Davies paid very warm tribute to the work the RLF had done at Swansea over ten years, and emphasised how vitally important the service it had providing had become. In thanking everyone who had been involved in the management of the scheme, he paid particular tribute to Sally Roberts Jones, who was presented, by way of acknowledgement, with two handsome presents to mark her retirement after the best part of a decade’s association with the RLF in the Swansea area. The first was an early edition of a Winnie-the-Pooh book – the RLF scheme is underpinned money from the A. A. Milne estate . The second was a beautiful limited edition of The Book of Ruth, published by the internationally renowned small press, Gwasg Gregynog. Both gifts were presented to Sally by Steve Cook, the initiator of the RLF scheme who had managed it with such notable deftness throughout the first decade of its life

Emyr Humphreys@90

He published his first novel in 1948 and is still going strong more than sixty years later…. Emyr Humphreys, author of more than twenty novels (including the outstanding Outside the House of Baal), poet, cultural analyst and distinguished man of letters, celebrated his ninetieth birthday in late April. To mark the occasion, on Monday April 20th, over fifty of Wales’s leading writers and intellectuals gathered at an event at the National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth, to celebrate his remarkable contribution to Welsh culture. Tributes were paid by a number of figures, and particularly memorable were the clips of film shown of Emyr Humphreys’s work for television. These included a scene from a fifties production of Saunders Lewis’s great Welsh-language play, Siwan. Emyr Humphreys had both translated it into English and directed the actual production, that featured the handsome young Peter O’Toole (looking like a Fifties Rocker) and Sian Phillips in all her striking youthful beauty. (Contributors to the celebratory event also recalled that early in the sixties, Emyr Humphreys had been instrumental in providing the young Anthony Hopkins with his first big break on the stage – a service Humphreys had earlier performed for another Port Talbot product, Richard Jenkins/ Burton.) Another clip of film had been taken from Emyr Humphreys’s notable fifties film version of R. S. Thomas’s great poem, The Airy Tomb.

The climax of this ninetieth birthday event was the launch of two books. The first, published by Seren, was The Woman at the Window, a brand new collection of stories by Emyr Humphreys. The second, published by Gwasg Gregynog, was a handsome special edition of anthologies from Emyr Humphreys’ writings, entitled Welsh Time.

Having been edited by M. Wynn Thomas, this last volume represented another link between the Abertystwyth celebrations and CREW. Other strong links already existed, since Emyr Humphreys is an Honorary Patron of CREW and a longtime Honorary Fellow of Swansea University.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

After the Conference 3: the photos

Keynote 2: Prof. Susan Manning

Panel 1: Ireland and Wales; Claire Connolly, Laura Wainwright and Katie Gramich (Chair: Kirsti Bohata)

Panel 3a Comparative Identities: Jasmine Donahaye, Steve Hendon, Gareth Evans, (Chair: Daniel Williams)

Curry night

Childe Roland's Shearwater Oratario (feat. Daniel Williams, Elin Ifan and Mike Elfed Williams)

Panel 4a: New Approaches to Margiad Evans. Claire Flay, Diana Wallace and Michelle Deininger Smith 
(Chair: Kirsti Bohata)

Monday, 6 April 2009

After the Conference 2: Three Poets

Dr. Matthew Jarvis, Anthony Dyson Fellow in Poetry at the University of Wales, Lampeter, kindly agreed to write a report on the poetry reading that took place on the evening of March 28th.

Three Poets at Gregynog

The recent Association for Welsh Writing in English conference at Gregynog – organized by CREW’s Daniel Williams and Sarah Morse – brought together three poets for Saturday night’s after-dinner slot. First up was Jasmine Donahaye who seems due to follow in the footsteps of Pascale Petit as one of Wales’s most distinctive contemporary poetic voices. Donahaye’s first volume, Misappropriations (2006), was short-listed for the Jerwood Aldeburgh First Collection Award, and the controlled emotional impact of her plain language work – so significantly indebted to American traditions – made the reasons for that nomination abundantly clear. What’s so good about Donahaye is that, alongside a significant aesthetic, her work also has a compelling central core of subject matter and imagery, emerging from the troubled politics of the Israel-Palestine situation. Her accentuated, pulsing reading manner created an almost-hypnotic aura in the room, and the crowd listened in an unsurprisingly hushed fashion. I await her second collection, Self-Portrait as Ruth (due imminently from Salt), with considerable interest.

