We are just back from Strata Florida, where we attended a Beirdd a Thywysogion / Poets and Princes Day, laid on by CADW in conjunction with the University of Wales Centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies.
|David peeping through the arch|
The ruined abbey nestles in the Cambrian mountains, and is one of our favourite corners of Wales. We were treated to bilingual talks on the 'manuscripts and princes' (Ann Parry Owen) and 'food in medieval Welsh poetry' (Alaw Mai Edwards). Martin Locock led tours of the site, and I was surprised to learn that Bath stone had been used in this remote location for part of the entrance.
|Preparing for action ...|
Medieval fayre was available at lunch time, thanks to the Cegin Cartref chefs. A potter and printer were on hand to help with the production of pots and decorative printed pages. I was fascinated by the 'smelting' work of a 'Medieval' metal-worker and by the weaving and cording techniques of the costumed textile artisans.
Martin Locock launched his new anthology, Poetry from Strata Florida, an Anthology inspired by the Ystrad Fllur Landscape, 1350-2013 (Carreg Ffylfan Press 2013). The anthology includes my poem, '1st May: Red Kite at Strata Florida'. The illustrations in the volume are by Linden Fletcher, with photographs by Scott Waby.
|Martin Locock, editor of 'Poetry from Strata Florida'|
"This volume brings together medieval and contemporary poetry inspired by Strata Florida Abbey and the supposed grave of Dafydd ap Gwilym. The landscape of the area has provoked a powerful response in writers, whether from the natural and architectural beauty, sympathy with nature, meditations about the Welsh nation and language, sombre thoughts about mortality, or closeness to God.
The volume is mainly English language, with those poems originally written in Welsh presented as parallel texts with a translation. It contains poems by Dafydd ap Gwilym, Hedd Wyn, Harri Webb, Ruth Bidgood, R S Thomas, Gillian Clarke, Gwyneth Lewis and members of Red Heron: Lampeter Writers' Workshop, with an introduction summarising the landscape's heritage. The volume is illustrated with historical prints and new linocuts and photographs."
Martin introduced the book, before handing over to Professor Dafydd Johnston, Director of the Centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies, Aberystwyth. Dafydd gave an introduction to the Medieval poems about the Abbey.
|Professor Dafydd Johnston introduces the Welsh poets in the anthology|
|Time for the launch. Anthology illustrator, Linden Fletcher, in light blue rain jacket.|
|Martin reading his poems|
I read my Strata Florida poem from the new anthology, and appropriately we spotted a number of Red Kites gracing the higher slopes of the Cambrian hillside behind the Abbey arch.
|Yours truly ...|
I stuck with the theme of poets and their resting places, reading two of my chapbook poems, 'Monte Testaccio: Mound of Potsherds' (about the feral cats who live near the grave of Keats in Rome) and 'Elegy for Idris Davies', the colllier poet from Rhymney. As it happens, Professor Dafydd Johnston is the editor of The Complete Poems of Idris Davies (University of Wales Press, 1994).
Readings from Kathy Miles and Josie Smith followed. In one of her poems, University of Wales Trinity St David Librarian and poet, Kathy Miles, homed in on the exquisite work of illuminated manuscript preparation in the Scriptorium.
Josie Smith's piece, 'A Last Farewell' (from the Lampeter Writers' Workshop anthology, A Star fell from Orion), was inspired by Keats' final journey, and resonated with my Monte Testaccio poem.
|Josie Smith (left)|
|The Taliesin Stone (words by Gwyneth Lewis, stone art by Rob Turner) ...|
|... and a Medieval tile, showing person with mirror|
Do consider buying a copy of this anthology. It covers almost all known poetry works about the site, with perhaps the notable exception of 'Lament for a Leg' by John Ormond. Ormond's Strata Florida poem pays tribute to the inscription on a grave containing 'The left leg and part of the thigh of Henry Hughes, Cooper', which 'was cut off and interr'd here, June 18, 1756.' Henry Hughes subsequently crossed the Atlantic, leaving the severed limb behind him . . .
Thank you, Martin and the Strata Florida 'team', for organising a truly inspirational day!