Sunday, 29 August 2010

Penillion Singing - Thomas Love Peacock (1785 - 1866)

Besides the single songs, there were songs in dialogue, approaching very nearly to the character of dramatic poetry; and penillion, or unconected stanzas, sung in series by different singers, the stanzas being complete in themselves, simple as Greek epigrams, and presenting in succession moral precepts, pictures of natural scenery, images of war or of festival, the lamentations of absence or captivity, and the complaints or triumphs of love. This penillion-singing long survived among the Welsh peasantry almost every other vestige of bardic customs, and may still be heard among them on the few occasions on which rack-renting, tax collecting, common-enclosing, methodist-preaching, and similar developments of the light of the age, have left them either the means or inclination of making merry.

From :- The Misfortunes of Elphin

Hen benillion ( literally 'old verses') are a unique form of folk poetry in Britain. Dating from the 16th century and earlier these short verses, or chains of verses, were composed to be spoken or sung to a harp accompianiment. They have been performed at socialgathering in Wales for centuries, enriching the collective public memory with their mix of proverbs, saws, catchphrases and commentary on local events characters. They are, quite literally, a people's poetry, and regular reciters would have hunreds in their repetoires. They were written in free, as opposed to traditional fixed metres.

from:- A people' poetry, seren , 1997.


Hardd yw Conwy, hardd yw Nefyn,
Hardd yw brigau coedydd Mostyn,
Haddaff lle'r wy'n allu 'nabod
Yn y byd yw dyffryn Meifod.

(Conway is fair, Nevin is fair, the tips of the Mostyn trees are fair, the fairest place I can ever know in the world is Meivod Valley. )

Cleddwch fi, pan fyddwyf farw,
Yn y coed dan ddail y derw;
Chwi gewch weled llanc penfelyn
Ar fy medd yn canu'r delyn.

( Bury me, when I am dead, in the trees under the oak leaves; you shall see a yellow-haired youth on my grave playing the harp.)

Mae dwy galon yn fy mynwes,
Un yn oer a'r llall yn gynness;
Un yn gynnes am ei charu,
A'r llall yn oer rhag ofn ei cholli.

( There are two hearts in my bosom, one is cold and the other warm; one is warm through love of her, and the other is cold through fear of losing her.)

Futher Penillion translated By Mr Glyn Jones

Amser sydd i dewi ar bopeth,
amser sydd i ddwedyd rhywbeth,
Ond ni ellir cael un amser
I ddweud popeth yn ddibryder.

( Theres a time for saying nothing;there's a time for saying something; there never is a time for pouring the whole truth out and nver caring.)

Cyn i mi yfed nid oeedwdwn yn gweled
Ffordd yn y byd i dalu fy nyled.
Ond wedi im yfed yr oeddwn yn gweled
Digon i dalu a digon i yfed.

( Before I got boozed up I just couldn't see, how to pay all the bills they kept sending me, But when I got drunk, oh I knew how to get more money to booze with and pay off my debt.)

Maent yn dewdyd bod yr wylan
Ar y traeth yn cadw tafarn,
Ac yn gwerthu'n rhad y ddiod, -
Dyna un o'r saith rhyfedodd.

I'm told the seagull in some cavern
By the sea-shore keeps a tavern,
Where he sells cheap beer for fun.
Of the Seven Wonders - this is one!

Tebyg ydyww'r delyn dyner
I ferch wen a'i chnwad melysber;
Wrth ei theimlo mewn cyfrinach,
Fe ddaw honno'n fwynach, fwynach.

The gentle harp is like a fresh
Young maiden, and her tender flesh;
What follows fingering her in secret
Is something sweeter and more dulcet.

Pen-Y- Gadair

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Edwin Morgan - Colossus of Scotish Poetry has left the building ( 27/4/1920- 17/8/2010).

