Gelynion: Enemies Cymru - Blog #2: Cardiff

Not a huge trek from Newport to Cardiff but undoubtedly different vibes, as we wished for, precisely why we tour the Gelynion concept around. Cardiff’s size, it’s status as capital in no way inculcated a ‘London’ effect, where reserve was the norm. While the nature of the event we put on, bigger, with a wider range to the backgrounds and communities of the poets, meant that at first the proceedings were slightly less familiar than Newport, by then, as had happened in some of the best nights the Enemies project has seen, many people were taking me aside to tell me the evening had been a landmark happening – bringing together those, in good spirits, with generosity, who might not have come together otherwise ever.

We had some free time in the afternoon to spend time in Cardiff city centre, but being a place I had visited quite a few times my main focus was my collaboration with Zoe Skoulding. Zoe is a towering figure, someone I’ve long admired, been influenced by and whose work spans the range that I myself aspire to master, being as respected on the page as she is in the sound poetry community. She is also a trailblazing editor, teacher and someone I’ve genuinely sought the opportunity to collaborate with in the past. We spent a memorable afternoon in a circus in Paris once, milling before I did a screaming sound performance to an audience of 4, and since then, ideas have been percolating. We exchanged concepts really, structures, how we might overlap new poetry, performance and the use of her technological skills. The concept of water synchronised with discussions we’d been having about poetry, it’s closures and fissures, and its possibilities, and so it became that Zoe opened up on water while I went Bubble. My new poems, written in the Travelodge that afternoon, sat in between Zoe’s own soundscape and the live recorded sound of my poems being wrung out into water. Adding in song, she built a beautiful, ethereal sound performance as I blew bubbles and eventually roped in others into a bubble choir. It was enjoyable indeed.

The marked quality of the collaborations on the night was really exceptional. There was a clear sense every pair had taken the commission to work together as a serious enterprise, and while the great majority of the work was text based, and read, the range within was remarkable. The pace of the event, the intent behind the works, was intensive, and held the attention for every minute. Steven Hitchins and Camilla Nelson are both poets I’ve read and followed, being hugely influenced by Allen Fisher myself, whom Steven has written about extensively, and seeing Camilla once read a tree at the Writers Forum, and their overlapping and intertwined exchange was a perfect beginning. Damian Walford Davies and Kevin Mills created a beautiful exchange that began with the auspices of something quite reflective, even formal, about bees, and then became a really powerful work on the impossibility of silence and the possibilities of perceiving sound. Wanda O’Connor matched the near legendary Peter Finch beat for beat in a rousing collaboration, dense and innovative, on atrocity. Joe Dunthorne & Nia Davies brought the Swansea love in a typically deft and witty piece, and the evening closed with Rhys Trimble and Eurig Salisbury offering the audience a taste of the great Cynghanedd tradition, in call and response. Their work, along with Llyr Gwyn Lewis and clare e. potter really illuminated the Welsh language and it’s vital presence in these events. So gratifying it is to not only see poets of different styles, communities, ages and nations together, but languages too. 

Clearly the momentum of Newport had been rolled into Cardiff and those many in attendance, bearing down on a hundred, stayed long after the poetry had ended, many intending to follow the tour on to it’s different stops. Wales is proving a fertile and hospitable ground for our work. Next to Swansea.