Scottish poets? No problem.

English poets? Certainly – which county would you prefer? Irish poets? By all means. American poets? Yes, we have two of those.

But up to now, no poems by Welsh writers.

Hurray! This sad omission is now remedied. Two new publications, both to be launched in Wales next month, are putting things to rights.

First there’s Unleaving by Kristian Evans, the debut pamphlet from a young man I met in Wales last year when I went to launch Robert Minhinnick’s lively essay The Mythic Death of Dylan Thomas. That was the first foray into Wales, land of my childhood holidays and therefore a magical place for me.

b2ap3_thumbnail_COVERSCAN.jpgOf course, the two new publications are in English, not Welsh. However, Unleaving has a strongly Welsh flavour—not in the lobsters on the cover (though they are there for good reason) but in some of the contents. There’s a splendid translation of Dafydd ap Gwilym’s mischievous ‘Merched Llanbadarn’, for example.

Kris Evans is a poet who really knows his oats in terms of poetic tradition: his influences are many and various – from Tristan Tzara to D H Lawrence. He loves form, but he likes surreal experiment too. And there’s prose to wallow in, full of assonance and richness. Kristian Evans is a writer on his way somewhere, and well worth following.

The other new publication, Pattern Beyond Chance, is a first book from Stephen Payne, whose debut pamphlet The Probabilities of Balance was brought out by Smiths Knoll in 2010 and distributed to readers of that lovely (now extinct) magazine. Stephen’s day job is in academic psychology. No surprise when you see the way these poems are presented.

The volume is divided into sections: Design, Word, Mind and Time, with a quotation from a leading psychologist at the front of each. Payne is provocative and playful: he’s thinking about thinking even when he’s thinking about poetry. This book is a pleasure to read, I would say (although yes, I am biassed).

There’s a wonderful poem in Pattern Beyond Chance in memory of Linda Chase, the American, Manchester-based poet who was a leading influence on Stephen, and died far too soon. ‘To: Linda’ makes me cry each time I read it, and I know all friends of Linda (she influenced numerous writers) will feel the same.

Poets sometimes appear to be fiercely in competition with each other in this age of prizes and shortlists, but in fact they’re all on the home team. There’s a generosity of spirit in Pattern Beyond Chance that confirms this. Hard to pin down exactly what I’m talking about, but it’s there. Trust me. I’m a publisher . . .




. . . is still singing in my head.

The world launch of two prose pamphlets took place on Friday night in the Grand Pavilion, Porthcawl. You can still avail yourself of a copy via the HappenStance website, though their numbers are diminishing, but you have lost the opportunity – forever – to be there. What fun we had!

How lovely it was to hear Robert Minhinnick himself gloriously challenging the myth! b2ap3_thumbnail_Dylan-Thomas-in-Porthcawl-Event-20140516_7.jpg

How wonderful to hear the quiet chuckle of the audience in response to Ruthven Todd’s wit and mischief (with his picture in THE HAT on the screen behind me as I shared some of his words)!

Such a great audience, and with what enthusiasm they chipped in with their thoughts and insights about the great DT!b2ap3_thumbnail_Dylan-Thomas-in-Porthcawl-Event-20140516_4.jpg

I don’t rememberl writing this many exclamation marks, ever!

And in between, Kristian Evans read his marvellous translation from Dafydd ap Gwilym, and another from Rimbaud, and another  poem of his own. Oh, if you can’t have an Irish accent, have the soft music of Wales singing in your voice!

And I haven’t yet mentioned the music, the astonishing music from Peter Morgan (who also took the photographs included here). He began with a copy of the poster for the event (which included a photo of Dylan Thomas), and he had a computer programme that converted visual image into sound. Obviously this is magic. That magic was followed by conjuring electronically manipulated sound files of Dylan’s voice into the mix, and on top of all this Peter himself extemporised on a keyboard which looked like no keyboard I have ever seen in the world. Bright squares in a rectangle. Utterly amazing.

We had an official artist-in-residence at the event too: Kristian’s small son Gwion drew us on stage as we launched the world. A first.


I am returned to Scotland overwhelmed with Wales. The weather in Wales is glorious always. The sea shimmers in the morning light. The circus has permanently just arrived. There is jasmine in every garden and yucca trees shaking their heads ever so slightly. The machines and the rides and the windmills and the candy floss of the fair are new minted. Little children in white sun hats, clutching small spades, are pressing their first footprints into the sand ripples and shivering with delight. Windmills and shrimping nets are clustering outside shops, longing to be bought.

The Grand Pavilion is grand. The perfect place for the world launch of two tiny pamphlets. They are now tiny paper boats bobbing through the Celtic Sea to the Atlantic Ocean.

But Porthcawl is a whole hotbed of creation. On Thursday night, Robert Minhinnick hosted a poetry event in the Green Room above the Sustainable Wales shop. Everybody should go to an event in this green Green Room. Everybody should go to the Sustainable Wales shop, where I bought the green green dress that I wore to read Ruthven Todd the very next night in the Grand Pavilion. I have never been to a friendlier or more sustaining open mic event than the one on Thursday in the green Green Room above Sustainable Wales: such lovely, enthusiastic, talented people. We are all part of this writing thing – there are no winners and losers, only participants, celebrants and supporters – and these are rotating roles.

And Robert Minhinnick, Porthcawl writer and local international poet, is the warmest possible host to poets. And Margaret Minhinnick, from Yorkshire once removed, lighting an entire room with her smile and her welcome. There is writing, and there is creating the space in which writing and making can happen and be celebrated. Margaret and Robert are heroes. Go to Porthcawl. Sustainable Wales will sustain you. Fair, local, eco-chic. You can get there via the internet. The sun will be shining.