Edwin Morgan who died last week was the national poet of Sotland, a masterful writer with a vast palatte to draw on, he was both poet and scholar. He was a true innovator and experimenter influenced by numerous forms such as the Black Mountain poets, the Beats ( he was a friend and champion of Alexander Trocchi) Russian modernism, and the Portugese concrete poets. Born in Glasgow in 1920 to presbertarian parents he had a strong sense of fun, mischevious but gentle. His love poems very tender, although gay he never actually came out until ageds 70, so until then the love objects in his love poems were not gendered. He was loved nevertheless by his people, along with Sorley MacClean and Alisdair Gray he opened my eyes to Scottish culture, and its details .He was a true individual who saw himself as a republican Scottish nationalist and was of deep and passionate feeling. Outspoken but gentle. Surrealistic laughter, never guess what's round the corner. Tender, passionate.
He served with the RAMC as a conscientious objector during the second World War in the Middle East. He became a lecturer in English at the University of Glasgow until his retirement in 1980.
He caught in full sight his lyric epiphanies, in the focus and refocus of sequences, the wily reification of words in concrete poems, and the wierd rhythyms of sound poems. His transforming imagination was democratic, generous and inclusive. Ian Crichton Smith wrote that Morgan's poetry ' welcomes the twentieth century, with its gadgets, its paradoxes, graffiti, new languages, torn advertisements, uncoscious jokes, voyages...' His words were always an adventure and were like looking at a stained glass of paradise. A magpies eye for detail , in tune with modern pop culture not afraid at speaking out, mocking,anger, rage but then capable of huge reliefs of quick fire humour.
I heard him last on an album by the Scottish band Idlewild in which he recited a poem , "Scottish Fiction " . In later years he lived in a care home as his health got worse but he never stopped writing.
Yesterday as I wrote these words on a computer I was using in the local library suddenly all the computers crashed and their was a sudden emptiness that I can't explain, I do know I believe in the power of poetry and yet another leaf had fallen. May he be at peace. A writer of many many wonderful books check them out.

The Change

For all its banks bursting with bullion,
the land of injustice will not prosper.

The skyscrapers shine as if they could never
smell black smoke or shake to thunder.

Tanks, whips, dogs, laws - the panopoly
cracks steadily, being built over a fault.

Of course there are battleships, communications,
planes; but the sophisticated do not have it.

The spirit has it, the spirit of the people has it
townships, shantytowns, jails, funerals

have it. It is no use digging in,
rulers, unless you dig a pit to be

tipped into. Ruling has gone on too long,
will not be saved by armbands or the laager.

The unjust know this very well.
They lay ears to the ground, hear hooves.

Beasts, one time; an express, one time;
men, one time; history, one time.

Straighten up and pat your holsters.
Self-righteousness and a ramrod back

will not help. The sun goes down with you,
other fruits ripen for other lips.


A Good Year for Death

Where is Callas la Divina
with her black velvet and her white passion?
Where are the women and women and women
she threw into life for an hour from her throat
to float and fight? She cannot hear
the last bravo.
Death has danced her tune away.

Where is Nabokov with his butterfly-net,
his galoshes, his mushrooms, his index-cards?
He has gone in a whiff of bilberries and blinis,
his fire has paled, his puns have flunked.
Shades crowd the lakeside hydrangeas and sallows
skim quick and low.
Death has danced his tune away.

Where is Bolan, the elfin, now?
Who has taken his spangles and songs,
bongos and gongs, and his white swan?
Who has pied-piper'd the pied piper
ino that childless, teenless wood?
The metal shadow,
Death, has danced his tune away.

Where is Presley all in silver,
with his sideburns and his quiver
of simple rock, and what is that army
he's uniformed for, in a white sheet,
will theslowstep motorcade battalion
never let him go?
Death has danced his tune away.

And where is Lowell that sweet mad poet
with his rumpled suit and uranium finger?
A giant forsythia covers the Pentagon
with better than gold, but the magnolias
wax the Potomacwhite with grief-
in words at least. Be true, be brief:
we lack his fellow.
Death has danced his tune away.

(26/9/77) - a description of 5 famous people from the world of popular culture who died in 1977.


I scratch a gap in the curtains:
the darkest mornings of the year
goes grey slowly, chains of orange street-lights
lose out east in Glasgo's haze. The smell
of cigarette smoke fills the bedroom. I drown
in it, I gulp you through my lungs again
and hardly find whatcan be breathed.
Are you destroying me? Or is it a comedy?
To get together naked in bed, was that all?
To say you had done it? And that we did nothing
was what you had done. Iago and Cassio
had a better night. It must be a laugh
to see us both washed out with lying there.
It doesn't feel like laughing, though,
it feels like gasping, shrieking, tearing, all in silence
as I leave your long curved back
and go through to the kettle and the eggs.