Donahaye was followed by Childe Roland – pen-name of Peter Noël Meilleur, the French-Canadian concrete poet who moved to Wales in 1979 and who has been, as Nigel Jenkins indicated to me, pretty much ignored by the poetry establishment here ever since. A bad mistake, in my opinion. Roland has a near-perfect ear for poetic sound, as the second piece he performed (‘Jones, the Poem’) made obvious. It should give some sense of his impact that this poem was greeted by a spontaneous burst of applause. And the crowd’s laughter peppered the performance as a whole, because it’s clearly the case that poetry is considerably to do with ready wit and sheer linguistic fun for this particular writer. But perhaps the highlight of Roland’s set was his ‘Shearwater Oratorio’, which tracks the journey of the Manx Shearwater from Argentina to Bardsey Island and which draws on a Morse-code ‘translation’ of the bird’s cry. Performed by Roland and three audience members – including a rather surprised Daniel Williams, who was told he was taking part just before the performance started – this is a rich and intriguing work, which weaves together English and Cymraeg phrasing. In fact, linguistic pluralism seems to be a feature of Roland’s work; his first poem of the evening, ‘Bardsey Island’, reappeared a little later in French and then in Cymraeg. If you’ve never read any of Roland’s work, you can find both ‘Jones, the Poem’ and ‘Shearwater Oratorio’ here, and if you haven’t heard him perform, there’s a recording attached to this useful essay about him. On the basis of what we heard in this session at least, Roland is an abundant and joyous poetic talent who I’d be delighted to have as a future National Poet of Wales. Petition, anyone?

The final reader was CREW’s Nigel Jenkins, a significant presence on the Welsh scene since the late 1970s and thus the best known of the three – and (like Donahaye) also a speaker from earlier in the day, when he’d revisited his work on Welsh missionaries in the Khasi hills of north-east India. For me, the highlights of Jenkins’s reading were his rumbustious piece ‘The Creation’ (from 1998’s Ambush) and a selection of the punctuation poems from his 2006 volume Hotel Gwales. In a brief moment of conversation with me afterwards, Jenkins modestly dismissed ‘The Creation’ as little more than a joke in poetic form. (For anyone who doesn’t know it, the premise of the poem is that God creates a Wales so abundantly full of natural beauty and wealth that the Archangel Gabriel asks the Almighty if he hasn’t rather overdone it – to which the divine reply of the cutting final line is ‘Not if you look at the neighbours I’ve made ’em’.) Well, a joke it may be, but ‘The Creation’ is a great performance piece – just like the small dramas of those punctuation poems – as the crowd’s enthusiastic response made clear. And of course, the whole set was also a showcase for Jenkins’s richly resonant bass, which must be one of the best reading voices around. As a rather eminent member of the audience said to me afterwards, somewhat wistfully, ‘I want a voice like that when I grow up’. Me too.

You may just get the sense from my comments here that I enjoyed this particular event. And you’d be right. This was as good a poetry reading as you could hope for, and the three poets in question – each quite different – worked together extremely well. To be frank, I hope they team up again, because it was an unusually good combination: passionate seriousness, sonic vivacity, and sharp wit. Anyone out there thinking about setting up a reading really should get on the phone and try to book them all, post-haste.

After the Conference 1

The Spaces of Comparison Conference (see posts below for details) proved to be a resoundig success. A report will follow, but we'll begin the post-conference posts with an 'instant poem' written during the conference by poet Sally Roberts Jones. Sally Roberts Jones's collections include Turning Away (1969), Sons and Brothers (1977), and Relative Values (1985). She has for many been been a Royal Literary Fellow at Swansea University, and a postgraduate at CREW.


