Dedwydd Jones: 2016
Thank God for Robert Edward Gurney’s two volumes of poetry, To Dylan and Dylan’s Gower, the best collection of Welsh verse since R. S. Thomas. These are short poems like the Japanese haiku or the wonderful Welsh englynion, presenting a world of observation in a few words – as Gurney does – just find the image, fix it, present it and then move on to the next, no messing! And no Dylan imitations either although Gower was Dylan’s backyard where poetry positively ‘flowed through the air’! The poems too celebrate place names as Dylan himself did so brilliantly. The collected titles are poetic in themselves: ‘Port Eynon from Space’, ‘On Llanmadoc Hill’, ‘The Mist’, ‘Crows’ and ‘Fires’, ‘The Tears of St Lawrence’, ‘The Poundffald’, ‘Chatterpies’, ‘The White Lady of Oystermouth Castle’, ‘Walking the Worm’, ‘Dylan and the Monster’, all set firmly in Gower – the best of Wales for a very long time. To Dylan and Dylan’s Gower are an antidote to anyone suffering from the dolorous hiraeth of home, especially the Gower of Cymru. Thank you ROBERT GURNEY.
Dedwydd Jones, playwright, scriptwriter, novelist, poet, journalist, was born in Wales and lives in Bedford. Letter, 8 January 2016.
Gracias a Dios por los tres poemarios de Robert Edward Gurney, Para Dylan [pruebas], una trilogía que comprende A Dylan, La Gower de Dylan y El Rhossili de Dylan, la mejor colección de poesía galesa desde RS Thomas. Son poemas cortos como el haiku japonés o el maravilloso englynion galés, presentando un mundo de la observación en pocas palabras – como lo hace Gurney – sólo encontrar la imagen, arreglarlo, presentarlo y luego pasar a la siguiente, sin trabas! Y no hay tampoco imitaciones de Dylan, aunque Gower fue el patio trasero de Dylan donde la poesía positivamente ‘fluyó a través del aire’! Los poemas también celebran los nombres de lugares, como el propio Dylan hizo tan brillantemente. Los títulos recogidos son poéticos en sí mismos: ‘Port Eynon desde el espacio “,’ Sobre la colina de Llanmadoc’, ‘La niebla’, ‘Cuervos’ y ‘Fuegos’, ‘Las lágrimas de San Lorenzo’, ‘El Poundffald’, ‘Urracas’ , ‘La Dama Blanca del Castillo de Oystermouth’, ‘Caminando por el Dragón’, ‘Dylan y el Monstruo’, todo ello firmemente en Gower – lo mejor del País de Gales desde hace mucho tiempo.
Para Dylan es un antídoto para cualquier persona que sufre de la hiraeth, la nostalgia dolorosa de la patria, especialmente la Gower de Cymru. Gracias ROBERT GURNEY.
Dedwydd Jones, dramaturgo, guionista, novelista, poeta, periodista, nació en Gales y vive en Bedford. Carta, 08 de enero 2016.
On To Dylan and Dylan’s Gower:
“Better than anything coming out of Wales at the moment.”
“There is poetry even in the titles.”
“Your poetry reminds me of R.S. Thomas.”
Personal communication (6 January, 2016).
“Mejor que cualquier cosa que se publica en Gales en el presente.”
“Hay poesía incluso en los títulos.”
“Su poesía me recuerda R.S. Thomas.”
Josh Brown: 2016
“To read a poem is to hear it with our eyes; to hear it is to see it with our ears” (Octavio Paz).
“A good poem is a contribution to reality. The world is never the same once a good poem has been added to it” (Dylan Thomas).
‘To Dylan’ and ‘Dylan’s Gower’ are two collections of poetry by Robert Edward Gurney [Bob], a poet and academic who writes in both English and Spanish. They were published by Cambria Books in 2014 for the Dylan Thomas centenary. Although I love poetry, I can only read it in short bursts, a few poems at a time, so it is a mark of their wisdom and easy composition that I read these two volumes in one afternoon.
