As soon as I learned about Poetry as Commemoration I wanted to write something for it.
2022-2023 marks the centenary of one of the most challenging periods in Irish history including the ratification of the Anglo-Irish Treaty, the establishment of the Free State and the ensuing Civil War. As we embark on this difficult phase of the Decade of Centenaries, Poetry as Commemoration invites communities to turn to poetry as a mode of understanding and expression.
It is an all-island initiative, organised by the Irish Poetry Reading Archive at University College Dublin and the Irish Government’s Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media.
I’m a big fan of initiatives that connect people and enable sharing so I was very pleased to be interviewed by Carys Bradley-Roberts of Creative Cardiff.
Creative Cardiff is a network which connects people working in any creative organisation, business or job in the Cardiff region. By encouraging people to work together we believe that we can make Cardiff the most creative place it can be.
Creative Firsts puts the spotlight on people’s first ventures into creativity in a particular field. My Creative First has been moving from film and TV into the world of books via Sanctuary: There Must Be Somewhere my poetry collection, and my short story collection A City Burning. I had a lot to learn.
I was delighted to be invited by Alan Roderick to read at The Murenger pub in Newport’s High Street. The name is memorable. The original murenger collected taxes that maintained the city’s defences in the medieval period. This monthly gathering is one of the most popular gigs for writers in south Wales and, of course, to add to its fame there is Jon Gower’s short story collection, The Murenger .
It is wonderful to be among people who really love writing. There’s no mistaking the genuine commitment to the written word. In the Open Mic session we heard from regulars and a newcomer. The audience was attentive and responsive. and Alan Roderick is a generous and arm host. He gave me a copy of his poetry colleciton, ‘After You’d Gone’. At the station on my way home, I was engrossed in it and missed my train! Apart from that, what more could a writer want?
Liam Logan interviewed me for a programme in his 8-part series on Ulster-Scots writing, ‘A MIGHTY MALLET’ made by Belfast cable channel Northern Visions (NVTV).
The series showcases the work of the Rhyming Weavers or Weaver Poets, working-class writers of the late 18th and early 19th century in the north of Ireland, who wrote in their vernacular and were influenced by Robert Burns. The programmes feature the work of James Orr, Samuel Thompson, Hugh Porter and John McKinley, David Herbison and Sarah Leech from Co Donegal, the only known female Irish weaver poet.
Liam Logan has added three contemporary writers in Ulster-Scots: Angeline King, Gary Morgan and myself.
The half-hour documentary on my work can be viewed here:
It was a great pleasure to be awarded an Honorary Life Fellowship by the Institute of Welsh Affairs. The citation reads:
For supporting our shared objective of a strong, confident democracy in Wales by chairing and leading our media policy work to foster robust debate in Welsh society, laying the groundwork for our current citizen-centred media and democracy work.
It was a great pleasure to have my three-poem sequence The Magi Remember published online by The Lonely Crowd. I also had the opportunity to write an introductory article to the poems, Dreams and Realities.
A strand in this is about the work of a Cardiff-based charity, The Birth Partner Project which provides volunteer virth partners to suppot women seeking sanctuary who would otherwise face pregnancy, birth and early motherhood alone.
What a lovely bookshop Cardiff’s Shelf Life is. Small, but perfectly formed if what you’re looking for are books that are radical.
What does ‘radical’ mean?
Owner, Rosie Smith favours stocking less-heard voices. She wants book-buyers to come across topics and people and situations that they may not have previously known about. She says:
“I want to engender solidarity between readers and the people they read about, and between communities. I stock the kind of books that can foster compassion. I hope they encourage a less individualistic approach to life. I’m a fan of collectivism.”
Since those are my ideals too I am very glad that Shelf Life now has my books
It was a pleasure to interviewed about my writing by poet, Taz Rahman as part of his long-running Just Another Poet series of conversations.
We talked about my poetry collection Sanctuary: There Must Be Somewhere and my shrot story collection A City Burning. Information about the books here
Being asked questions stimulates some thought! Most of the time I am writing, with a sense of purpose, yes, but not according to a theory. At some point it is certainly useful to be asked about genre, approach and so on. Reflecting aloud does provide insights and perspective that might otherwise be lacking.
The library itself is in a bold re-fashioning of Hanbury Chapel in the heart of the town. This beautiful building, dating from 1906, now contains a scaled-down chapel, where the reading took place, and a full range of modern library facilities. Historical Details on CADW coflein site. Fascinating.
The staff could not have done more to make it a pleasant experience for me. I could see beforehand that they were making great outreach efforts. They printed out 3 of my Christmas poems as cards that attendees could take away after the reading. They had library copies of my books on display and I was able to offer copies for sale. Continue reading Brilliant Bargoed Library→
Libraries Wales Author of the Month December 2022, Angela Graham reflects on the role of public libraries in her writing life.
Cardiff Central and the Canton branch are the libraries of Wales which I know best. In their different ways, but working together, they have supplied me with a range of books which I could never have accessed on my own, either because of cost or because a librarian’s advice steered me towards something I would have issed unaided.
The university libraries of Wales have been a terrific resource, not only for books, but images and film, voice recordings and maps and documents.
What they all have in common is that they offer plentitde, ample resources, more than I imagined; and in that ‘more’ they broaden my outlook and extend my reach into my own life and the lives of others. They nourish. They nurture.