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
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 RS 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 poetry 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, Bedford, 8 January 2016.
Dedwydd Jones: 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.”
Dedwydd Jones, born on Wales, lives in Bedford, England. Playwright, scriptwriter, novelist, journalist, is the author of The Black Book on Welsh Theatre (Foreword by Jan Morris). Personal communication, 4 January, 2016.
Gracias a Dios por los tres poemarios de Robert Edward Gurney, Para Dylan, 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.
Otras palabras de Dedwydd sobre Para Dylan:
“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 “.
Amie Ilva Tatem: 2016
This very provocative collection of poems can have a twofold purpose– as an introduction to Dylan Thomas and certainly as a tribute. The author is obviously sharing his admiration of Thomas via revisiting his environs and letting his own imagination soar .. and take the reader to amazing places. I applaud this imagination of Robert Edward Gurney and the ride it takes the reader on.
Amie Ilva Tatem, poet and painter, born and lives in New York, Facebook page, 16 January, 2016.
Meryl Wilkinson, 17 June, 2015:
On Dylan’s Gower: I have this book on Kindle. Highly recommended – I love it! It is like taking a walk around Gower with Dylan at my side!
Meryl Wilkinson, Gnosall, Staffordshire, worked at Stafford College as a Learning Support Assistant.
Brian Boak, London, 16 June, 2015:
On the poem ‘Dylan and the Monster': Always quite taken by the psychological/philosophical/mythological elements of your poetry, however which way you wish to term it. You seem to talk again of a fear within him. This could be said to be universal to a certain or rather to differing extents, although perhaps is magnified somewhat in poets and artists, even though Dylan himself would most probably have denied it
Tony de Sarzec, 22 April 2015:
I’ve just completed reading Dylan’s Gower by Robert Edward Gurney. It’s a book of poems jam-packed with atmosphere and images that stay with you long after the book is closed. I could mention so many poems such as ‘The Mist’, ‘The Photograph’, ‘Dylan and the Monster’, ‘A Premonition’, ‘The Worm’s Head Hotel’, ‘The Way We Are Now’ and ‘The Three Wise Monkeys’. Suffice it to say that I’ve once again enjoyed reading Bob’s work. I feel as though I’ve just returned home from a wonderful walk in the fresh air.
Acabo de completar la lectura de Dylan’s Gower [La Gower de Dylan], de Robert Edward Gurney. Es un libro de poemas cargado de atmósferas e imágenes que se quedan con usted mucho después que el libro se ha cerrado. Podría mencionar tantos poemas, como ‘La niebla’, ‘La fotografía’, ‘Dylan y el monstruo’, La premonición”, ‘El Hotel de la Cabeza del Dragón’, ‘La forma en que estamos ahora’ y ‘Los tres monos sabios’. Basta decir que he disfrutado una vez más la lectura de la obra de Bob. Me siento como si acabase de volver a casa luego de un maravilloso paseo al aire libre.
Dylan Thomas Appreciation Society: https://www.facebook.com/groups/2247851765/
Tony de Sarzec, poet, produced the album entitled Was There A Time – A Selection of Poems and Short Stories by Dylan Thomas read by Philip Madoc.
Tony de Sarzec, 22.O4.17:
It really is marvellous.
Brian Boak, 2015
On the poem ‘The Poundffald: “At the risk of stating the obvious, you create a sense of haunting, just as Dylan himself sometimes seemed haunted.”
Brian Boak, Facebook message, 25 March 2015.
From Buckinghamshire, Brian Boak lives in London. He is a historian with a strong intrest in literature.
He has written a novel and has made a TV film (starring Sean Bean, Phil Daniels and Brendan Coyle).
He works in the Operational Excellence Directorate at the Department of Work and Pensions.
Wyn Thomas on To Dylan and Dylan’s Gower
I have had a splendid couple of sunny days wandering Gower (and the White Horse again) through your poetry. You have brought the Gower experience to life by capturing the mystical essence of the place. It would be unfair to ask for a favourite poem, I think that would change with the reader’s moods and feelings. This morning for me it’s Rhossili Bay. The Parsonage, the Worm and the bay captured Dylan’s imagination. That is reflected in the poem. It’s also appealing that the wrecked ship was The Helvetia, and that was the name of the London pub where he lost the manuscript of Under Milk Wood.
