Co-Writing That Novel: How We Make It Work

My alter ego – as Mirren Jones, Author – in collaboration with Marion Duffy. Thanks to writersofwales.com for this post on how we manage to make writing together work.

writers of wales

mirren jones

Collaborative Writing – Mirren Jones style

‘Take in laundry, before you take on a partner’

(proverb)

How can two people write a novel together? How do you decide who will write what? And what happens when you disagree?

In 2008, Elaine Atkins from Wales and Marion Duffy from Scotland published their debut novel Eight Of Cups under the pseudonym ‘Mirren Jones’. Their second novel, Never Do Harm, will be published later this year.

When out and about at ‘Meet the Author’ events, members of the audience are at first full of questions about the practicalities of co-authorship – the what, where, when and how of writing as Mirren Jones.

Very quickly, however, the talk turns to inter-personal issues, such as who’s in charge? And what do you argue about? It’s an intriguing phenomenon – a fiction-writing partnership.

Successful song writing partnerships roll off the tongue – Lennon and McCartney, Roger…

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The Year of the Horse has arrived

yearOfTheHorse2

According to Chinese Astrology, the Year of the Horse (one of 12 signs of the Zodiac) begins today and will end on 18th February 2015.  I have to say I’m rather excited about this for a number of reasons:

a)      born in 1954 my birthday falls under the sign of the horse;
b)      one of the occupations in my portfolio working life is as a ‘horse whisperer’ – working with people and their horses to improve communication and performance (seewww.clocktowerstud.co.uk for more details);
c)       I spend a lot of my life with my own horses and ponies; riding, training, and generally ‘hanging out’.  Horses have been a passion since I could first walk and talk;
d)      hopefully we will see plenty of references in the media to the horse this year;
e)      Chinese astrologers are recommending that people born under the sign of the horse who will be 60 during the year should have a big party ‘to balance the luck’.  Well, I’m all for that, given that I was too ill on my 50th to get out of bed, let alone go party!

Goldie 14th June 09

My gorgeous mare, ‘Goldie’

What characteristics are people born in The Year of the Horse supposed to possess? Let’s consider the positive ones first: they will be ‘sanguine, sharp-minded, dress fashionably, gifted with a silver tongue and have acute insight . . .engaged in intellectual activities and sports’ (1).  In my case these are all true of course! And the negative ones? Well, never mind about those . . .

I hope that The Year of the Horse will see lots of focus on horses and how they have inspired authors throughout history.  ‘Black Beauty’, ‘War Horse’, ‘The Horse Whisperer’, ‘Don Quixote’ and ‘The Black Stallion’ are a few of the much read and loved books that come to mind.  Let’s hope there will be more this year.

And very importantly, more attention given to the plight of the horse in modern society.  There is still far too much cruelty – too many people lack true understanding of the horse’s needs and wants.  Let us never forget that the essential nature of the horse is as a herd animal, running free.  That he can be our loyal companion is our privilege, not our right.

Meanwhile, I’d better start thinking about that 60th Birthday Party of mine – November 22nd is not that far away!

Reference

(1) Lau, T and Lau,L. (2011) The Handbook of Chinese Horoscopes. London:Souvenir Press

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Vernon Watkins – a distinguished but now neglected Welsh Poet

I’ve recently discovered a brilliant Welsh poet – Vernon Watkins (1906-1967), who was rather overshadowed in his lifetime by his notorious and famous friend, Dylan Thomas. (A friendship that endured many years, even after Thomas failed to turn up as best man at Watkins’ wedding!). Watkins lived  most of his life on the Gower Peninsula, with his wife and five children, and earned his living working as a clerk for Lloyds Bank, even though he had published many volumes of poetry.  At the time of his death he was being considered for the position of Poet Laureate.

Roland Glyn Mathias of Brecon, writing in Welsh Biography Online tells us that “Vernon Watkins’s volumes of poetry, exclusive of American editions and selections, were: Ballad of the Mari Lwyd ( 1941), The Lamp and the Veil (1945), The Lady with the Unicorn (1948), The North Sea (translations from Heine) (1951), The Death Bell (1954), Cypress and Acacia (1959), Affinities (1962) and Fidelities (published posthumously in 1968).  Uncollected Poems (1969) and  The Breaking of the Wave (1979) were put together from the vast mass of material the poet’s demanding eye had left unpublished, and two new selections,  I That Was Born in Wales (1976) and Unity of the Stream (1978), were made from the printed oeuvre.” 

