Scottish poets? No problem.
English poets? Certainly – which county would you prefer? Irish poets? By all means. American poets? Yes, we have two of those.
But up to now, no poems by Welsh writers.
Hurray! This sad omission is now remedied. Two new publications, both to be launched in Wales next month, are putting things to rights.
First there’s Unleaving by Kristian Evans, the debut pamphlet from a young man I met in Wales last year when I went to launch Robert Minhinnick’s lively essay The Mythic Death of Dylan Thomas. That was the first foray into Wales, land of my childhood holidays and therefore a magical place for me.
Of course, the two new publications are in English, not Welsh. However, Unleaving has a strongly Welsh flavour—not in the lobsters on the cover (though they are there for good reason) but in some of the contents. There’s a splendid translation of Dafydd ap Gwilym’s mischievous ‘Merched Llanbadarn’, for example.
Kris Evans is a poet who really knows his oats in terms of poetic tradition: his influences are many and various – from Tristan Tzara to D H Lawrence. He loves form, but he likes surreal experiment too. And there’s prose to wallow in, full of assonance and richness. Kristian Evans is a writer on his way somewhere, and well worth following.
The other new publication, Pattern Beyond Chance, is a first book from Stephen Payne, whose debut pamphlet The Probabilities of Balance was brought out by Smiths Knoll in 2010 and distributed to readers of that lovely (now extinct) magazine. Stephen’s day job is in academic psychology. No surprise when you see the way these poems are presented.
The volume is divided into sections: Design, Word, Mind and Time, with a quotation from a leading psychologist at the front of each. Payne is provocative and playful: he’s thinking about thinking even when he’s thinking about poetry. This book is a pleasure to read, I would say (although yes, I am biassed).
There’s a wonderful poem in Pattern Beyond Chance in memory of Linda Chase, the American, Manchester-based poet who was a leading influence on Stephen, and died far too soon. ‘To: Linda’ makes me cry each time I read it, and I know all friends of Linda (she influenced numerous writers) will feel the same.
Poets sometimes appear to be fiercely in competition with each other in this age of prizes and shortlists, but in fact they’re all on the home team. There’s a generosity of spirit in Pattern Beyond Chance that confirms this. Hard to pin down exactly what I’m talking about, but it’s there. Trust me. I’m a publisher . . .