Alan Llwyd adapted Dylan’s story, Who Do You Wish Was Here With Us as a tv play; one that sees him growing into adulthood and confronting the death that was to obsess him for the first time.
There is so much beauty and mystery in Rhossili, and after the strange aura of this morning’s eclipse I’m left wandering what Dylan would have made of experiencing it there. Wyn
Wyn Thomas, Facebook message, Gorseinon. 21 March, 2015
Formerly of HTV and Swansea Sound (Controller) and the BBC (freelance), Wyn Thomas set up Ffilmiau Tawe producing art and history films for ITV, S4C, the BBC and the Canadian History channel.
Analía Pascaner (Argentina) on the cover:
The cover of your book is inspiring, interesting, captivating. I see the moon reflected in the water, just as it could be reflected in the sand. And I also see a round jar of light, which is reflected in its raised lid. I prefer my second perception: to open ourselves to the world to deliver the light within each of us. Light as harmony, serenity, solidarity, love, peace, containment, support.
La portada de tu libro es sugerente, interesante, cautivante.
Observo la luna reflejada en el agua, como podría estar reflejada en la arena.
Y también veo una tinaja colmada de luz, la cual se refleja en su tapa levantada.
Prefiero mi segunda percepción: abrirnos al mundo para entregar la luz que hay dentro de cada uno. Luz como armonía, serenidad, solidaridad, amor, paz, contención, sostén.
Dylan’s Gower out 1 November 2014
Gurney, R.E., Dylan’s Gower, Cambria Books, Llandeilo, 2014, 114 pages. ISBN: 978-0-9930862-2-9, eBook: 978-0-9930862-3-6.
Available on Kindle. Google Gurney Dylan’s Gower.
Original cover design © William Gurney
Go to BUY page [Vaya a la página Comprar]: http://verpress.com/buy/
On Llanmadoc Hill
to Sir Cedric Lockwood Morris (1889-1982)
with my laptop
on Llanmadoc Hill,
looking at a painting,
by Cedric Morris,
I start to wonder.
if Dylan ever sat here.
I wonder if,
on one of his ‘medicinal walks’,
he looked down from here
upon Llanmadoc village.
if he ever wondered
about an older name for the village:
with a ‘g’.
if he looked down at the pond
by the farmhouse
and wondered what Llanmadog
would look like
when reflected in it,
I wonder if he was ever tempted
to use it in a play.
I wonder if he felt
that that, perhaps,
would have been too risky
and went for ‘Llareggub’,
Robert Edward Gurney
From Dylan’s Gower, 2014, pp 14-15
Cedric Lockwood Morris’s ‘Llanmadoc Hill':
En Llanmadoc Hill
a Sir Cedric Lockwood Morris (1889-1982)
en la cima de Llanmadoc Hill
con mi ordenador portátil
mirando un cuadro llamado ‘Llanmadoc Hill’
pintado por Cedric Lockwood Morris,
empiezo a preguntarme algo.
si Dylan se sentó aquí.
si, en uno de sus “paseos medicinales”,
miró hacia abajo
hacia la aldea de Llanmadoc.
si alguna vez se preguntó algo
acerca de un nombre antiguo de la aldea:
Llanmadog, con una “g”.
Me pregunto si miró hacia el estanque
delante de la granja
y se preguntó
qué aspecto tendría “Llanmadog”
reflejado en ello.
Llanmadog – Godamnall -
Maldito todo – Odototidlam.
Me pregunto si alguna vez
estuvo tentado a usarlo
en alguna de sus obras.
Me pregunto si sentía
que eso, tal vez,
hubiera sido demasiado arriesgado
y escogió, en su lugar,
Llareggub – Buggerall -
Adanasapon – No Pasa Nada
deletreado al revés.
Robert Edward Gurney
De Dylan’s Gower, págs 14-15
Comentario: Me conmovió tu poema, la musicalidad, me iba meciendo mientras lo estaba leyendo, me agrada esa sensación al leer.