I’ve a long way to go before I’ve read all Watkins’ poems, but I’m already a die-hard fan – I find them so lyrical, spiritual, metaphysical.  Also there are several about my great passion in life – horses, possibly not suprising since Watkins would have encountered lots of wild ponies on the Gower.  I’ve included a beautiful one here, “The Mare”.  If you love great poetry, if you love Dylan Thomas’ poetry, seek out Vernon Watkins – many critics have said that Watkins had the greater talent; Thomas himself described Watkins as “the most profound and greatly accomplished Welshman writing poems in English.”

The Mare (1959) from Cypress and Acacia

The mare lies down in the grass where the nest of the skylark is hidden.

Her eyes drink the delicate horizon moving behind the song.

Deep sink the skies, a well of voices. Her sleep is the vessel of Summer.

That climbing music requires the hidden music at rest.

 

Her body is utterly given to the light, surrendered in perfect abandon

To the heaven above her shadow, still as her first-born day.

Softly the wind runs over her. Circling the meadow, her hooves

Rest in a race of daisies, halted where butterfiles stand.

 

Do not pass her too close. It is easy to break the circle

And lose that indolent fullness rounded under the ray

Falling on light-eared grasses your footstep must not yet wake.

It is easy to darken the sun of her unborn foal at play.

 

 

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The Unwanted Horse – an equine welfare crisis in the UK

There is a worldwide problem of abandoned and neglected horses.  Sadly these beautiful and willing creatures have been used and abused by humankind ever since they were first domesticated.  The UK is not exempt from blame – the problem of unwanted horses has increased here in recent years, brought about by a number of variables including overbreeding, an increase in horse ownership by people with little or no previous knowledge and experience of handling and caring for equines, and the economic recession.

There is a big problem in South Wales, particularly along the M4 corridor and there have been many instances where dumped and abandoned horses and ponies have made headline news.  The sheer levels of cruelty and neglect are appalling.   Last year, twelve horses were found locked in a barn, with no space or access to food or water.  They were very underweight and suffering from various untreated conditions.  An RSPCA Inspector, Christine McNeil was reported by the Monmouthshire Beacon, 19th June 2013 as saying, “These horses turned out to be the most poorly and diseased horses I have come across.  It is my belief that the 12 in the barn had been left there to die.”  The owner, a Vale of Glamorgan horse trader, Thomas Price, whose family is thought to own around 2,500 horses, was eventually found guilty of 57 offences of causing unnecessary suffering and failing to meet the needs of 27 horses, and his sons were also prosecuted for similar offences.  Tragically such examples of extreme cruelty cases are reported on a regular basis from all over the country.

The practice of ‘fly-grazing, where owners ‘dump’ horses and ponies on empty areas of land and abandon them there, with land-owners powerless to act has increased in recent years too.  The Welsh Government is currently undertaking a formal period of consultation on the need for stronger legislation to deal with fly-grazing which must be hoped will act as a deterrent.  See http://wales.gov.uk

The equine welfare crisis in the UK is not going away, and is exacerbated by unscrupulous horse traders and indiscriminate overbreeding; the market is flooded with unwanted horses, and the equine welfare charities are stretched to capacity -bursting at the seams with the constant inflow of rescues, some of which are pregnant mares, so the problem of rehabilitation and rehoming is doubled once they are taken into the rescue centres.

One charity that knows all about the crises only too well is one of which I am a member, the wonderful Society for the Welfare of Horses and Ponies, whose horse hospital is based in St. Maughans, outside Monmouth in Gwent.  At any one time there are around 50 horses and ponies at the centre, in various stages of treatment, rehabilitation, training and rehoming.  They are always very busy and always fundraising in order to keep the charity afloat.

