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Christopher Meredith is a novelist and poet from Wales. Though he works mainly in English, one of his books for children is in Welsh and he also translates from Welsh into English. He is a professor of creative writing at the University of Glamorgan. His most recent collection of poems is The Meaning of Flight (Seren) and he has just completed a new novel, The Book of Idiots, which will be published in 2012. He is also involved with five artists in the project "Bog-Mawnog", responding to fire damage on a mountaintop in the Black Mountains in Powys. A booklet of Meredith's poems, Black Mountains, with images from the artists is being produced by Mulfran and there will also be an exhibition about the project in Brecknock Museum, 16th July to late September.

Toy Revolver

He loves its pointed symmetry
the lazy, opened hook of trigger
stock shaped to the palm
like a lover's hip,
opens it like unstoppering a flask
of magic that might spill.

He holds the chamber,
sectioned like fruit, close
to see each scoop and groove
each empty socket in the disc,
counts with a fingertip
six spaces for the dark seeds.

Interview and more poems behind cut )

Links to other poems and information

Breaking Wood - Christopher Meredith reading his own poem on YouTube.
What flight meant - a poem of Chris's featured on Jo Preston's writing blog.
Christopher Meredith's website
Seren, Christopher Meredith's publisher
Christopher Meredith's page on the Contemporary Writers website
A Woollen Line - the blog of Pip Woolf, who is involved with Meredith in the Bog-Mawnog project.
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Mike Thomas is a serving police officer in Cardiff. His debut novel, Pocket Notebook, was published by Heinemann in 2010. It tells the dark but often comic story of Jacob Smith, a troubled and unorthodox policeman who uses his police notebook for the unauthorised purpose of chronicling his spiralling breakdown. Pocket Notebook was named one of the nine ‘Hot Books’ to watch out for at the 2009 London Book Fair and was on the 2010 Wales Book of the Year Long List.

In this excerpt, Jake has been suspended, and has no business being on patrol. But he goes anyway, into streets which he no longer sees in quite the same way as anyone else...

"What you've done here is just the start," I say, moving closer. "It's just a few small steps to a life of crime, boy. Possibly worse. You could end up as a threat to the security of the country. It's lucky I got to you so quickly. To nip it in the bud."
       "It's just spraying a wall..." one of them mutters, eyeing me with an odd expression.
       "Right", I say. "You've asked for it." I whip out the old Fixed Penalties, ask their names, addresses, dates of birth. The boxes of the pro forma aren't big enough for all the details but I write them down anyway. Fill in three of them as best I can, flip the top copy off each, hand one to each of the artistes.
       "What's this for?" Carrier Bag asks, looking at the chitty with a mystified expression.
       "A fine," I tell them. "For criminal damage."
       "But it's a parking ticket," he says, wrinkling his nose.
       "Don't be clever with me!" I yell, then clench my jaw as they look at each other; look at me. Start giggling. Cheeky little bastards.
       "Come on," Carrier Bag says to his chums. "Let's chip. This dude's a freak."
       My fingers toy with the mouse gun through the fabric of my cargos. I feel the muzzle, the trigger guard. The handle with its magazine of nine-millie bullets. "Laugh all you want, boys," I tell them as they shuffle towards the main drag. "You won't be laughing when you've got to find eighty quid each for those fines, yeah? Ha! Yeah? Are you listening to me?"
       They disappear around the corner. I hear screams of laughter. [...] Another small incident taken care of for the greater good. I pull out my cigar tin, select the half-smoked reefer, light it and take a long drag. I hold my breath, lean against the wall. Exhale. Nice. Very, very nice. Just chill and smoke and work out what you need to do next, Jake. I finish the spliff, stumble out of the alleyway.
       My face hurts and it takes a minute for me to realise I'm grinning uncontrollably. I really can't relax my cheeks or lips. Not to worry. Adds to the agreeable air. The smiling, helpful policeman. I nod at a couple more pensioners. Wave back at a bus full of primary school children, forget to stop waving even after the bus has driven off and it's just me shuffling down the street with my arm in the air.

Interview and links behind cut )

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Paul Henry is one of Wales’s leading poets. The author of five collections of verse, he has read at festivals across the UK and Europe, and also in India. Originally a songwriter, Henry has guest-edited Poetry Wales and is a popular Creative Writing tutor. He recently presented the 'Inspired' series of arts programmes for BBC Radio Wales. His Selected Poems, The Brittle Sea, was published by Seren in 2010.

Dodging the Waves

The gap between the railings was thirty-five years.
The boy's ghost held on as the high tide raged
and the girl beside him laughed when she too got drenched.
"Who turned all the fairy lights blue?" "Who cares?"

The sea slid back down its pebbly stairs.
"Here comes a big one! Don't let go!" "Never!
I'll never let go!"

                                And both held on to the white bar
before both let go, their laughter caught inside the wave.