Sobre el cuadro de Lockwood Morris: He visto el cuadro en Internet. No conozco de pintura y poco puedo decir, sólo observo su sencillez, la imagen me transmite paz, armonía, silencio, invita a pensar.
Analía Pascaner, escritora, Argentina, 1 de dicimbre de 2014.
rose blood red
over the sea
and plunged upwards
into a bank
of black cloud
sobre el mar
se volvió naranja
antes de hundirse
en una nube
Gower Sub Boscus (traducción sigue)
Once upon a time, they say, there was a huge wood, that stretched from Swansea to Loughor, a distance of five miles (8.5 km). That’s how long it was. How wide it was I am not sure. Quite wide, I think, looking at maps. Remnants of that wood can still be be glimpsed in local place-names: Fforestfach (Fair Forest), Penllergaer Forest (Main Fort Forest), Cefn Fforest Fawr (Great Forest Ridge) and even, perhaps, Cefn Coed (Wooded Ridge), Tir Coed (Tree Land). Imagine a dividing line running east to west or west to east through that large wood or forest. People used to use the terms ‘Gower Supra Boscus’ and ‘Gower Sub Boscus’ to designate areas on either side of that line. I have seen the terms ‘Gwyr Is Coed’ and ‘Gwyr Uwch Coed’ used: ‘Gower Sub Boscus’ and ‘Gower Supra Boscus’. Some say that ‘Uwchcoed’ should be translated as ‘the upper part of the wood’, implying that ‘Iscoed’ should be translated as the ‘the lower part of the wood. I suspect that Dylan, in his mind, translated ‘Gower Sub Boscus’, ‘Gwyr Iscoed’ in Welsh, as ‘Gower Under the Wood’. When John Malcolm Brinnin asked him to come up with a lighter title than Llareggub (Buggerall backwards), Dylan replied immediately, according to Brinnin: “Under Milk Wood”. My latest book of poetry, Dylan’s Gower (http://verpress.com/dylans-gower-2014/), explores, in part, the implications of the term ‘Gower Sub Boscus’ for the title of Dylan’s play and its contents.
See also: http://verpress.com/to-dylan-2014/
Érase una vez un bosque, dicen, que se extendía desde Swansea a Loughor, una distancia de cinco millas (8,5 km). Esa era su longitud. En cuanto a su ancho no estoy seguro. Creo que lo era y bastante. Los restos de un gran bosque aún se pueden vislumbrar en topónimos locales: Fforestfach (Bosque Ameno, Hermoso), Penllergaer Forest (Bosque de la Fortaleza Principal), Cefn Fforest Fawr (La Cresta del Gran Bosque) e incluso, tal vez, Cefn Coed (La Cresta de la Arboleda). Imagine una línea divisoria que corre de este a oeste o de oeste a este a través de ese gran Bosque. En el pasado solían usar los términos Gower Supra Boscus y Gower Sub Boscus para designar las zonas a los dos lados de esa línea. He oído hablar de Gwyr Is Coed y Gwyr Uwch Coed: Gower Sub Boscus y Gower Supra Boscus, Gower Debajo del Bosque y Gower Por Encima del Bosque. Algunos dicen que Uwchcoed debe traducirse como “la parte superior del bosque”, lo que implica que Iscoed debe traducirse como “la parte inferior del bosque”. Sospecho que Dylan, en su mente, tradujo Gower Sub Boscus, Gwyr Iscoed, como Gower Por Debajo o Gower Bajo el Bosque. Cuando John Malcolm Brinnin le pidió a Dylan que escogiera un título menos pesado que Llareggub (Buggerall deletreado al revés, Adanasapon, digamos, en español), Dylan respondió de inmediato, según Brinnin: “Under Milk Wood” (“Bajo el bosque de leche”).* En el joven bosque es titulo escogido por el poeta alcalaíno Tomás Ramos Orea). Mi último libro de poesía, Dylan’s Gower (http://verpress.com/dylans-gower-2014/), explora las implicaciones del término ‘Gower Sub Boscus’ por el título de la obra de Dylan y su contenido.