Opening the Cage
14 variations on 14 words

I have nothing to say and I am saying it and that is poetry.
John Cage

I have to say poetry and is that nothing and am I saying it
I am and I have poetry to say and is that nothing saying it
I am nothing and I have poetry to say and that is saying it
I that am saying poetry have nothing and it is I and to say
And I say that I am to have poetry and saying it is nothing
I am poetry and nothing and saying it is to say that I have
To have nothing is poetry and I am saying that and I say it
Poetry is saying I have nothing and I am to say that and it
Saying nothing I am poetry and I have to say that and it is
It is and I am and I have poetry saying say that to nothing
It is saying poetry to nothing and I say I have and am that
Poetry is saying I have it and I am nothing and to say that
And that nothing is poetry I am saying and I have to say it
Saying poetry is nothing and to that I say I am and have it

The Loch Ness Monster's Song

Hnwhuffl ffnnwfl hnl hfl?
Gdroblboblhobngbl gbl g g g g glbgl.
Drublhaflablhaflubhafgabhaflhafl fl fl -
gm grawwwww grf grawf awfgm graw gn.
Splgraw fok fok splgrafhatchgabrl fok splfok!
Zgra kra gka fok!
Grof grawff gahf?
Gombl mbl bl-
blm plm,
blm plm,
blm plm,

At the Television Set

Take care if you kiss me,
you know it doesn't die.
The lamplight reaches out, draws it
blandly- all of it- inyo fixity,
troops of blue shadows like the soundless gunfight,
yellow shadows like your cheek by the lamp
where you lie watching, half watching
between the yellow and the blue.
I half see you, half know you.
Take care if you turn now to face me.
Foe even in this room we are moving out through stars
and forms that never let us back, your hand
lying lighyly on my thigh and my hand on your shoulder
are transfixed only there, not here.

What can you bear that would last
like a rock through cancer and white hair?

Yet it is not easy
to take stock of miseries
when the soft light flickers
along our aems in the stillness
where decisions are made.
You have to look art me,
and then it's time that falls
talking slowly to sleep.

As I have said Edwin Morgan bought out a vast quantity of work
nevertheless I would strongly recommend his collected poems on Carcanet. Think it was reprinted in late 1990s.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

James Kirkup - Tea in a Space-Ship.

In this world a tablecloth need not be laid
On any table, but is spread out anywhere
Upon the always equidistant and
Invisible legs of gravity's wild air

The tea, which never would grow cold,
Gathers itself into a wet and steaming ball,
And hurls its liquid molecules at anybody's head,
Or dances, eternal bilboquet,
In annd out of the suspended cups up-
Ended in the weightless hands
Of chronically nervous jerks
Who yet would never spill a drop,
Their mouths agape for passing cakes.

Lumps of sparking sugar
Sling themselves out of their crytal bowl
With a disordered fountain's
Ornamental stops and starts.
The milk describes a permanent parabola
Girdled with satellites of spinning tarts.

The future lives with graciousness.
The hostess finds her problems eased,
For thereis honey still for tea
And butter keps the ceiling greased.

She will provide, of course,
No cake-forks, spoons or knives.
They are so sharp, so dangerously gadabout,
It is regarded as a social misdemeanor
To put them out.


For Bonnie, good moggie
faithful friend and companion

Datblygu- Ugain I Un

another classic from the mercurial Mr David Rupert Edwards, home again
lets hope their is hope.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Dafydd ap Gwilym, (c. 1325-c. 85) - To the Gull.