The rustle of paper denotes our serious attention.
Words are bisected, symbols uncovered – the wind
Whistles outside, but here the air is unchanging,
Our minds tightly focused…

You might think we are here for a murder
Killing that we may dissect…
But no, we are miners,
Searching the hidden levels, the tell-tale fault
Till they open in sudden wonder
To a seam of pure gold.

Gregynog 28/3/2009

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

John Goodby Wins!

CREW's John Goodby has won first prize in the inaugural New Welsh Review/ Aberystwyth University Poetry Prize competition 2009. Author and judge, Philip Gross presented John Goodby with the £200 prize for his poem '21st October 1966' at the Aberystwyth Arts Centre Bookshop on 12th March. John Goodby's poem focuses on 21st October 1966, the day of the Aberfan disaster, when 144 people, 116 of them children were killed when a tip of coal waste slid onto the village of Aberfan in South Wales.

John said: ""The poem began as a look at the search for links between Birmingham, where I was born and grew up, and Wales, where I've lived for the past fifteen years. I wanted to challenge the obsession many poets have with parading roots and belonging: asserting an identity intensely is too often seen as guaranteeing a good poem, when usually it means the opposite. I began with 'Birmingham Welsh' (along the lines of 'London Welsh') as a mild subversion of that obsession, and of the notion that often accompanies it, namely that if you derive from a place like Birmingham, with an unglamorous accent rather than its own language, and a history of moderate prosperity rather than of deprivation and oppression, your identity isn't worth as much (and so, according to the logic of essentialism, you can't write poetry either). For me, all places of origin are equally valid, though not validating, as subjects for poetry. But although the links the speaker offers are a kind of clutching at straws, constructed and inauthentic, he finds that they begin to coalesce around the black hole of memories of the Aberfan disaster. The poem's syntax starts to become unstable and fluid, like the frightful tip itself. The earlier attempt to force links now becomes its opposite, a teary fusion in which the excess is a kind of elegiac tribute. Nor can the speaker tell if this is a true memory or not: is he remembering the events because he wants to will the link; is his memory real, but a response learned from his teachers; is it genuine? I don't know if it's possible to decide, but I hope the ambiguities enlarge the reader's sense of the subject by suggesting that the acts of mourning and commemoration are often made both for selfish and generous reasons, at one and the same time, and by exploring what happens to language when we attempt to imagine the unimaginable or represent the unrepresentable."

21st October 1966

They followed their stolen water for miles, the Birmingham
Welsh. Why not? It swelled Rough Road’s green, square hill
to which it flowed 86 miles without being pumped,
through tunnels and pipes from the mountains of mid-Wales
the plaque said, and so should flow from their taps too, from Huw’s
and Glyn’s in Endhill, whose Dad carved lovespoons for hiraeth,
as from our own. And it is a little Wales I increasingly
gaze down on through the years’ glassed depths, the pain-
ful, jewelled beauty of a carboy garden, chalk-dust on desks,
endlessly repeated ms, beans in moist jam-jars, their horrid
roots preternaturally distinct, as if engraved. I over-
look it all, now, the crown of Bandywood Crescent—beeches,
wheeling rooks, a vertigo of clouds—and Kingsland Road
School, clear as some immaculately submerged valley, as their
escape by the book from mine and furnace to the fervour
impressed on our soft inland minds is clear now, cast into relief
by exile. Mrs Scott, thick-lipped, throaty, fierce, invokes
her father’s hen-coops above Merthyr; Mr Thomas grins
slowly, childless, his limp glib falling yet again, his plimsol
for what we called a pump half-heartedly falling, unlike
dark-jowled, beastly Mr Williams’s expert welting
action; his beer-and-Woodbines breath a bardic tenor
hoarse over stud-stamped wastes. Is that his string vest, or
an elaborate, blurring retrospect? And how, so far away, to see
the hymn-book bound in green anyway, a green hill
so far away it is black, under which three boys sat on the play-
ground wall, it was recalled, before the tremor minutes
after morning prayers; as we were opening desks and books
as well, monitors still at tasks then, milk from the gate trembling
in steel crates to classes ignorant of the pulsing well-
spring of the tip, our big clock, too, twitching to nine-
seventeen, hands telling of the gravity of time, of a hill water
moves as water moves to a hill, unbearable as love, as reservoirs
filled like our heads with hurt bent in dark rows next day, salt
tears we shed learnt from them also, or do I imagine all of this?