A regular event in the calendar is the Summer Open Day, which was held on July 7th this year in glorious sunshine, which brought out the crowds – around 700 people arrived to see the rescued horses and ponies, the falconry stand, join in the dog show, browse all the stalls and enjoy the hog roast.  I attended and had a marvellous time chatting to people about my company www.CareandCompare.com and how it supports the SWHP by giving 5% of profits to this charity, but most of all, seeing at first hand the rescues for myself.  The before and after stories that were attached to the stable doors were an emotional read – it was hard to believe that the healthy, glowing ponies nuzzling my hands were once the emaciated, or wounded, very poorly animals shown in the ‘before’ photographs.  All due credit must go to the people who care for the rescues so effectively and are able to ‘turn them around’ to become the horse or pony they were always meant to be – sometimes in just a few short months.  There is no substitute for expert knowledge and tender, loving care.  The philosophy underpinning the SWHP was articulated by Mrs. Jenny MacGregor MBE, the Chairman when she told us “They don’t ask to be born, but now that they have been, they deserve to live.”

Pony Charity 5% donation by comparing insurance

The photograph shows Shetland pony Belle, who was found wandering on the road near Devauden in March, along with her Shetland stallion companion.  It seems they had been abandoned in a field since the previous October, wearing their headcollars all that time. Belle was pregnant.  Her tiny foal, Muffin, was one of the star attractions at the Open Day, being only 2 weeks old and incredibly cute.  He seemed completely unfazed by all the people cooing over him!

Jenny’s commentary during the parade of rescues was moving; she knew the history of every horse or pony intimately; her stories of how they came to be there and what progress they’ve made really engaged the watching crowd.  You can find an album of photographs from the Open Day on Care and Compare’s  Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/CareandCompare

c.£5,500 was raised on the day – every penny needed to continue the wonderful work that the SWHP does for horses in desperate straights.

For more information on the SWHP, go to their informative website www.swhp.co.uk where you will be able to read all about the rescues, see which ones are ready for rehoming, and how you might help with fundraising.

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Realising the aspirations of people with disabilities

Able-bodied people take a lot for granted.  We expect to live comfortably in our own homes, source and prepare our own food, be able to find a job, and drive our own vehicles or use public transport to travel to places independently of other people.  We have hobbies, and dreams we’d like to achieve. We may have future expectations of achieving our personal and career potential through hard work and or education, and we are free to make choices about what we do and how we will do it.

Life is not so rosy for young people with complex physical, sensory or learning disabilities.  They may have lived with their condition since birth, or acquired it due to illness, such as a brain tumour, meningitis or a degenerative neural / muscular disease.  Some young people’s lives are changed forever as a result of a traumatic accident and a resulting acquired complex disability.  When mainstream education cannot accommodate such students, to where can they turn? Enter National Star College, which has been providing specialist education for young people with complex physical, sensory or learning disabilities for almost 50 years, equipping them to face the world with confidence and aspiration. Its motto is ‘Realising the aspirations of people with disabilities’.

Recently the charity overseeing the operation of National Star College has become the National Star Foundation, with a mission to build on all its prior experience and expertise in order to follow an ambitious new agenda for which the guiding principle is ‘Innovations for Life’: the Foundation will look at how best to provide new transition, accommodation and occupation services wherever they may be needed, across the whole country. The services will not always be limited to ex-students but also available to others who have a disability.

The new services will be developed under the banner of the National Star Foundation whilst the College will continue to develop its outstanding work, with its core activities still focussing on working with young people with severe disabilities.

The National Star Foundation Charity Speical Needs Kids

The charity works with over 1,600 disabled people from across the UK, covering the highly important ‘Four ‘E’ areas for its students: EducationEnvironmentEquipment and Employability.

Teams of highly skilled professionals use an integrated, holistic approach to look at the complete educational, social and health needs of students, meeting these with specialised equipment, therapy and medical attention, as well as supported, independent accommodation.  Staff are dedicated to ensuring that students achieve their potential through personalised learning, transition and lifestyle services.  Core education services are largely government-funded, but the rest of the charity’s work – all the life-changing opportunities and facilities that make a difference – are made possible only by voluntary contributions.