Bird that dwellest in the spray,
White as yon moon's calm array,
Dust thy beauty ne'er may stain,
Sunbeam-gauntlet of the maim!
Soaring with aerial motion
On the surges of the ocean.
Bird of lofty pinion, fed
On the fishes of the sea,
Wilt thou not disdain or dread
Hence to learn a rhapsody-
Rhymes of praise to her whose dart
Ever rrankles in my heart?
Wilt tou (lily of the sea!0
Draw near, hand-in-hand with me,
To the beatous maiden's home;
(Nun that dwellest in the foam!0
With thy glossy figure climb
Round her castle's walls sublime.
Soon the girl of virgin hue,
On those tow'rs will meet thy view.
Tell her ev'ry rapt'rous word
Thou of her from me hast heard:
Court her glance - be polished - wise,
When on thee she turns her eyes:
Say her poet loves her more
Than bard ever lov'd before;
That a maid so pure and bright
By Taliesin ne'er was sung,
Nor wild Myrddin's flatt'ring tongue.
Sea-gull if she meets thy sight,
Tell her that I must resign
Life, if she will not be mine:-
With unequalled pangs I pine!

Translated from the Welsh by :-

Monday, 16 August 2010

A PORTRAIT OF A POET by Lewis Morris (1700 - 1765)

I wonder how the poor devil of an offeiriad ( priest ) goes on now. I don't hear anything of his being to be turned out. I suppose they don't drink as much as they did, poverty hinders them, and the alehouse will not give them credit. Nawdd Duw rhag y fath ddyn! ( God protect us from such a man! ) What beggar, tinker, or sowgelder ever groped more in the dirt? A tomturd man is a gentleman to him. The juice of tobbacco in two strams runs out of his mouth. He drinks gin or beer till he cannot see his way home and has not half the sense of an ass, rowls in the mire like a pig, runs through the streets with a pot in his hand to look out for beer; looks wild like a mountsain cat, and yet whenhe is sober his good angel returns and he writes verses sweeter than honey and stronger than wine. How is this to be solved? His body is borrowed or descended from the dregs of mankind and his spirit from among the celestial choir: what a stinking dirty habitation it must have.

From: 'Morris Letters'

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Claribel Alegria (born 12/5/24) -Small Country.

Behind you
a riot of pallid orphans,
children with protruding bellies,
mendicant mothers
exhibiting their kids
full of flies
tricky beggars
who pour their life
onto a clotted, scabby leg
and filthy bandages.
I stop and yell:
'The sky is falling!'
'Dear friends,'
the fat lady comments,
shuffling her cards,
'have you heard the latest?
They say the sky is falling.'
At three in the afternoon
the board meeting starts.
I rise and say:
there's omly one item
on the agenda today.
The sky is falling.'
The manager is upset.
'I propose,' he exclaims,
'the construction of a vault
under the earth.
We must protect our archives,
our valuables.'
The sentry reports the order
to the barracks.
'Have the troops fall out
in combat fatiques,'
screeches the general.
'Raise your rifles and bayonets,
hold up the sky.'
The day is overcast.
A normal quota of events
takes place.
Butchers sell 3/4s
to the housewives
and charge them for a kilo,
fat old maids vent their hatred
in classrooms,Don Juans
peacocks with their pals
while maids
ruin the meal,
and contemplate abortion.
Soon the small tree by the cafe
will issue red cherries;
sugar cane, honey,
marching cotton
and meaty clouds
will turn into Cadillacs
on a casino night
upon renting a suite in Cannes.
I sit down at the table of intellectuals.
'What can we do? I ask.
'The sky is falling.'
An old radical smiles.
He saw it coming twenty years ago.
'And if it's true,'
an angry student asks,
'what will we do?'
With a gesture appropriate
to the historical significance,
he pulls out a pen
and on the tablecloth
begins to compose a manifesto
by intellectuals and artists.
I don't go out for days.
The sky is not falling.
The politicians have said so,
the directors,
the generals,
even the beggars confirm it.
For every young lord
there's a knocked-up maid,
holding her own.
For every fat matron,
someone tubercular picking cotton,
for every politician
a blindman with a white cane.
Everything is licit, right.
My terror, infantile.
The public show
of anxiety
is bad for people,
is rotten for business,
scares children.
Tomorrow I'll go to the market.
The psychiatrist prescribed it.
I'll be in a position
to offer ten centavos to a beggar
and to feel compassion.

Friday, 13 August 2010

Liliane Lijn ( b 22/12/39.- Receiving Change.