The poems are driven by a love of Gower, that glorious peninsula with its flawless beaches that curves from Swansea’s Mumbles near where Thomas was born in 1914, and by the poet himself and his tumultuous, controversial life. Gurney lights upon little morsels of both his own and Dylan’s life, the kind of inconsequential truths we too easily overlook, connects them and finds their meaning and importance so that these verses are much more than tributes. “It’s funny”, he observes at the close of ‘Heron’s Way’, “how you can go through life without ever really seeing things as they really are”. But that is what Bob’s poems can do, see the meaning and import in the commonplace that are the markers which index our lives.
Dylan’s childhood was lived on the Gower, in the house in Cwmdonkin Drive where he was born, on his aunt’s farm where he was happiest as a boy and which gave birth to one of his greatest poems, ‘Fern Hill’, and on Rhossili beach. The Gurney family spend their holidays at his parents-in-law’s old house in nearby Port Eynon.
Maybe it is Mr Thomas’s famous love of the pub that causes me to feel that many of Bob’s poems have spun out of bar room anecdotes. They have that feel to them. You can imagine him listening to the ‘old stories’ of the ghosts and local characters of Gower (and Argentina) and then weaving them into his own memories to produce these gentle, beguiling poems. ‘The Poundffald’ remembers Dylan in his New York haunts (imagined indeed as a ghost) then moves through otters in a friend’s stream to her father’s unflattering memory of him (‘worse for wear’), a conventional phrase that captures the poet’s end.
His work is lit with a ‘Welsh’ temperament that makes it a surprise to learn that Robert Gurney was born and schooled in Luton, though being taught Spanish by a Welshman has left its mark on both his career and his poetry, the Patagonian Principle perhaps!
There is a melancholy to many of the poems and a thirst for the magic that illumines the legends of Wales. ‘The Vicar in the Park’ tells of a ‘whiskey priest’, asked to sermon on Dylan Thomas, searching the myths of saint Kenneth (Cenydd) to inspire his congregation, fearing their response and opting for a safer bland message on ‘the family’. It captures perfectly the contradictory forces traditional to Wales, the Celtic romance and the chapel proper!
Dylan Thomas wrote extravagantly, loving the sound and feel of words, combining them in a magnificent creative disregard. He called it ‘the colour of saying’. Eager to follow his example, many of us flounder in an ill-fitted soup, forgetting the “craft” that is essential to the “sullen art”. It comes almost as a shock to find that two volumes of poetry inspired by Dylan are so wonderfully contrasted. It has been said that Bob’s poetry is closer to R.S. Thomas than Dylan or akin to the traditional ‘englynion’ in their sparse wording. Perhaps a career teaching and translating has tutored him in a precision, unlike other poets, just as the asceticism of his faith did for R.S.Thomas. ‘The Shepherd’ exemplifies this, a tragic story simply and briefly stated. Simplicity is the core of poetry, the hard craft Dylan knew.
If there is one fault to these two collections it is possibly that the titles mislead. These are not merely poems ‘about’ Dylan Thomas. These are beautiful, almost whimsical, observations on Dylan, on the glorious Gower and its characters (Milk Wood is often misunderstood in that its characters are nearer to the truth of Wales than it wished, or wishes, to admit) and on the lives we all share. Bob tells me some readers have been disappointed with the dissimilarity to Dylan. But these are lovely, insightful, gentle poems and they stand on their own in that achievement.
Josh Brown, 18 July, 2016. Of Welsh parents, Josh lives in Southsea, UK. He is heavily involved with Portsmouth Poetry: wwwportsmouthpoetry.co.uk
Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/authorbobgurney
For poems in Spanish published on Con Voz Propia: http://www.convozpropiaenlared.blogspot.co.uk/2016/04/robert-gurney.html
Robert was born in Luton, Bedfordshire in 1939. He attended Luton Grammar School where he did Spanish, French, English and Latin, winning the A level Latin prize whilst in Lower Sixth. He studied Spanish, French, Latin and Moral Philosophy at St. Andrews, specialising in Spanish and French and graduating in 1964. He completed a Dip Ed at Makerere, Uganda, in 1965.