When I first visited Ullenwood, the home of National Star Foundation in Gloucestershire, I was amazed at the magnitude of the whole set-up.  The facilities have been transformed in the last few years with major building works to make a thoroughly modern campus. There is:

  • a therapies centre with an aquatic therapy pool, sensory suites, physiotherapy area and specialist training room;
  • an art, design and ceramic centre;
  • a learning technology suite;
  • a work skills building encompassing real learning environments – a training kitchen, bistro, shop, reception and office;
  • ten bedrooms of student residential accommodation, including four independent living studios;
  • a dance and drama studio with a gallery foyer.

NB: If you are in the area make sure you eat at the Star Bistro – it’s highly recommended!  It offers delicious bistro lunches, morning coffee and traditional afternoon tea and uses the finest local and seasonal ingredients.  There are also ‘Chef days’ available with Rob Rees, The Cotswold Chef.

Special Needs BIstro Cafe

The National Star College is clear about the desired results it would like all students to attain before they leave, which are :

  • achieving personal goals;
  • increasing independence;
  • building confidence and self-esteem;
  • becoming empowered to fulfil potential – and to prepare for the future.

The great value and success of the National Star experience for students can be measured by many and varied yardsticks.  Formal measures of success are listed in the charity’s Annual Review and make impressive reading, for example:

  • 100% of students follow accredited learning programmes with a 100% pass rate for full awards on main programmes;
  • 94% of leavers achieved their targeted occupation goals;
  • an Ofsted ‘Outstanding’ ranking was gained in 2011/2012.

National Star Special Needs Education

Qualitatively however, it is the voices of the students themselves which help us understand the impact that their time at National Star has had on their lives:

‘If it wasn’t for National Star College I wouldn’t be in the position I am now: in my first place of my own and planning my own future.’ Tom

Working in StarBistro is inspirational.  I get “that feeling” there that I don’t get anywhere else.  I’ve learned how to speak to customers in a professional way.’ Joe Cook

Before I came here I felt that I couldn’t do anything because of my disabilities, but now I know not to let my disabilities stop me from doing what I want to achieve.’ Thomas
I am very proud that my business, CareandCompare.com has become a corporate partner of National Star Foundation and wish it every success as it rolls out its strategy over the coming years.

Read more about the work of National Star Foundation and National Star College here:
http://www.natstar.ac.uk/national-star-foundation

Visit their Facebook Page : http://www.facebook.com/nationalstarcollege

Follow the Twitter accounts: @starcoll   @NStarFoundation  @starbistro

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Balloons and Sky Lanterns are DANGEROUS to wildlife: You can look, you can touch, but please DON’T let go!

Like many companies when planning a celebration, my company, CareandCompare.com was thinking of having a small balloon release to mark our launch last month. We quickly changed our minds however, when one of our Associate charities, the Marine Conservation Society (MCS), alerted us to the awful consequences for wildlife of the current trend in releasing balloons at corporate, promotional and celebratory events.

The MCS have told us that balloons and sky lanterns can cause major problems for wildlife on both land and sea.  The problems happen once these objects float back down to earth as litter, either semi-inflated, or in thousands of small fragments.  Animals can mistake the remnants for food, and ingest them, ending up with blocked or engorged digestive systems, and eventually choking or starving to death.  A deflated balloon does not look much different to a jellyfish to a hungry turtle.  It’s a fact that dolphins, whales, turtles and seabirds have all been reported with balloons in their stomachs.  Another cruel outcome of such litter is that animals and birds can get tangled up in balloon ribbon/string, restricting movement and the ability to eat, and hence face a lingering death.

MCS balloons & skylanterns 1

Balloons and sky lanterns kill wildlife

Incredibly, the largest ever balloon release was 1.4 million balloons, 10% of which – 140,000 – may have returned to the land and sea where they could have been mistaken for prey and eaten by animals.

It’s an international problem.  The International Coastal Clean-up (which has involved millions of volunteers in over 150 countries cleaning beaches and rivers) revealed that 1,248,892 balloon litter items have been recorded washed up on beaches over the last 25 years.

The MCS are so concerned by the issue that they have made it one of their campaigns, and are doing all they can to educate the public about the dangers of balloons and sky lanterns.  You can obtain their very informative booklet here: Don’t Let Go

What you can do to help

1. Because of the threat posed to wildlife by balloons, releases have been banned by over 20 local authorities in the UK.  If yours is not one of them, could you contact it and ask why not?  Raise local authorities’ awareness of the work that the MCS is doing.

