Pleasure despite excruciating pain. I find myself recommending a tormenting thrill. Gwyneth Lewis’s Welsh poem Henaint and her translation of it into English, Old Age are excellent examples of the wonderful double enjoyment that a poet working in two languages can offer.
To read the Welsh poem and find its adjacent English version is like diving into one pool to discover it linked underwater to a twin, from which one emerges, amazed to have experienced two related worlds whose contents are refracted to the eye and ear by differing slants of colour, angle and echo: an exciting, astonishing experience – and repeatable! Do read these poems now in a special online edition of Eborakon poetry magazine. Continue reading Gwyneth Lewis – Henaint / Old Age, a double pleasure in Welsh and English→
‘A dream unquestioned is a letter unopened’. Apparently. Do you agree?
Twenty years ago I was in the grip of prolonged and serious physical pain due to a then-undiagnosed condition. I couldn’t work as normal. I spent long periods confined to the house. Someone was very unkind to me and, as a way of acknowledging his fault without having to say it aloud, he handed me a book, saying I might find it of interest. I had plenty of time to read it thoroughly, footnotes and all and, in one of those, discovered a reference to a book that came to mind forcefully this morning.
I woke from a dream so vivid and engaging that I was able to write down the dialogue between the figures in it and to describe their outward and inward dispositions, partly because I had ‘been’ them all, inhabiting the action from their perspectives. This is not possible in waking life. At least not with the immediate and assured access a dream affords.
This morning’s scenes, I realised, in which I was both multiply participant and also the observer, opened up for me a way to go deeper into a character in the novel I’m writing.
The fourth research trip for my novel (6th – 17th April), coinciding with the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, was necessarily a time of public reflection, assessment and forecasting about peace and conflict, in great depth and with many of the major actors back in the spotlight.
The third research trip for my novel started and ended with snow. My flight from Cardiff to Belfast was delayed by 23 inches of it near the airport and by another fall on the return but I encountered nothing other than warmth from the people I met in Northern Ireland.
It was a pleasure to spend time with teachers, schoolchildren, community workers, experts in Irish and Ulster Scots, journalists, farmers and agricultural experts. I also enjoyed two great reading gigs and came home with a prize certificate.
Research Trip 2 for my novel, from 21st January to 2nd February in Northern Ireland, gave me access to generously shared experience and expertise from writers, sociologists, historians, academics, journalists, teachers and an educationalist, former civil servants, librarians, language activists, clergy, lawyers, a farmer, a statistician, a youth worker and many who shared from the cutting edge of their painfully gained experience.
I was struck too by the kindness with which I was treated.
I cannot do justice to the events and individuals who gave me their time. I will, however, single out, among the public events I attended, the conference organised by the Ulster University Faculty of Health and Life Sciences: Addressing the Transgenerational Transmission of Trauma and Mental Illness in Northern Ireland.
I had noticed something of a narrative about Northern Ireland along the lines of: the effect of the Troubles is exaggerated; it’s all behind us now and I wanted to get beyond personal opinion to some facts about ‘legacy’ and ‘impact’.
The BBC’s Review of its Religion and Ethics output and programme-making practice has important immediate and long-term implications. I want to focus not so much on what programmes will get made as a result of its findings but on the change to media culture that I believe will follow from the implementation of its decisions.
This change will be seen in:
*the training of journalists of the future;
*the rising prominence of religious literacy as a concept, as a skill worth cultivating and an essential tool of self-understanding and of any claim to be an interpreter of the times;
*the development of a type of ‘belief literacy’, beyond religious literacy and well beyond the BBC.
The Review has launched a set of new norms, along with a raft of new means of consolidating and progressing them.
Don’t miss ‘The Chimes’ in its London run from 19th – 30th December. This staging of Charles Dickens’ second ‘Christmas Book’ as musical theatre is strikingly confident in its mix of professional actors and ‘an ensemble of men and women who have been homeless and are re-building their lives’.
The high quality of the songs by Conor Linehan with musical direction by Cathal Synnott plus their excellent delivery by a well-drilled cast make this a real treat.