He was awarded a PhD on the French and Spanish poetry of Juan Larrea at the University of London under the supervision of Ian Gibson in 1975. Thesis title: The Poetry of Juan Larrea, described as outstanding (“sobresaliente”) by the external examiner, Professor Arthur Terry, the Catalán poetry specialist.
He writes in English and Spanish.
He launched Verulamium Press in 2004 because local publishers were not interested in publishing poetry and national publishers were not interested in publishing local poetry.
Lord Byron Ediciones (Madrid), viewing him as a ‘pioneer of interculturalism’, has published four of his books of poetry to date, two of them in dual language, English and Spanish, editions.
Dylan’s Gower, Llyfrau Cambria/Cambria Books, Llandeilo, 2014, 114 pages. ISBN: 978-0-9930862-2-9, eBook: 978-0-9930862-3-6.
To Dylan, Llyfrau Cambria/Cambria Books, Llandeilo, 2014, 80 pages. ISBN: 978-0-9928690-3-8.
A Night in Buganda. Tales from Post-Colonial Africa, Verulamium Press, St Albans, 2014, 169 pages. ISBN 978-0-9547166-4-6.
La casa de empeño y otros poemas / The Pawn Shop and Other Poems, Lord Byron Ediciones, Madrid, Colección Prometeo Desencadenado, 2014, 159 páginas. ISBN 978-84-9949-522-4.
La libélula y otros poems / The Dragonfly (dual language edition), Lord Byron Ediciones, Madrid, 2012, 217 pages. ISBN:978-84-9949-209-4.
Poemas a la Patagonia, prólogo y selección de Andrés Bohoslavsky, Lord Byron Ediciones / Editorial Visión libros, Madrid, 2009. 89 páginas. (Augmented edition). ISBN: 978 84 9886 608 7.
El cuarto oscuro y otros poemas, Lord Byron Ediciones, Madrid, 2008. Colección Prometeo Desencadenado. 70 páginas. ISBN: 9972-2755-0-7.
Nueve monedas para el barquero, Antología, edición a cargo de Robert Gurney, Verulamium Press, St Albans, 2005, 100 páginas. ISBN 0-9547166-3-9. Poemas de María Teresa Andruetto, Raúl Artola, Andrés Bohoslavsky, Julio Carabelli, Bruno di Benedetto, Robert Gurney, Monica Larrañaga, Ketty Alejandrina Lis, Sergio Rigazio.
Luton Poems, Verulamium Press, St Albans, 2005, 69 pages. ISBN: 0-9547166-3-9.
Poemas a la Patagonia, Prólogo y selección de A. Bohoslavsky, Verulamium Press, St Albans, 2004, 47 páginas. ISBN: 0-9547166-1-2.
La poesía de Juan Larrea, Universidad del País Vasco, Servicio Editorial/ Argitarapen Zerbitzua, Euskal Herriko Unibertsitatea, Lejona (Bilbao), 1985, 331 páginas. ISBN: 84-7585-027-8.
Translation: Bohoslavsky, A., The River and Other Poems, translated by Robert Gurney, Verulamium Press, St Albans, 2004, 17 pages. ISBN: 0-954-716604.
CRITICS GO TO verpress.com/critics
2015: Lidia Fernández
La página [verpress.com] funciona. Me han encantado sus poemas, especialmente The Mist, Escupiendo sangre y White lady. Realmente buenos. […]
The page is working [verpress.com]. I loved your poems, especially ‘The Mist’, ‘Escupiendo sangre’ [‘Spitting Blood’] and ‘The White Lady’. [Page: 100 Poems]
Mundi Book Ediciones (Madrid)
2014: Robert Havard
I woke early this morning and read To Dylan with interest and pleasure. I like your light touch and gentle humour, also a number of the Gower poems especially, for like you I married someone from the area. You offer an evocative tribute to Dylan yet weave this into your own life experiences with unassuming ease. It probably helps that your own style is at the other end of the spectrum from his crafted if not exactly sullen art, for, crucially, there is no sense of plagiarism here. Poems like ‘The Mist’ and ‘Infinity’ have strikingly simple yet strong imagery, while ‘The Pawn Shop’ also struck a chord, your native Luton being in its own way another ‘lovely, ugly town’. Bravo!
