Crowd 2

We were delighted with the response to our poetry competition, and delighted once again with the enthusiasm of poets, judges and locals at our Prize Giving event last Saturday in the beautiful Library at Neuadd Pantyfedwen in Pontrhydfendigaid.   Judges Julie Brominicks and Cyril Jones read out the winning poems in the English category for the Cambrian Mountains prize as, unfortunately, neither winner Kristen Mears nor runner-up John Gallas were able to join us.

All the winning and second placed poems are set out below.

Mari-Tudor-reading-Cambrian-Mountains-prizewinning-poemThe winner of the Welsh prize, Mari Tudor, read her poems and kindly added an English adaptation for those of the audience unable to follow the Welsh.  Mari’s first prize poem was also a sonnet, and is set out below.

Jemma readingBoth Mid-Wales Prize first prize winner Jemma King and runner-up Gareth Writer-Davies attended.  Julie pointed out that interestingly, the poems which won the Mid-Wales prizes were more political in subject matter than those which won the Cambrian Mountains prizes.  Jemma’s poem recalled the drowning of the Elan Valley to create reservoirs to supply Birmingham’s rapidly growing population with water – and in the process, drowned a house associated with the poet Shelley who had often stayed there with Gareth readinghis uncle.  Gareth looked at the more recent loss of the Epynt hills for use as a military firing range. Initially seized on a supposedly temporary basis in 1940, the local farming families were given only weeks to leave and, 84 years later, have no indication of when they may be allowed to return.

Enormous thanks are owed to all three judges, whose painstaking review and commentary on the poems added greatly to the value of the competition.  Julie in particular, who read each of the 119 English language entries three times in her efforts to assess which should go into the shortlist for Cyril’s final assessment, went well beyond the level to which we understand many poetry competitions are judged – and capped it by reading in Welsh the poem Y Sipsi, which like Kristen’s sonnet refers to the sight of flattened grass as the only record of a visitor’s passing.

The pocket-sized anthology of winning and shortlisted poems is now available for £5 (watch out for our stall at the summer shows, or contact Lorna on secretary@cambrian-mountains.co.uk).

The poems

Traces

By Kristen Mears.  Winner, best poem in English, Cambrian Mountains Poetry Prize 2023

We slept roadside until Powys, ten days

of chill in damp coats and you waking first

to shake dew from the tarp. We learnt ways

of using tent-pegs as chopsticks, the worst

kinds of blisters, the way dawn makes trees form

out of shadow and white ghosts take up arms

in the fields: mist lifts as the ground warms

and everyone is back again, the farms

overrun with spectres, all those thousands

who’ve blinked out, the years collapsed together

for a single sunlit hour. It ends

faster than we know, our days never

ceasing, till they do, new cars still flashing past

where we’d lain, just some patch of flattened grass.

 

above it all: dangerous vision

by John Gallas, runner-up in English, Cambrian Mountains Poetry Prize 2023

‘alone in the hills, you may look down, and think whatever you wish’ – Finnish proverb

 

I paid a lot. It’s worth it. From my lawn

the bay’s long, haunted hall of drizzle fades

among the hills, whose chest-deep army wades

like giants into space. My thoughts are drawn

with every tide behind some sail that seeks

the earth’s bright edge below; above, the geese,

like ghosts of better men, approve my peace

in passing. No one comes here. Silvered streaks

of sunlight drape the slopes. The sea runs white

and rolls like rippled lead. This age is dead:

I wait for higher things. The sky turns red

and bloods my house. I go inside and write.

 

The mist drifts in. The stars seem cold and near.

I plan the new world. Nothing stops me here.

 

Rhyfeddod yr Ucheldir

gan Mari Tudor, y gerdd orau yn y Gymraeg, Gwobr Mynyddoedd Cambria Cymru

Cerddaf dy Iwybrau ar anturus dro
gan sylwi maint dy dirlun lluniaidd ir.
Rhyfeddaf at ehangder gwyllt dy fro
a’r lliwiau pleth sy’n gymysg fritho’r tir
gan ddenu’r llygaid at dy lethrau maith.
Ac yma, yng ngoleuni’r heulwen daer
gwelaf ryfeddod Natur wir ar waith;
a chlywaf, rhywfodd, gynnwrf yn yr aer.
Oherwydd teimla f’ysbryd filgwaith gwell,
a nghalon, fel pe bai ar Eirias dan
yn ffrwydro hen deimladau cudd o’u cell
ar oesol uchelderau gwlad ein can.
O brofi hudol rin dy blwyfol fri
chwenychaf fwy o’th ysbrydoliaeth di.