* ‘[…] “¿Qué opinas de Bajo el bosque de leche?” dijo, y le respondí “Muy bien”, y la nueva obra fue bautizada ahí mismo,’ (Dylan Thomas in America, Dent, 1956, p.152). [Laugharne, septiembre, 1953]. Under Milk Wood, The Definitive Edition, edited by Walford Davies and Ralph Maud, Phoenix, London, 2014, página 65.
Ver también: http://verpress.com/to-dylan-2014/
In ‘Fern Hill’ Dylan refers to “the moon that is always rising”. In a further small tribute (Dylan’s Gower) to a poet who has been a life-long inspiration I include a short poem called ‘Moonrise’.
The cover of the book, designed by my son William, who did the cover for To Dylan, refers to that poem. ‘Moonrise’ derives from a longer poem titled ‘Omen’ (now ‘Blood Moon’) that I included in the project Poemas a la Patagonia 2 , Poems To Patagonia 2 (unpublished).
En ‘Fern Hill’ Dylan se refiere a “la luna que siempre sale”. En un segundo pequeño homenaje (La Gower de Dylan) a un poeta que ha sido una inspiración para toda la vida incluyo un breve poema llamado ‘Luna de sangre’. [Edición en español en preparación.]
La portada de Dylan’s Gower, diseñada por mi hijo William, que hizo también la portada del libro To Dylan, se refiere a ‘Moonrise’, ‘Luna de sangre’ en la versión española, y se deriva de un poema más largo titulado ‘Omen’ (ahora ‘Blood Moon’) que incluí en Poemas a la Patagonia 2, 2004, (inédito).
Note on Dylan’s Gower front cover
The version of the poem included in Dylan’s Gower, ‘Moonrise’ is a truncated version of the original 2004 poem ‘Omen’.
Nota sobre la tapa de Dylan’s Gower
El poema ‘Moonrise’ (‘Salida de Luna’) incluido en Dylan’s Gower es una versión trunca del poema original ‘Omen’ de 2004.
Dylan Thomas’s life: Idealism, Turbulence, the Absurd
In this tribute to Dylan, his life on the Gower Peninsula in Wales is imagined poetically in the movement of a wave, the build-up, the swell, the rise, the disintegration, the spindrift, the crashing down. Then the relief, the calm before the next wave begins to form. Poems that start with poetic intensity, move towards those that have a painful or nightmarish quality and end with poems that have a lighter touch.
Talking to Dylan Thomas’s lovely granddaughter, Hannah Ellis, and to the inspiring Olivier Award-winning actor Guy Masterson last night at the RSA in John Street, London, on the occasion of their brilliant British Council seminar “Dylan Thomas: A Life in Words”, I was particularly struck by Hannah’s reference to Dylan’s notebooks which he wrote between the ages of fifteen (possibly earlier) and twenty. She mentioned how these had been lying mouldering in a box in Boulder, America, but are now available to the public in Swansea. Hannah argued that everything was there, in embryo, in those notebooks, that that period of poetic creativity, those five or more years of “cosseted” (Hannah’s word) creative activity, a veritable explosion that occurred within the young genius relieved to drop out early, at sixteen, from a school in which he was bored, were the foundations of his work to come. Dylan lived in Swansea, on the edge of Gower, during those years. Hannah referred to a text in which he wrote that he “often” went down to Gower. The gist of this book, Dylan’s Gower, is that it is clearly time to re-evaluate the influence of the spectacular and quirky Gower Peninsula on his work. Hannah maintained that Newquay and Laugharne were key periods in the gestation of Under Milk Wood. I agreed but argued that to them must be added the beautiful bays and villages of his early ‘backyard’, the place to which he would escape during his formative years and to which he was tempted to ‘retire’ in the final year of his life. This book points, perhaps, to the need to re-evaluate the role Gower played in the formation of the creatures of the mysterious entity of Dylan’s literary imagination.