2. Obtain a ‘Don’t Let Go’ Action Pack from the MCS.

3. Take note of the “Seven steps to stopping a planned release going ahead” listed in the booklet and take action where you can.

4. Be aware of the alternative ways of using balloons and sky lanterns in celebration that are wildlife-friendly.  Nobody wants people to stop having fun, but it’s preferable to have fun without endangering wildlife in the process. Again the booklet lists some creative ways to play with balloons and skylanterns.  How about balloon sculptures and popping balloons instead of releasing them?

5. Sign a pledge to not release balloons or lanterns, and encourage all your contacts, whether school, businesses or other organisations to also do so.

Whatever you can do to help, our wildlife on land and sea will benefit.  As for our company, CareandCompare.com has pledged NEVER to be involved in any way with balloon or lantern release.

For further information on the topic consult the Marine Conservation Society: Don’t Let Go Campaign

Since becoming aware of all the great campaigning, policy and eduational work that the MCS does to protect our seas and shores I have joined the MCS as an individual supporter.  They need more members to increase their impact.  Please consider becoming a supporter- there are several ways you could get involved in fundraising, in addition to individual and company supporter status. Support MCS

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Why books are vital for children and the healing power of books for children in hospitals

Books . . . have been read and written about for centuries.  As a bibliophile it’s all too easy to assume that other people love books as much as I do, also think they are important, and encourage their children to read them.

“I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book.” ― J.K. Rowling

“Any book that helps a child to form a habit of reading, to make reading one of his deep and continuing needs, is good for him.” ― Maya Angelou

“A room without books is like a body without a soul.” ― Marcus Tullius Cicero

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) believes that books and reading are so important that it monitors both the number and type of books published per country per annum as an index of standard of living and education, and of a country’s self-awareness.1 For children, research has shown that reading for pleasure improves their life chances and their academic results.  In a civilized country like the UK it is shocking therefore that almost 4 million children do not own a book, which equates to one in three children.2

Commenting on the research results, Jonathan Douglas, the Director of the National Literacy Trust, said the numbers of children without books were of “particular concern”. “We know there is a direct correlation between book ownership and children’s reading abilities,” he said.

“With one in six in the UK struggling with literacy it is very worrying that many children could be missing out on opportunities to develop these essential skills.” Read for Good, a UK charity, has been assisting children to read for pleasure for nearly thirty years through its Readathon events.  Readathon helps teachers and librarians to engage children in reading and at the same time raise money for seriously ill children. Readathon’s facts and figures are astonishing!

  • Nearly £23 million has been raised by the readers over this time
  • Around 3,000 Readathon packs are sent on request every year to teachers and librarians
  • Over 750,000 children every year take part

And as if this wasn’t enough to contribute to the important cause of encouraging children to read for pleasure, the Read for Good team have gone up a gear and are doing even more!

In 2010 they created a new arm of the charity  – ‘ReadWell’, in order to bring books and stories to children in hospitals, where book provision is woefully lacking and hospital school budgets are already stretched.  The hospital environment, despite staff’s best efforts, is often distressing for children and their visitors alike.  Hospital schools cater for 100,000’s of children who are hospitalised every year and hence are some of the biggest and most challenged schools in the country.  Birmingham hospital school for example, has over 200 teachers and works with more than 600 children each day. There are inherent difficulties in the provision of books and stories to children in hospital:

  • patients at high risk of infection, such as those receiving radiotherapy and chemotherapy, transplant patients and burns victims can only read brand-new books;
  • books need to be transported on mobile trolleys, which can move easily around wards and can get up close to a child’s bedside;
  • healthy siblings of the patient need to be catered for too at visiting times or if staying with their family member – they also can feel bored, lonely and distressed;
  • some children may be too poorly to read; in these cases a storyteller can provide comfort and distraction.