Robert Havard, Poet and Painter, Aberystwyth 23.09.2014
Me desperté esta mañana y leí To Dylan con interés y placer. Me gusta tu toque ligero y el humor suave, también varios de los poemas relacionados con Gower en especial, porque al igual que tú me casé con una chica de la zona. Ofreces un homenaje emocionante a Dylan que logras tejer en tus propias experiencias de la vida con facilidad y sin pretensiones. Probablemente ayuda que tu propio estilo está en el otro extremo del espectro de su arte trabajada, ya que no hay sentido alguno de plagio aquí. Poemas como ‘La Niebla’ e ‘Infinidad’ tienen imágenes sorprendentemente sencillas, pero fuertes, mientras que ‘La casa de empeño’ también tocó la fibra más sensible, tu Luton nativo siendo a su manera otra ‘ciudad fea y encantadora’. Bravo!
Robert Havard, Poeta y Pintor, Aberystwyth, 23.09.2014
2011: Alejandro Drewes
I have to tell you that I can hardly find words to comment on your poem to Raymond Carver [‘Escupiendo sangre’/’Spitting Bloody] you kindly sent me. It’s really shocking in its tragic Beauty, much more than I could express at this moment.
Alejandro Drewes, Poet and Critic, Argentina. Go to the Page “100 Poems” in this website.
2008: Rubén Vedovaldi
After reading Bob one finds oneself breathless. A sign of good poetry is that which leaves us speechless when we would like to say something about it.
Después de leer a Bob uno queda sin aire. Señal de buena poesía es esa que nos deja sin palabras cuando querríamos decir algo sobre ella.
On the poems ‘El acebo’ (The Holly Bush), ‘Una bronca’ (‘Anger’), ‘El castaño de Indias’, (‘The Horse Chestnut Tree’), ‘Los muertos’, (‘The Dead‘ ), ‘Escupiendo sangre’, (‘Spitting Blood’), ‘Floriseo y Muerto’ (‘Floriseo and Dead One’), ‘Juangoikua’, (‘God’), ‘El cielo’, (‘Heaven’), ‘La vanguardia’, (‘The Vanguard’ ), ‘Los cuervos’ (‘The Crows’), ‘Dieciocho poemas’ (‘Eighteen Poems’), ‘Golondrinas moradas’ (‘Purple Swallows’), ‘Echando oraciones’, (‘Casting Prayers’).
2008: Anna Furphy
Realmente lo que me encanta es la poesía. La tuya me gusta mucho, me agradan las enumeraciones sin decir nada sobre ellas, creo que se deja al lector la labor de completarlas y realizar el verdadero acto de recreación, el cual llega a ser una especie de comunión autor-lector.
Really what I love is poetry. I love yours, I like the enumerations without your saying anything about them. I think it is left to the reader to complete them and perform the actual act of recreation, which becomes a kind of author-reader communion.
Anna Furphy, Writer, Mexico. 6th January 2008
2005: John Pope
Wasn’t too sure about your “non conformist”, if thats the word,
style of poetry as I may have told you. BUT I have just played the video
on Luton on line website and am absolutely converted. It is
brilliant! Your reading is so full of expression it sounds to me like
music. Why don’t you make a full reading on video?
More than ever you must get a copy of your book to me by hook or
by crook. I’m not so sure that I can ever get the expression into my
mind without your rendering. Congrats Absolutely Brilliant again.
Your Humbled convert,
The late John Pope was Chief Engineer at Vauxhall Motors, Luton.