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Portraits and Stories from Multi-Ethnic Wales

On Wednesday 18th March, at 4.15 pm in Keir Hardie 152, Glenn Jordan will present a CREW Research Seminar on “Mothers and Daughters: Portraits and Stories from Multi-Ethnic Wales”.

Glenn Jordan is Reader in the Cultural Studies in the Cardiff Centre for Creative and Cultural Industries; and Founding Director of Butetown History & Arts Centre (BHAC), a community archive, gallery and educational centre in Cardiff docklands. He teaches cultural theory, cultural policy and photography. Born in Sacramento, California, he was educated at Stanford University and the University of Illinois. Prior to coming to Cardiff in 1987, he was Assistant Director of the Afro-American Studies and Research Program at the University of Illinois. He is currently working on Race (Routledge), Birth of the Black Subject (Blackwell) and a textbook entitled Our World War Two: A Multi-ethnic Community Remembers (BHAC). In 2007 he delivered a memorable keynote address on the African American sociologist and anthropologist St. Clair Drake at the CREW conference 'Transatlantic Exchange'

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Emyr Humphreys Chair of Welsh Writing in English

Swansea University has announced that it has created the Emyr Humphreys Chair of Welsh Writing in English. It is named in honour of Wales’s greatest novelist and leading man of letters who will celebrate his ninetieth birthday in April. Emyr Humphreys is an Honorary Fellow of the University and (along with Seamus Heaney and Gillian Clarke) an Honorary Research Fellow of CREW, the Centre for Research into the English language literature of Wales.

The holder of the chair will be Professor M. Wynn Thomas, who currently holds a Personal Chair in the Department of English. It recognizes that, additional to his international reputation as a scholar of American poetry, Professor Thomas has been a longtime pioneer in the study of Wales’ English-language literary culture.
Professor Thomas said: ‘This is a landmark development, and wonderful recognition of CREW’s work. It is the realization of a longstanding dream of mine, and I am deeply grateful not only to the University for conferring this honour but to Emyr Humphreys for allowing us to grace the Chair with his name.’

Y mae Prifysgol Abertawe wedi cyhoeddi ei bod yn sefydlu Cadair Emyr Humphreys yn Llên Saesneg Cymru. Y mae’r teitl yn cydnabod cyfraniad enfawr Emyr Humphreys, prif nofelydd Cymru, i ddiwylliant ei genedl ac y mae’n cyd-daro â dathliad ei benblwydd yn naw deg ym mis Ebrill. Mae Emyr Humphreys eisoes yn Gymrawd er Anrhydedd ym Mhrifysgol Abertawe a hefyd, ar y cyd â Gillianc Clarke a Seamus Heaney, yn CREW (Canolfan Ymchwil i Lên ac Iaith Saesneg Cymru) yn y brifysgol honno.
Deiliad y gadair fydd yr Athro M. Wynn Thomas, sy’n arbenigwr yn llên Saesneg Cymru yn ogystal ag ym marddoniaeth y Taleithiau.
Dywedodd yr Athro Thomas: ‘Y mae hwn yn gam arloesol, ac yn dyst o bwysigrwydd y gwaith y mae CREW yn ei wneud. O’m rhan i, y mae’n benllanw ymdrech oes i sicrhau’r gydnabyddiaeth sefydliadol honno. Rwyf yn hynod ddiolchgar i’r Brifysgol am y fath anrhydedd, ac i Emyr Humphreys am ganiatau i’w enw gael ei ddefnyddio yn y cyswllt arbennig hwn.