Liliane Lijn was the first woman artist to work with kinetic text ( Poem Machines ) and moved in the same circles as William Burroughs, Brion Gysin, Grecory Corso and Sinclair Beiles. She has described her work as a constant dialogue between opposites.She sees the world in terms of light and energy. It never stops.The duality in man and woman is set free. Their is ritual, their is the act, their is the moment.

Receiving Change

... the act of receiving, the passive act , is in essence active the moment it is accomplished with awareness. It is this specific awareness which is the particular characteristic and moreover the function of the artist.Call it attention, care, love. I see it as a tenderness with which I perceive the world. In looking I am caressing what I see. I allow it to pass through my system carefully with regard for its every attribute. This is my intention and my pursuit. Is this feminine? It is the way of pleasure and feeling. I speak here of the way in : reception. I speak of a way of receiving which I consider whole. At once passive and active. Passive in that its receiving is an acceptance as opposed to a taking. Active in its attention and its ability to focus. Focusing is the most natural way to make choices.

The Sky never stops.

Sunday, 8 August 2010


Last night I went to see the film Seperado, a charming searching film seen through the eyes of Welsh pop music legend Gruff Rhys of the Super Furry Animals while on both tour and journey to find his distant uncle and famous over night Patagonian poncho wearing guitarist Rene Griffiths.
In 1880, following a controversial horse race that led to an unresolved death Gruff Rhys's family split as Daffyd Jones took his young family to join a burgeouning Welsh community in Patagonia. There was to be no contact between the families for almost a century until 1974 when Rene Griffiths arrived in Wales with his latin infused Welsh love songs and became an overnight sensation. He traces the footsteps of the Welsh colonists who fled their homeland in the 19th Century for Argentina, and it is truly a fascinating glimpse of Welsh history.
Director Dylan Goch follows Gruff on a tour that takes in theatres, nightclubs and desert teahouses of , Brazil and the Argentinian Andes as he discovers what became of his family, the Welsh diaspora and its musical legacy. He takes us on a kind of psychedelic road trip and what has been created is really quite magical, a portrayal of a beautiful and at times harsh isolated land, offering glimpses of a parallel universe. Building many bridges and links discovering many more sundry musical talents along the way.

It managed to hold my attention and most of the audience whilst not sidestepping the issues of colonisation and the beast of globalisation and its ravages. It deals successfully in my mind why a number of Welsh speakers went to Patagonia in search of a new life, in order to preserve their way of life, their language and the many conflicts that arise when people look for a new paradise and heartland.
It was of particular interesting to me to see the long lasting influence of intermarrying with the indiginous population. Their Welsh seemed to me to be clearer than our modern Welsh despite being handed down, and perhaps paradise was not truly found but they have managed to preserve their language and culture.
A must see whether a fan of Gruff Rhys's music or not, very enthralling in a hip, arty ,ramshackle way. Whimsical with a magnificent broad sweep.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Bill Hicks - MY PHILOSOPHY (AUGUST 1993 ).

