What a way to begin Gelynion, in Newport, with an amazing night that did everything I hope Enemies might do. In so much that it became something utterly its own, nothing to do with me, nothing to do with what I could predict or shape. Or in this case, pivotally, what my co-curator Nia Davies and I could shape. It was an occasion for people to share a space, to exchange their new collaborations, to support & meet, to be in a new place or see a familiar place new. And it was a community, it wasn’t artificial in anyway, but gracefully warm and positive and generous. Such a lovely way to begin our tour of Wales, and our attempt to do something ambitious with contemporary Welsh poetry and poets.
The first time I’ve visited Newport, let alone the first time I’ve read in the city, and I made my way straight to our venue, Project Space, a reclaimed high street shop, to be welcomed by Kate Mercer, a photographer and artist who manages the activities. From the get go the hospitality was evident, that people had taken it upon themselves to welcome us coming to Newport, specifically, and later in the evening Jonathan Edwards would say it is a place often overlooked culturally and all the better for Enemies for that.
I was collaborating with Rhys Trimble, a friend from previous times and someone whose work I admire, and, rarely, a folk musician, the marvellous Patrick Rimes, whom I’d seen by chance at Cecil Sharp House representing Welsh folk in London just two weeks before and invited. This made our collaboration, one of 3 core pairs from the 6 poets touring the whole of Gelynion, and one of 9 pairs on the night, unique. We spent the afternoon hammering out our work, a structure of exchange and accompaniment with refrains, in abstract poetry and declaration, that complimented all of us and our strengths, hopefully.
The event was full, we needed more seats, with over 60 laid out, and the event had a very natural rhythm to the myriad of approaches the pairs provided. Kate North and Katrin Lloyd offered some Oulipo, close to my heart, while pairs from the Walking Cities project, which paired Welsh and Indian poets, and left us with the serendipitous boon of amazing Indian poets at our reading, explicated their previous exchanges from already established works. Ranjit Hoskote and Tishani Doshi were both immensely assured and graceful in their readings. Cris Paul and Samantha Walton upped the density of the texts, and the pace, and were followed by a brilliant and beautiful art poetry performance from Josh Robinsin and Merega. A revelation to discover Josh’s work through Gelynion, we share so many interests.
Rhys and I and Patrick made a good hoof of it, and Joe Dunthorne and Eurig Salisbury were witty and on point as ever. Zoe Skoulding and Nia Davies were the highlight of the night, such a balance in their collaboration between force and textual density, and synchronicity of reading. I was able to discern their entire piece, it revealed itself to me in its reading, which is normally the opposite of how I experience such things, getting a trace to be moulded into my own thoughts. We then finished with Patrick Rimes playing one last piece of music, and as the perfect end to a generous and memorable night in Newport.