Sunday, 17 November 2013

Poetry and Vine on Dylan's Birthday

I’m Welsh.  It’s something I forget about most of the time, but then something reminds you that it’s a part of your soul and no matter how long you live in another country is as natural as breathing.


A few Sundays ago we were eating breakfast and Cerys Matthews was on the radio celebrating the fact that it would have been Dylan Thomas’s 99th birthday, and you know the way one thing leads to another on twitter … well I was drawn to this account that in celebration of it going into Dylan’s 100th year, was putting out to the public 6 of his poems, who were invited to send in a Vine of themselves reading two lines.  Just a brilliant idea, democracy, difference, culture all rolled into one.  Working as a qualitative interviewer I’ve heard my own voice on tape too many over the years, so I passed over the task to my daughter Charlotte, who loved the idea.  I just love how instantly enthused Charlotte is by ideas, and since she started going to drama club a month ago, she devours poetry. She seems at least 10 years older than I was at 8.


How the Vining of Dylan’s poetry is panning out is amazing:


The different ways that people interpret lines, and the collaborative effect of putting it all together sends a shiver down my spine every time I watch a poem.  But I am guessing you are either born loving Dylan or not because my husband looks at me with utter disbelief whenever I rave about the latest poem that’s been completed.  Ok, maybe not born, it was probably always there is the background in Swansea, and I definitely had a few really excellent English teachers who got us fired up about poetry and the way language sounds and slots together in ways that feel intuitively right and hits you in the guts.  I wanted to read And Death Shall Have No Dominion at my Dad’s funeral, but it felt too powerful, like I wouldn’t have made it to the end, so I went for something safer.  I regret that.

Dylan Thomas will always be special to me.  I think Richard Burton reading UnderMilk Wood is one of the most out of body experiences ever, every single syllable feels so loaded and imperative.  And  Dylan’s ghost was a part of my growing up.  The house where he lived was just a few doors away from where I spent many fruitless years traipsing back and forth to piano lessons, which sent me a rather nice message about great poets being totally normal people.  And then of course there’s Cwmdonkin Park, where The Hunchback in the Park – the poem Charlotte contributed to – was apparently set.  That felt completely right.  So many teenage years were spent hanging around there.  A park in the hill, looking at the sea, we didn’t know how lucky we were.  

This was in the days when everything pretty much shut on a Sunday and youth clubs hadn’t really caught on in Swansea.  The local pubs in Uplands were pretty laid back about serving us, but I can’t imagine we had much allure as customers making our snakebite and black last all night, and consequently fairly vast amounts of time were spent in that park, plotting the future, getting lost in the present.  I have a bit of a thing about the life of parks, how they present this image of managed natural beauty, but contain this vast sublife of people passing through, and people who don’t really have anywhere else to go.  I could go on for hours about this as I thought about it a lot walking various dogs: the characters you’d get to recognise and sometimes even know, the embedded knowledge about what went on in difference corners – subversive and innocence happily coexisting.  I like to think that Dylan saw this too.  I also think he’d enjoy the doublespeak of all these vines collected together and laid at his feet in gratitude and joy.


So today The Hunchback in the Park was complete, and you can see Charlotte’s Vine here. The expression on her face watching the whole poem was priceless, and has hopefully just come at a perfect time in her journey with poetry.  It’s been exciting waiting for it, but just wonderful seeing how it all fits together, all those ‘Of course!’ moments when you hear a line said just perfectly.  The project is nearly complete; five of the six poems are on-line and sublime.   Poetry in motion even.

13 comments:

  1. Did I ever mention that I'm Welsh too?? I'm from Pembrokseshire (just outside Haverfordwest), so not a million miles from where you grew up. I've been living in England since going to University though, and exactly like you, I forget I'm Welsh half the time (no discernible accent unless I'm drunk!). Great post!

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  2. You didn't - brilliant - that explains a lot! I spent many happy holidays in Tenby & Solva, it's a beautiful part of the world? Are your folks still there? The accent things is strange, isn't it, do you find yourself lapsing into it with school friends too? & getting told off by your children for mispronouncing things like 'grass', 'bath'?? Thanks xx
    please blog more!

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  3. I heard that Cerys Matthews programme too! I always try to listen to her - reminds me of my roots. This is a fantastic post; brilliant that you've flagged up such an innovative tribute to the fantastic Dylan Thomas....

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  4. No way, I can't believe you were listening too! We must have a way of sniffing out our roots, even on a Sunday morning. So pleased you liked it, it's a very fab project.

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  5. I'm from Aberystwyth so we often read Dylan Thomas poems in school. Actually he wrote a poem about my friends Granny as she had so many children although I can't seem to find which one it was!Fab project x

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    1. Wow, I am seriously in awe of your claim to fame there! Funny how many Welsh bloggers there are out there ...

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  6. Ooo I need to get on Vine now so I can see what it's all about!

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  7. We lived in Glynneath for a little while. It is lovely the knock on effect things can have isn't it.

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    1. No!! I know Glynneath really well, I did my PhD on the coalmining communities around Neath (years ago!). I love it at the top of that valley, it's like the beginning of the world. And you're right about knock-on effects, it's just fascinating the way you can find yourself somewhere you couldn't have predicted.

      Freakily small world.

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  8. Replies
    1. It's just a piece of software for creating short videoclips which can then be embedded in Twitter, etc.

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  9. I'm just starting to find my way round Vine - like it so far x

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