Monday, 16 February 2009

Wednesday: Patrick McGuinness on Lynette Roberts

This Wednesday, 18th Februaury, at 4.15 in Kier Hardie 216, Professor Patrick McGuiness will present a paper on 'Lynette Roberts's Poetic Transpositions'

“Lynette Roberts (1909-1995) was one of the most original and exciting poets of her time. Her two collections Poems and Gods with Stainless Ears were published by T S Eliot along with Robert Graves an early supporter of her work. Roberts writes an extraordinary English, full of unusual words and images drawn from myth and technology. Yet for all its verbal and imagisitic energy, its mythical and futuristic conception and its epic dimension, Roberts’s poetry is unique in describing, also, the domestic life of women in wartime.”

Patrick McGuinness is Professor of French and Comparative Literature, Sir Win and Lady Bischoff Fellow in French at St Anne’s College, Oxford. He has published widely on subjects from French decadence to contemporary American poetry. He is himself a published poet (with two volumes from Carcanet) and is the editor of Lynette Roberts, Collected Poems (Carcanet 2005). Currently a Leverhulme Research fellow, he is writing a book French poetry and politics from 1871-1914, one on Thom Gunn and another on Lynette Roberts’ modernist poetry.

Friday, 13 February 2009

'Spaces of Comparison' Programme

The programme for the CREW organised Association for Welsh Writing in English Annual Conference 'Spaces of Comparison: Welsh Writing in English in Comparative Contexts' is now downloadable online. Things will inevitavbly change slightly by the time the conference happens, but it promises to be a great event with keynote papers by international leaders in the field of Comparative Literature and Art, poetry readings, the launch of a groundbreaking journal issue, and a whole range of papers delivered by leading figures in the field of Welsh literature and by a new generation of scholars presenting their innovative work for the first time. If you're interested in literature, in Wales, in criticism, and in lively debate, make sure you register! Both the programme and registration form are downloadable here:

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Paul Robeson Seminars: Semester 2

After a very successful first semester of Paul Robeson Seminars in African American Studies, Semester 2 is already underway. It seems a long time ago that we kicked off at a packed Callaghan Lecture Theatre with Professor Jon Roper prophesying an Obama victory. Rachel Farebrother (American Studies) and Daniel Williams (CREW) invite you to attend the following sessions, 1pm - 2pm in the James Callaghan Conference Room.

Wednesday 4 February
Reading Group: Excerpts from George Hutchinson, The Harlem Renaissance in Black and White, and Houston A. Baker, Modernism and the Harlem Renaissance. Langston Hughes poems.
Organiser: Rachel Farebrother

Wednesday 18 February
Dr Mark Whalan, Department of English, Exeter University
The Great War and the Culture of the New Negro

Wednesday 4 March
Jen Wilson, Women in Jazz, Swansea
African American Music in Nineteenth Century Wales

Wednesday 18 March
Ieuan Williams, American Studies, Swansea University
Jazz and 1950s America

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Margiad Evans Centenary Conference

"Florence Morgan was close on sixty, had never done anything much amiss in her life that people knew of, and yet she was like Satan inside."
Margiad Evans, 'The Wicked Woman', The Old and the Young (1948)

Margiad Evans is best known for her border writing and Country Dance (1932) in particular, but she was also an extraordinary short-story writer, novelist, autobiographer and poet.

CREW is organising a one-day conference to celebrate and explore the achievements of this extraordinary writer. The day will feature lectures by Dr Katie Gramich (Cardiff University), Dr Clare Morgan (Oxford University), Dr Ceridwen Lloyd-Morgan (Biographer of Margiad Evans) and CREW's Director, Dr Daniel Williams.

The event is for all readers of Margiad Evans's work, as well as students and researchers.

Tickets can be booked through the National Library of Wales box office, and further information is available from