Interview and more poems behind cut )
Links to other poems and information

Paul Henry's website There are several more poems online here.
Paul reading "Daylight Robbery" and "The Black Guitar" on YouTube
Seren, publisher of The Brittle Sea
A review of The Brittle Sea from this blog
A previous discussion of Henry's long poem "Penllain" on this blog

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Leslie Norris was a fine Welsh poet and short story writer who lived and taught for many years in America, at the Brigham Young University. He's one of those writers whose work is hard to find onlne, but the poem here, "Christmas Day", demonstrates among other things how important animals were to him. He died in 2006 and the university where he taught has now brought out a double number of their semi-annual publication Literature and Belief (vols 29 and 30.1., eds Daniel Westover and Jesse S Crisler) devoted to him. Most of it is interview transcripts, critical articles on him and unpublished poems, but some folk who'd known him were asked to contribute and not being really a Lit Crit writer I sent them a poem, which I chose because Leslie was extremely fond of animals and birds and often wrote about them - he has a memorable description of a barn owl in the poem of that name, "a small/Fur mitten inexplicably upright/And hissing like a kettle".

The poem I sent is about a polecat ferret, because I think he'd have admired her as much as I did. Here it is:

The Madonna of the Rocks

She was in a narrow crevice
on Eshaness; she looked up
as they looked down

into a small, savage, pure white face
to take the breath away.
Lifting her lip

over tiny ivory knives, keeping
her kits behind her, she stood
her ground, staring

defiance at the giant faces
who could not tell her
they too were parents,

could only admire how she spat
come on if you think you're hard enough
at Herod's army.
sheenaghpugh: (Heslop from Porridge)
- well, that happens all the time but not usually in a big literary competition. Philip was my colleague but Mike was my student so I'll have to back him; anyway his novel Pocket Notebook is such a cracker...

Getting your first novel published and on to prize longlists before you've so much as graduated from the masters degree in question is pretty good going, both for Mike and the degree. This is a list I idly compiled of publications and achievements by University of Glamorgan Masters in Writing students since the start of this year. And it's only April!

Glamorgan Masters in Writing 2010

Edward Boyne: poetry collection, title to be announced, Doire Press
Katy Giebenhain: Pretending to be Italian (poetry chapbook), Rocksaw Press
Maureen Jivani: My Shinji Noon (poetry pamphlet), Mulfran
Carolyn Lewis: The Novel – A Perfect Recipe, Silverwood Books
Malcolm Lewis: The Hard Man (poetry pamphlet), Mulfran
Maria McCann: The Wilding (novel), Faber - Longlisted for the Orange Prize
Dan Rhodes: Little Hands Clapping (novel), Canongate - Winner of the E M Forster award
Mike Thomas: Pocket Notebook (novel), Heinemann - Longlisted for Wales Book of the Year

Other achievements

Jenny Lewis has 10 poems in Joining Music with Reason, an anthology to commemorate the outgoing Oxford Professor of Poetry's five-year tenure, ed. Christopher Ricks, out in May.

Joanna Preston's collection The Summer King, pub. 2009, has been shortlisted for the Mary Gilmore Prize for best first book.

Sue Rose was a prizewinner in the Wigtown Poetry Competition

Rosie Shepperd was shortlisted in the Iota International Poetry Competition
sheenaghpugh: (Heslop from Porridge)

- who is a bronze boy in Thompson's Park, Cardiff. He stands in a fountain, gazing at a butterfly on his hand, and though he's normally rather ill off for clothes, for the last few days he has had a suit of ice. Some pics of him here.
sheenaghpugh: (Vogon poetry appreciation chair)
For the first time, on Tuesday, I read at a Poetry Live! event at the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff). These are all-day events organised for A-level and AS-level students where they get to hear poets on their syllabus actually read the stuff they're studying. They also ask questions and hear people from the examining board talk about the best way to prepare for the exams.

That might sound dire, but actually they were really enthusiastic (I suppose a day out of school is always welcome). The main auditorium of that theatre is a hell of an impressive place and going out on the stage to hear 1600 people yell enthusiastically in the expectation of being entertained is a thing that doesn't happen very often to poets.

Things that stuck in the memory:

  • meeting the Indian poet Imtiaz Dharker. She's very handsome, and wore gorgeous silver jewellery from Bombay (yes I know the BBC calls it Mumbai but all the people I know who live there or come from there insist it's Bombay). But she was also one of nature's motherly types; she'd gravitated to being in charge of the tea and coffee and was making everyone feel at home backstage.
  • the foolishness of the theatre management in compelling the kids, on a day of uncertain autumn weather, to eat their lunchtime sandwiches outside in case they made a mess. Ever heard of vacuum cleaners, lads? This is your potential audience you're making unwelcome here - silly, silly.
  • finding out about some of the weirder questions that get asked (not that day, thank god). One poet had been asked "Do you know Jesus is your personal saviour?" - to which I think the only possible answer would be "You hum it and I'll play it". Another evidently disaffected brat had once asked "Why are poems so boring?" (I think I'd have had to quote my granny; only boring people are ever bored).
  • meeting my daughter afterwards and going to the Norwegian Church for lunch (ie cake). It was one of their better days, when you gaze at dark and white chocolate tarts, lemon meringue, Victoria sponge, chocolate and raspberry roulade, drool, drool, and wonder what on earth you are going to choose.

Fortunately it is now possible to walk across the Cardiff Bay barrage afterwards and counteract some of the calories.


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