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.