(Published in the Letters section (page 16) of the South Wales Evening Post, Swansea, on 25 October 2014. See also: http://www.southwales-eveningpost.co.uk/Dylan-Thomas-influences-new-poetry-collection/story-22927136-detail/story.html)
Robert Edward Gurney, 24 October 2014
La Gower de Dylan
Hablando con la nieta encantadora de Dylan Thomas, Hannah Ellis, y con el actor inspirador Guy Masterson, ganador del Premio Olivier, anoche en la RSA, la Real Sociedad de Artes, en John Street, Londres, con motivo del brillante seminario del British Council “Dylan Thomas: Una Vida en Palabras”, estaba particularmente impresionado por la referencia de Hannah a los cuadernos que Dylan escribió entre las edades de quince (tal vez más temprano) y veinte años. Hannah mencionó cómo éstos se habían estado desmoronando en una caja en Boulder, Estados Unidos, pero ahora están a disposición del público en Swansea. Hannah sostenía que todo estaba allí, en embrión, en esos cuadernos, que aquél período de creatividad poética, esos cinco años de actividad creadora “mimada” (palabra de Hannah), una verdadera explosión que se produjo en el joven genio aliviado de irse rápido, a los dieciséis años, de un colegio en el que estaba aburrido, fueron los cimientos de su trabajo en el futuro. Dylan vivió en Swansea durante esos años, en el borde de la península de Gower. Hannah se refirió a un texto en el que escribió que iba “a menudo” a Gower. La esencia de este libro, La Gower de Dylan, es que es claramente el momento de volver a evaluar la influencia de la espectacular y estrafalaria península en su obra. Hannah sostenía que Newquay y Laugharne eran periodos clave en la gestación de Under Milk Wood, (Bajo el bosque de leche). Estuve de acuerdo, pero argumenté que a ellos hay que añadir las hermosas bahías y pueblos de su temprano ‘patio trasero’, el lugar al que escapaba durante sus años de formación y al que tuvo la tentación de ‘jubilarse’ en el último año de su vida. Este libro señala, tal vez, la necesidad de volver a evaluar el papel que Gower jugó en la formación de las criaturas de la misteriosa entidad de la imaginación literaria de Dylan.
Robert Edward Gurney, St Albans, 24 de octubre 2014.
(Publicado en la sección ‘Cartas’ (pág. 16) del diario South Wales Evening Post, Swansea, 25.10 2014. Ver también: http://www.southwales-eveningpost.co.uk/Dylan-Thomas-influences-new-poetry-collection/story-22927136-detail/story.html)
Dylan’s Gower por Robert Edward Gurney será publicado por Llyfrau Cambria/Cambria Books, Gales, en noviembre de 2014.
In July 2014 Mark Rees of the South Wales Evening Post interviewed me in connection with my book To Dylan. The shorter text of that interview can be read on the To Dylan 2014 page of this website. What follows is the full text.
Paul Cant, ensayista y novelista, Condado de Cork, Irlanda, 16 de noviembre 2014
Talking to Mark Rees about Dylan
29 July 2014
Q: I see that you have published Poemas a la Patagonia, Poems to Patagonia, in Spanish. How did you first develop an interest in Spanish and in Patagonia?
A: My Spanish teacher at Luton Grammar School was one Sr Enyr Jones from Gaiman in Patagonia. His O/A level lessons (we went straight to A level in the Sixth form, bypassing O level) were very different from those of the French, Latin and English teachers. He was so relaxed. We were not allowed a proper classroom. Spanish then was traditionally taught in the broom cupboard by the French teacher after classes on a Friday afternoon. We were lucky. We sat round wonderful oak tables covered in Spanish dictionaries and wrestled with Basque and Mexican novels, even Cervantes. The lessons were oases of peace and calm and learning. He taught us Patagonian Spanish and with a Welsh accent to boot! Goodness knows how we passed A level! We all did.
Q: How did he come to the UK?
A: His mother did not want him to do National Service training on a Sunday afternoon, as was the practice in Argentina. It was held near the chapel in Gaiman. She sent him to study to be a teacher in Camarthen. He was actually the German teacher at Luton Grammar School (during World War 2 and later!). He must have then been asked to teach Spanish. He had taught at Drax Grammar School in Yorkshire before that. He studied in Swansea. As I said, he spoke Spanish with a Welsh accent.
