Example poetry

An anthology of radical poetry from contemporary Wales

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Gwrthrhyfel/Uprising is edited by Mike Jenkins and published by Culture Matters

Shara Atashi

Uprising is an illustrated firework of protest poetry at a time of overwhelming threat: World War III, deepening economic crisis and environmental catastrophe.

Diverse and powerful voices from Wales are displaying the country’s internationalism and demanding attention.

Protest, the central axis of the collection, shoots arrows in different directions, which are reflected in its five sections: “Uprising”, “Origin”, “Protest”, “Shiver” and “Open your eyes”.

Uprising

Familiar working-class imagery and diction glorify hard work and restore dignity to the humiliated human race.

Uprising, as a form of vocal protest, also places us in close communion with nature as it becomes the only voice against manipulative political rhetoric aimed at separating and dividing us.

As if the power of tornadoes reinforced the human voice.

With two poems about the Welsh hero of 1831, Dic Penderyn, the anthology takes you into the local history of brave resistance. But it also connects Wales to the international working class movement.

The mysterious natural world and place names, such as Merthyr Tydfil (based on a legend about the daughter Tydfil who was martyred in 480 AD) have held secrets and ghosts that have always inspired poets and storytellers.

In these poems, nature itself is rebellious, for the ground has become barren, mountainous, fruitful in nothing but iron and the shelves in the ground are left by scraping and scraping for ore and mine coal.

In times like this, natural elements tied to human labor, such as iron and coal, give their spirit to the will of the oppressed.

Poetry interprets nature and the rebel when both have been exploited. But where human endurance begins to falter, nature shows that it can withstand anything beyond our imagination.

This anthology shows that nature gives its creatures the power to imagine a better world, in which people can have everything people need to exist.

Origins

This section produces surprisingly diverse messages, most of them relating to Welsh identity, including the nature, history and fate of the people.

A highlight is Anna Powell’s “Gwraidd/Origin”, which evokes a world empty of human beings, when the six human senses already exist and discern the process of creation:

Overlapping slate scales on the surface of the flakes

dryripple silk, coarse rough exfoliation

feels oddly comforting for finger swirls

Sweet, dry age with the taste of sun-baked clag

‘Wales for Sale’ paints a satisfyingly satirical picture of those for whom Wales is just a subject to be taken advantage of.

In his elegantly lyrical villanelle “Aberfan et Pontyberem”, Aneirin Karadog mourns the death of a nine-year-old boy, one of one hundred and sixteen children who died in the Aberfan mine disaster in 1966.

Negligence was the cause.

150,000 tons of coal waste, piled too high on a hill, slid down the slope and submerged the school and other houses.

Aneirin immortalizes a child as a representative of others and leads a chorus of trees around his resting place.

The leaves fall like silver meaning nothing at all,

parents watching over a grave as over the bed

in a corner of Bont where the trees moan

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Demonstration

Commemoration of the Welsh Miner during the great strike of 1926, this section links the spirit of these workers to the modern working class affected by the same type of austerity policies. The UK-wide strike at this time led to the defeat of miners who were fighting pay cuts.

It was a divisive time, as protesting workers were rhetorically portrayed as the nation’s enemies by politicians and the media.

Today, when the idea of ​​solidarity seems defeated, protesting, even for nature, against racism, for the poor, against the tax evasion of the rich, all of this is woven into these poems, enough to order the crowds to go to public squares:

Look at your governments,

those who would let all our futures burn.

Let them see your dark eyes

your lost and angry faces

your fear and despair.

Hold their gaze.

(Jackie Biggs, p. 94)

Thrill

Poets express what happens behind closed doors and make you tremble. J

This section starts with gender and LGBTQ+ oppression, violence, prostitution and all the painful details that we don’t see in everyday life if we live without conscience.

This is why poets arrange words to expose dark truths. They bring the underworld of gender to the surface and command equality and understanding for the victims, as well as anger against those responsible for such misery.

‘Shiver’ draws a summary of the burden that a good wife and mother carries behind her holy dignity:

Puffy lips, excited muscles,

she directs her animus – antler tip

of his entrapment.

The dawn is so liberating

She holds the yin, a rise

voice from its pelvis. Rain-

diamonds on every hair and every finger.

“Every 30 Seconds” is a brutal ballad depicting situations in which women call a domestic violence hotline in their desperation.

“Behind Locked Doors” is the story of a woman who is often kicked out of her home by an abusive husband. But she always goes back, say people in the neighborhood.

But where else could she go?

There are also poems about women standing belted and erect before the oppressor.

‘Goddess Pose’ is one of them, using the layout as a device to support the message of the poem.

‘I AM WARMAN’ is another woman’s empowering and vengeful message written in white on the black silhouette of a drill.

Open your eyes

The collection closes with a rich combination of messages and poetic devices to stimulate our senses, a clear and resonant chorus of awakening. Needless to say why, because everyone should know by now!

The poets write Notes for an Ecologisttelling them that the earth itself is a treasure; where our land is a tough old bitch but remember this ain’t war it’s just a struggle of a species that shares this planet.

“Together Stronger” shows how we as humans can demolish the old scene of repetitive slogans if only we change our point of view to, say, that of a seagull. #

The poet demolishes the architecture of Cardiff’s fabled venues, the National Museum plus restaurant chains and humans included, only to wake up and observe, now serenely, through the eyes of an old seagull, perhaps with the human experience in its DNA?

And in keeping with Don Quixote, this anthology commands that in the face of too much rationality and diktat from smartphones, it is the craziest thing of all: to see life as it is, and not as it should be.

Gwrthrhyfel/Uprising is edited by Mike Jenkins and published by Culture Matters. You can buy a copy here or of good bookstores

©Shara Atashi is a widely published translator and author based in Aberystwyth. His work has been published at Writers Mosaic, in the new Welsh magazine and Modern poetry in translation.

She received a place from Literature Wales to develop and represent their campaign for writers of color.

A section of his book ‘From the claws of a long verse‘ is featured in the Summer 2022 #129 edition of the New Welsh Reader, and its short story the Pilgrim is anthologized in Lucent Dreaming’s first-ever book, Maps and Rooms – written from Wales.


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