Read for Good has risen to the challenge and is currently funding ReadWell in three children’s hospitals (Bristol, Birmingham and Oxford) at a cost of c. £10,000 per hospital per year.  It provides each one with:

  • 100 new books each month;
  • a tailor-made, time-tabled book trolley that moves around wards;
  • regular visits from experienced, professional storytellers;
  • opportunities for children to keep their book.

read-for-good-charity(1)readwell-charity(2)

ReadWell’s wish is to make life better for children in hospital and there is no doubt that they are doing so – the response to ReadWell from professionals, parents and children has been overwhelmingly positive.   But they need more funds to continue and expand this wonderful work.

How you can help

The charity wants to increase its reach to include all major UK hospitals (30) over the next 3-5 years.  The projected cost for this is £300k per annum.  If you would like to donate, or help with fundraising efforts for this hugely important cause, ReadWell is currently running a fundraising campaign via Twitter (@ReadwellUK) and SMS Text:

Text READ98 £3 to 70070 and this will result in an automatic donatation of  £3, which will buy a brand new (germ-free) book for a seriously ill child in hospital.

or contact them via their website: http://www.readwell.org.uk Telephone 0845 6061151 Email reading@readathon.org

References

1 Wresch, William. (1996). Have and Have-Nots in the Information Age. Rutgers University Press, p. 39 2http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/8934429/4m-children-in-UK-do-not-own-a-single-book-study-finds.html December 5th 2011

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Birth of a new price comparison website: happenstance or fate?

I’ve been away from here for far too long; my excuse is that a really BIG project of which I am Communications Director has been keeping me very busy, and testing my writing skills every day!  Last week www.CareandCompare.com was launched, after months of lead-in preparation: research, planning, development and writing – lots of writing – from insurance and money guides to minutes of meetings and reports on research findings.  It’s a new price comparison site, and Yes, there are lots of others out there, currently we may be little fish in a big pond, but this one is different.  It donates 25% of company profits to a number of Associate UK Charities which are close to our hearts.  Not the biggest charities, not the best-known, but nevertheless interesting and all of them doing amazing work in their sector.  Read more about them here.

facebook-cover (2)car,home,credit cards image

But I’m racing ahead of myself.  Let’s backtrack to how this all began.  You might call it happenstance, or even fate, but I met an Accountant in a pub, who introduced me to her brother and his colleague, and it just turned out that between us we had all the skills required to set up a price comparison site: IT and SEO, Web design and development, finance and contracting, research and copy writing.  We also shared a desire to make money – for ourselves, and for charity, and to put our skills to good use to save consumers money on financial and insurance products.  Hence with the synergy of a quartet playing an exciting new piece, Care and Compare Limited was born – with a mission to become a commercially successful company with a socially responsible heart.

It hasn’t all been plain sailing.  For a start each of us has other jobs and family roles which take up most of our time, so Care and Compare overlays all of that.  Like all new groups we’ve been through the Belbin typical group stages of ‘forming’ and ‘storming’, as we’ve got to know each other better and tried to develop understanding of preferred working patterns and stress triggers. I’d say we’re now ‘norming’ and getting into ‘performing’ as one week post-launch the brand is beginning to become noticed.  Hopefully ‘mourning’ will be some years away because we’ve not yet made that first £million!

My induction into the world of charities came with some big surprises, and a few disappointments too, as I discovered that one international charity of which I have been a life-long supporter would not even allow me to speak to a human being in the Fundraising Team! I’ll say no more for now – the charity world will be the subject of a future post.

Happenstance or fate?  Time will tell; watch this space.  I must take the opportunity to do a commercial now because it’s good for business! If you’re in need of a quotation for any kind of insurance whether personal or business insurance, we can compare cheap quotes for you.  For example, click here to compare car insurancevan insurance or motorbike insurance. You could even save money on life insurance, pet insurance or home insurance.

If you want to search for competitive finance products try us too; searching is fast and simple. Click here to compare money products for great deals on loans, to compare mortages and compare credit cards.

We believe in this business; we really do.  The more quotes retrieved and policies taken out the more we can donate to charity (and note that there are no extra costs to consumers for this – the cost is all ours).  As our motto says: YOU save, WE give!

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World Poetry Day March 21st 2013

Today is ‘World Poetry Day’ a date declared by UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) in 1999.  The purpose of the day is to promote the reading, writing, publishing and teaching of poetry throughout the world.