I love to smoke. To me, everything, about smoking is cool. When I hear 'Kinda Blue' by Miles Davis, a cigarette magically appears in my hand, and I am THERE. Smoking is Miles Davis. Smoking is Tom Waits. Smoking is Keith Richards.
Billy Ray Cyrus does not smoke. Michael Bolton doesn't smoke. Paula Abdul doesn't smoke. Is this clear? I'm not saying people who don't smoke aren't cool - although there does seem to be a pattern.i'm saying a lot of cool people smoke,and smoking is part of their coolness. I know I surprised a few people when I toured the UK last year. During the first tour, I was smoking and discussing my love of smoking onstage. By the time the second tour had begun, I had quit smoking, and all the people who liked what I did before seemed genuinely hurt and betrayed. People wre yelling 'Judas!' and 'Traitor' and throwing cigarettes at me onstage. It was like Dylan going electric. While it was all done in good fun - except the lit ones - I explained my new lifestyle quite ingeniously. ( There's nothing quite like a hail of burning embers raining down on you to make you quick on your feet.) I told everyone the pont of my old smoking routine was that I should have the right to smoke even if you think I SHOULDN'T. Now, I should have he right NOT to smoke even if you think I SHOULD. The pont is - THE FREEDOM TO CHOOSE. After explaining this to the audience, they calmed down somewhat. While cigarettes were still thrown fewer and fewer lit ones were flicked at my head.
I don't want to toot my own horn here - you couldn't hear it from this distance anyway - but, I think I'm fairly open-minded when it comes to ideas of Freedom. I think I'm one of the only former drug abusers and alcoholics who doesn't decry the years I partied, or regret them. Instead, I look on those experiences As fun and exciting and crucial to getting me where I am today. And I believe all drugs should be legal and available. In fact, I believe that as long you don't harm another person, or get in the way of their freedom ALL THINGS should be legal and available. As no amount of laws passed seem to prevent people's love of freedom, nor squelch their curiosity, nor their basic humanity, we would do better to look through the eyes of love and compassion, rather than condemnation and fear.
Drug abusers are not criminals in my mind's eye. At worst, they are just sick, and I know of no jail that has ever healed anyone.
I ascribe to a philosophy of Gentle Anarchy. I believe people are inherently GOOD, and left to their own devices - with the free exchange of ideas and information - a joyful lightness would spread across the face of our dour world.
I am aware there are many people who do not feel this way. This is why I figured out a way to make everyone happy, while also furthering the idea of Freedom. Here it is: for those people who think smoking, drugs, abortion, and prostitution should NOT be legal and available - they're not, they never were, don't worry, we're cracking down. There. That way, the world would remain exactly as it is now, only without the onus of guilt, shame, and legality.
Does this mean I am suggesting people smoke, take drugs, get abortions, or go to prostitutes? No. I recommend you do what you want to do, which is what you're going to do anyway. I am merely suggesting we accept life on life's terms instead of drowning in a quagmire of niggling SHOULDS and SHOULDN'TS which have done NOTHING to freeour spirits from the cloud of guilt and shame that shrouds this planet. Again- forgiveness rather than condemnation, compassion rather than judgement, and love rather than fear. And keep in mind, this radical philosophy is coming from me - an avowed misanthrope. If I can feel this way, surely there is hope for us all. Have we learned anything from all this? I have. The next time I tour the UK, I'm not going to tell the audience I quit smoking. I'm going to tell them I quit fucking, just to see what they throw at me then. I look forward to seeing you.


There was never a next time Bill Hicks died on February 26th, 1994.His honest ability to cut through the bullshit still very much missed.


Sunday, 1 August 2010

Cicumnavigating: an experiment

River Teifi

It was fun, oh how we laughed, the driftwood floating, chasing
moss, dreaming of schemes, counting the hours, unpadlocking
the gates, half-in, half-out, a way to blue through a tunnel of zen
paradoxes unfurling wading through time, latitude and longtitude,
earth rythyms wearing their cloaks of anomynity
in these spaces  are the tiny resources of hope.
Alcohol is an anaethesetic it numbs the pain of silence
something that allows us to  hastily rearrange
moving round in circles,with detail pencilled in .
it is the last stand in the sorting room,
seeds of ideas breaking out
running backwards the honesty wanders
memory upturned, weight of the west meets east
towards another summer ending getting dressed
looking beyond grey, walking on goodtimes
Rising towards tomorrow
i'd like to know that acceptance is not surrender
old ghosts collect the rainwater
every day wears out..
to beat time I do not understand.
beat time i do not understand time beat i do
not understand we will vanish smiling we will rise
home is eternity.
The secret is surprise love is always here
delusions of heavens and sweet summer scents.
wild fermentation and from ancient springs we gather
waiting for dust to settle as the weekend laughs in secret.
Perseverence is never defeated
from beginning to end
I am an initiate of invisible chains
reverberating through existence
as beautiful threads bloom again
seek out satisfaction.
Amber gathers dust
echoe comes back from sound
these polished mirrors reflect the shape of things.
How soon is now? sooner or later
we will tiptoe on the water,
what follows is destiny
circle of ceremonies removes all
boundaries and wildness becomes visible,
the invisible  rising sustenance in us  all.
Is paradise's one hand clapping?
When is it time to surrender
follow mystic river down to the sea
tumbling beyond precarious tensions.