He was arrested at Ezeiza airport in Buenos Aires when he was nearly sixty for ‘desertion’, for not having done his military service! They eventually let him go.
Q: Have you been to Argentina?
A: I did post-graduate research in Argentina – in 1972 – on the poetry of Juan Larrea. Ian Gibson, the Lorca, Dalí and Buñuel specialist, was my supervisor in London. My book on Larrea, La poesía de Juan Larrea, came out in 1985 and was published by the University of the Basque Country in Bilbao. I was at the University of Córdoba in Argentina and was with Larrea in the César Vallejo Research Centre that Larrea founded, since disbanded, its contents scattered or lost. Larrea has been described as ‘the father of Spanish Surrealism’ (Vittorio Bodini, 1963). When I put this idea to Salvador Dalí in his house in Port Lligat in 1971 he did not contradict me.
Q: Luton and Swansea. They seem far apart.
A: There are connections between Swansea and Luton. They are, or were, both industrial towns. My late friend Elvira Adams from Clase, near the DVLA, was born in Luton. In the thirties her father WALKED from Swansea to London looking for work! He didn’t find any in London. He then walked from London to Luton where he got a job at Laporte Chemicals. Elvira used to wave to him from their house. He would wave back from the factory window covered in white powder.
Q: When did you first come to Wales?
A: It was before I went to secondary school. I was, what, 8, 9, 10? My uncle worked for Kent’s in Resolven. George Kent Ltd had a factory in my home town, Luton, and one in Resolven. (Kent’s made, among other things, rotary fork and knife cleaners, machines for mashing potatoes, boiling milk and slicing fruit, ice safes, water meters and instruments for power stations.) My uncle was transferred to Resolven and I went to visit them at their house, Murmur-y-Nant (the brook would often flood the house!), near the steel works in Baglan. Their daughters, my cousins, live in the Swansea area. One cousin, to whom I am close, lives near Dick Barton’s Fish and Chip shop! My wife’s closest friends, with whom we keep in constant touch, live in Llanrhiddian and Wernffrwd.
Q: Your son William did the cover for To Dylan.
A: Yes, both my sons, James and William, are artists. They probably get that gene from my wife’s great-grandmother who was one of Wales artists: Ada Lansdown Williams-Miller. It’s a long story. Ada’s tiles can be seen at the Warpool Hotel in St David’s where she lived. It was her house before it became a hotel. Her tiles, it is rumoured, found their way the White House in America but some question that. I am still looking into it.
Q. And your parents-in-law?
A: Dr George Donovan was MOH for Llwchwr and Gower. He invented Colour Radiography and had a doctorate in the field. His book Medical Electronics is possibly still used in some medical departments. He and I worked on a book of short stories but were unable to find a publisher at the time. I intend to publish them when I can. They are really something. He used to take me on his clinics around Gower and it was clear that he obtained some of his inspiration for the stories in them although many are set in County Cork, Youghal, ‘the town of tall building and tall stories’, to be precise. My mother-in-law was Kathleen Donovan. She and Dr Donovan met in the Royal Gwent over the operating table. She was a ward sister. He developed a heart problem early in his career and had to abandon his plan to become a Harley Street surgeon. He had to take a more sedentary job. My mother-in-law’s brothers were important in the Church in Wales, one of them, Uncle George Wilkinson, becoming Archdeacon of Brecon, having been vicar at the church in Oystermouth at one time. He crossed swords with Kingsley Amis. His brothers were vicars in Gower and Swansea. My wife’s nephew is a vicar in North Gower. His parents, my wife’s cousins, used to live in Parkmill but are now in Mumbles. My wife Paddy and I met in London when she was student. We married in 1972. She and I would travel from London and then from St Albans each holiday – summer, Christmas, Easter, as well as half terms and Bank Holidays – to Gorseinon and then to Port Eynon to be with her parents. William was born in Morriston. I was an Honorary Lecturer at Swansea University between 2002 and 2010 but had to leave that position because of Paddy’s ongoing illness.
Q: How did you come across Dylan?