In my experience people seem to either love poetry or have no regard for it.  Echoes of forced learning of difficult, old-fashioned poems for school English lessons are enough to make some shudder with the memory.  As for me – well, I have always loved poetry, whether reading or writing it, or even reciting poems, in English, Welsh or French, up there on the old school stage in the eisteddfodau, many decades ago.  I frequently borrow poetry collections from the library and read them avidly in quiet, introspective moments.  They make me laugh, they make me cry, they make me sad, angry, joyful.  And that’s the purpose of a poem isn’t it, to raise emotion in the reader, to evoke a reaction to the words.  For the writer, there will have been an outpouring of expression, points made, all done in complete freedom, with no creative censorship.

Today I will be revisiting some of my favourite poems, from the Collected Poems of famous Welsh poets Dylan Thomas, R. S. Thomas and Gillian Clarke.  And putting some finishing touches to some of my own, inspired by the above poets’ fine words, phrasings and language of beauty.

I love the message UNESCO’s Director-General, Irina Bokova has posted today,  it says everything about why World Poetry Day should be a cause for celebration.

http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0022/002200/220091e.pdf

Message from
Ms Irina Bokova,
Director-General of UNESCO,
on the occasion of World Poetry Day
21 March 2013

‘Poetry is one of the purest expressions of linguistic freedom. It is a component of
the identity of peoples and it embodies the creative energy of culture, for it can be
continuously renewed.
This power of poetry is transmitted from generation to generation, in the hallowed
texts of great authors and in the works of anonymous poets. We are duty bound to
transmit this heritage – the legacy of Homer, Li Bai, Tagore, Senghor and countless
others – for it bears living witness to the cultural diversity of humanity. We, in turn,
must tend it to bear fruit, as a source of linguistic wealth and dialogue.
In celebrating World Poetry Day, UNESCO wishes also to promote the values that
poetry conveys, for poetry is a journey – not in a dream world, but often close to
individual emotions, aspirations and hopes. Poetry gives form to the dreams of
peoples and expresses their spirituality in the strongest terms– it emboldens all of
us also to change the world.
Poets in all countries have bequeathed timeless verses in defence of human rights,
gender equality and respect for cultural identities. Paul Eluard wrote “freedom … I
write thy name”. To this day, poetry brings the winds of freedom and dignity in the
struggle against violence and oppression. For all of these reasons, UNESCO
supports poets and everyone who publishes, translates, prints or disseminates
poetry. It does so by protecting the diversity of cultural expressions and by
preserving poetry recitals listed as intangible cultural heritage of humanity, as so
many ways to embellish the world and construct the defences of peace in the minds
of men and women.’
Irina Bokova

Well said, Irina Bokova and who am I to disagree?

READ A POEM TODAY, AND TRY WRITING ONE -UNLEASH YOUR CREATIVITY!

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Hiraeth – A feeling of Wales in the soul

Today is Dydd Gwyl Dewi Sant  – St. David’s Day – the National Day of Wales.  As usual there is much celebration ongoing of all kinds; there are the big crowds in Cardiff singing the National Anthem, there are the eisteddfoddau in schools where the children will sing, recite poems and perform pieces on their musical instruments. I remember those school days well, with the fondness that distance now provides.

I wish I could find the old photographs of myself and primary school friends in our Welsh costumes, two of us wearing home-made Welsh hats that my mother had painstakingly crafted from cardboard, newspaper and glue the day before.  I don’t think they were quite dry in time because they stuck to our heads, but we had to wear them, all day, despite mine leaning rather precipitously like the tower of Pisa, as the day wore on.

We were photographed, of course.  My mother and I collected the photos from the chemist shop a week later before attending the doctor’s surgery.  Whilst waiting for our turn, we opened the packet and began laughing at the pictures of those wonky hats and we couldn’t stop.  We made so much noise the doctor came out of his room and told us off.  A  lovely memory of my late mother, who was unwell for much of her life, but who always made sure I was kitted out, no matter how ill she was feeling.

For those of us who are truly Welsh, today is a reminder of what it is to be away from Wales and suffer its loss.  It means to have a longing for Wales in your soul, to know that there is no substitute for being in God’s own country and having all things Welsh around you. That is Hiraeth.

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