duminică, 30 august 2009

WELSH DIALOGUES / DIALOGURI GALEZE (2) CAROLINE GILL - BYRON BEYNON : "VIVID SENSE OF PLACE"

Caroline Gill: Was it always your destiny to be a writer? Do you read and write poetry in Welsh and English?

Byron Beynon: I have a need to write. I need to say what I know and feel. I write in English and I've also written a few poems in Welsh.

You have written both poetry and reviews. Do you approach these two genres in different ways?

Yes. The process of beginning and writing a poem can be like a journey: the outcome can never be totally predicted, whereas when I reviewed for Planet, Poetry Quarterly Review, Roundyhouse etc. I had before me, so to speak, the completed book, the poems presented in the order, with the form and structure, intended by the writer.

Do you have any strategies or techniques for unleashing fresh ideas?

I wouldn't advise a dependence on alcohol or drugs, although Coleridge, Rimbaud, and John Berryman, to name just three, would have had a different viewpoint.

What was your first publication success?

My first published poem appeared in the Edinburgh-based magazine, Graffiti, in 1982; I remember there were poems by Norman McCaig and Alan Brownjohn in the same issue. The first time I was paid was by the South-West Review, edited by Lawrence Sail in 1983, with a cheque for L3.75!

Why is Swansea a key poetry centre? (In your opinion, of course).

There are several very good poets/writers living in and around Swansea: Alan Perry, Sally Roberts Jones, Peter Thabit Jones and Nigel Jenkins are some that come to mind. It is impossible, too, to ignore Swansea's association with Dylan Thomas, Vernon Watkins, Harri Webb and John Ormond. There is a lively literary scene, and the annual Dylan Thomas Festival in October. Maybe it has something to do with what Dylan said, 'never was there such a town'.

Can poetry be taught? Please could you tell us a little about your poetry classes?

You can create a feeling and understanding for it. I think for me it's the exploration of mood that is being taught and encouraged, although the techniques of writing can be taught. In my classes for Swansea University I have tried to stimulate, encourage and challenge people who have an interest in writing, especially poetry.

Do you welcome or resent the promotional aspects of writing? I am thinking of interviews / book launches / the judging of competitions / the addressing of writers' groups / touring, etc?

I don't resent the promotional aspects of writing, although it is important to see through the hype. The interviews, launches etc. have a purpose, to sell books: they can also add spice or controversy, but they should never get in the way of the writing, which the writer will ultimately be remembered for or not.

Do some poems write themselves or does poetry always require effort, revision, fine-tuning, tweaking?

Most of the time they require hard work and effort.

Formal or free verse? Rhyme or non-rhyme? Do you write your first drafts in longhand or on the PC?

Free verse and rhyme, craft with harmony, form and structure. First drafts, always in long-hand.

Do you bin much of your work or keep wrestling it into submission?

I put it to one side, return to it again, revise it, work at it, re-work and sharpen it.

Do you read your work aloud to yourself or share and discuss work-in-progress with anybody else?

Sometimes I do read my work aloud to myself, although as a rule I never discuss work in progress.

What are the vital components of your poetry? (e.g. precision, immediacy ...)

Certainly precision and an enjoyment of language. My poetry has been described as 'rich in association, well-crafted' plus what Sue Hubbard said in Poetry Wales about my collection 'Cuffs' as having that 'vivid sense of place'.

Do you keep a notebook and/or use a dictaphone?

I've kept journals/diaries since the early 1980s. Occasionally I'll use them for reference; a line or just a few words may trigger something.

Would you tell us about your recent role with Roundyhouse?

I was invited to join the editorial team in 2003, and remained until 2007. I was also responsible for the reviews section, contacting reviewers and publishers. I invited the poet and critic Raymond Garlick to be interviewed for Roundyhouse 15, an issue I put together in December 2004. The experience gave me an insight into the general organisation, layout and deadlines for such a magazine.

Why do you feel that poetry of place and landscape is important? I feel sure that Wales has something to do with this.

I was brought up in a village by the Carmarthenshire sea. My parents still live in the house where I grew up. It gave me a sense of place, which I feel is one of the distinguishing marks of Welsh writing in both languages. As Kathy Miles said 'To write about landscape… becomes an act of re-creation, an acknowledgement of the poet's own place in the cultural development of the country'.

Would you name a couple of favourite poets?

Poets who I continue to read and admire include the great R.S. Thomas, Idris Davies, Edward Thomas, Dylan Thomas, Tony Harrison and Waldo Williams.

What single piece of advice would you offer an aspiring writer?

Read and study modern and contemporary poetry/short-stories/novels, including quality literary magazines. Needless to say, read and be intimate with the canon of literature from the past.

You have taught classes on poets who hold strong political views (e.g. Harri Webb and Tony Harrison): how would you describe the relationship between current affairs/politics and poetry?

Social, political, economical and historical factors help to shape the landscape of a country; it is up to writers/poets to respond to what they see/experience at home or abroad, whether it’s unemployment, injustice, greed, Iraq, Darfur etc. I wrote some poems that were published in the magazine Wasafiri in an issue dealing with the Cultures of Terror.

What, in your opinion, is the poetic value of podcasting?

I believe it adds that human element, the original, recorded voice of a particular poet reading his/her work for present and future generations to hear and listen to. Imagine if the technology had been available centuries ago, we could listen to Dafydd ap Gwilym, Shakespeare, George Herbert, John Clare, Keats, Emily Dickinson, G.M. Hopkins: the list seems endless. I find myself wishing.

This is a chance for you to tell us about your published work. Do you have a presence on the web? We would love to hear about ‘Cuffs', your latest collection.

You can log on to the Welsh Academi site and find me there. (Click the letter ‘B’).
http://www.academi.org/list-of-writers/

You can listen to me reading some of my poems on Poetcasting. (Click top link to ‘Poets’).
http://www.poetcasting.co.uk/


'Cuffs' (Rack Press Poetry) was first launched in 2008 at the Swedenborg Hall, Bloomsbury, London. It was a very enjoyable experience with some positive feedback; since then encouraging reviews have appeared in Poetry Wales, Planet, The Seventh Quarry, Western Mail, and I believe Agenda will give it a mention. Some of my poems will also appear in a Wales issue of Agenda, which is due out in 2009.
_______________________________________

http://www.nicholasmurray.co.uk/Rackpublications.html
You can buy a copy of ‘Cuffs’ from Rack Press.

http://rackpress.blogspot.com/
Rack Press Blog

Caroline Gill 2009
http://www.davidgill.co.uk/cg/
c.gill@davidgill.co.uk


This interview was first published in eTIPS for Writers, issue 7, 2009 (editor Wendy Webb of Wendy Webb Books and Norfolk Poets and Writers). Caroline Gill wishes to thank Wendy Webb and Byron Beynon for permission to reprint this interview. Thanks are also due to Norman Bissett, who devised a number of the questions.

Wendy Webb Books
Email: tips4writers@yahoo.co.uk
Blog: http://norfolkpoets.blogspot.com

('Contemporary Literary Horizon', issue no 7 / August 2009)

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