A: It was through the BBC. I think he was on the Third Programme. This now abandoned channel was crammed with interesting things. It was Dylan’s voice that first caught my imagination, then Under Milk Wood, then the poems. From about 1970 onwards I made a point of looking for books on Dylan in Swansea and elsewhere. I have found the biographies to be powerful sources of inspiration. I lectured on French, Spanish and Latin American poetry at Middlesex University and perhaps because of that people have been keen to tell me their Dylan stories over the years. At one point I did a thorough study of Gower dialect, interviewing many people and we would sometimes chat about him. It is possible that my father-in-law gave him medical check-ups at his secondary school.
Q: How did you come to write the book?
A: I resisted modern technology for quite a long time. Then, in the late 1990s I became a convert. I began to transfer more and more of my material into folders. I decided to name them Poems to Patagonia, Poems to César Vallejo and Juan Larrea, Poems to Mr Jones, Poems to Luton, Poems to Bedfordshire, Poems to Spain, Poems to Africa, Poems to London, Poems to ‘Green’, Poems to Poetry and so on. One folder was Poems to Wales.
I have been really busy recently finishing a book of approaching 200 stories about Post-Colonial Africa (see the ‘A Night in Buganda’ page on verpress.com). It came out a couple of months ago. I worked on an aid programme in Uganda in the sixties.
Q: And the Dylan book?
A: I felt I needed to write a tribute to Dylan, a poet who has had a big impact on me, for the Centenary. I looked into the Poems to Wales folder and saw that there were approaching fifty poems that referred to Dylan. I selected thirty-six and then put them in a certain order. I could see that they followed, almost chronologically, a narrative, one in which I could see that I was ‘defending’ Dylan and trying to correct the ‘black legend’ that has been developing of late. The image on the front cover created by my son William attempts to depict the young, idealistic Dylan. It relates to the poem ‘My Son’s Dream’. The words of the poem are inscribed in the image.
The poems were written during the 2002-2014 period. Many of them appeared first in Spanish in Argentina and elsewhere in Latin America and Spain. The last one, based on a local legend, poem 36, ‘The White Lady of Caswell Bay’, was written on the day that the first draft of this book was completed, 28 June 2014.
The first poem, ‘The White Lady’, was first published in Spanish, as ‘La mujer de blanco’ in 2005 (together with my book Poemas a la Patagonia) on the Poéticas website: Poéticas, bibliotics virtual de poesía. Editora: Ketty Alejandrina Lis, Rosario, Argentina (now taken down).
It also appears in Spanish in Los poetas de la senda, Selección Natural, Muestra Internacional de Poesía Contemporánea (1958-2013), edición a cargo de Chema Rubio Velasco, Editorial Opera Prima, Madrid, 2013, p. 91. ISBN 978-84-95461-63-6.
It was first published in English in Sarasvati, Poetry Magazine, no. 5, May/June, 2009, Halwill, Devon (new address), editor: Dawn Bauling.
My second tribute to Dylan, Dylan’s Gower, was generated, in part, by the energy surrounding the Dylan Centenary celebrations in Swansea and London. The poem ‘The Peacock’s Tail’ (which I almost called ‘The Peacock’s Tale’) was written on 28th October, 2014. I wrote to Chris Jones, my publisher, “Is it too late to include this one? It has been struggling to surface for over a week.[…] His early mixture of eroticism and poetry could have started in that field in Pilton.” Dylan’s Gower includes some poems from To Dylan. The first section of the ‘The Vicar in the Park’ was written in 1968.
The Tears of Saint Lawrence
The White Lady
On Llanmadoc Hill
Dylan and The Monster
The Old Rectory
A Son’s Dream
The King’s Head
The White Lady of Oystermouth Castle
Words on Water
Under Milk Wood
5 Cymdonkin Drive
The Worm’s Head Hotel
Walking the Worm
The Da Vinci Code
Port Eynon from Space
Dylan Down Here
On the Point
The Peacock’s Tail
The White Lady of Caswell Bay
The Way We Are Now
The Way I Am Now
The Three Wise Monkeys
The Cask of Ale That Never Runs Dry
The Vicar in The Park
Milk Under Wood
The Milk of Milk Wood
The Water Horse