 

Sylweddoli

gan Mari Tudor, yr ail cerdd yn y Gymraeg, Gwobr Mynyddoedd Cambria Cymru

O’r Ilwydlas ofod uwch fy mhen
teimlais awel ysgafn,
chwa o anadl newydd
ar wyneb rhychiog.
Agorais ty llygaid pwl
i harddwch y tirwedd;
panorama o ffurfiau di-syfl –
fythol gadarn eu teymgarwch.
Camais ymlaen…
a cherdded Ilwybrau culion-
y daith yn dawel droellog,
chwilfrydedd yn gwmni di-sgwrs.
Heb rybudd…
profais ehangder rhyddid di-ben-draw;
Igam-ogamais
ymlaen ar ysgafnach droed,
grym a chyffro’r antur yn llywio dyfodol.
Arhosais ennyd…
a dychmygu
bywyd cudd hynafiaid
ym murddunod y presennol.
Ymlaen… Ond ust!
Gwrandewais…
clywed Ilifeiriant treigi nant
yn cychwyn ar daith rhyddid
I ehangach fro.
Arhosais…
sylwi ar fwsoglau,
grug, Ilwyni llus, brwyn a rhedyn.
Ymlynent iw cynefin fel troganod, gan sugno’r pridd.
Ymgollais
yn nhlysni’r tirlun llonydd,
a suddo mewn llesmair ir glaswellt crin.
Tawel sylweddolais…
Rwy’n fodlon.
Canfyddais fy ucheldir.

Mid-Wales Poetry Prize

This competition was for the best poem (not winning any of the above prizes) from a contributor resident in Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion or Powys.

The Valley

by Jemma King, winner

(In 1896, the Elan Valley in mid-Wales was flooded to create a dam to supply water to Birmingham. Amongst the lost properties were Nantgwyllt House and Cwm Elan House – both of which had strong connections to Percy Bysshe Shelley.)

The houses fill like kettles
the new lake anointed, lies a dragon downed,
silver scales plasticise
the edges airtight shrug the rocks, choking trees,
suffocating the spiders and mice, now
the last residents of Nantgwyllt.
The houses silt
to this soft-strangle of water, this starless mermaid pit stripped
of the poet in his pistol phase,
this valley his hide
young chemist, occultic vials and powders,
twitching frogs and drowning bricks
where garden stones still shriek dissent
to these non-consensual baptisms,
parlours to Birmingham boiling, steamy revolutions,
fired
from the upland thunder of Caban Coch.
The city’s skin blistering like fat
balmed by the smile of poreless pewter,
the polished mirror hill
flawless to its own horizons,
ceaseless
as it warps and wefts
the rooftops, unpicks the paper, smashes the china.
His first version of himself here,
but year after year,
the rocks upon the fields, new riverbeds
waken lonely echoes
are washed and mossed,
a cleansed hillside,
bleeding streams.

Red Flags

by Gareth Writer-Davies, runner-up

(The Epynt was compulsorily taken over by the army in 1939 as an artillery range with a promise that families could return. That promise was not fulfilled and a unique upland Welsh community was lost.)

on The Epynt
there are blocks of conifers like sombre mansions

replicating châteaux and schlossen
sylvan war games

from the last century
wooden tanks and inflatable paratroops

we’re all safer for it
though when the bombshell was dropped

by the suave English captain and pretty ATS girl
hedges were still cut

ditches dug and the sabulous fields ploughed
as the war wasn’t going to last forever

sixty odd years later
the war in Cilieni and Gwybedog loiters like a trespasser

and farmhouses have been blasted to wind
for no reason but a soldier’s lesson

the squares of conifers will be harvested
and some profit made from shrapnel

but you can’t put a price on coercion and gunnery dispersal
or our Father’s house

nor a Mother’s hope for her children
the end of all that

came to The Epynt whilst the whole world was raging
shoot the horses

and blow up the chapel
red flags are a threat as well as a warning.