Hello Dominic. First of all, I liked your poetrybook En galen man på tåget. Can you tell me little about the journey of this book from english to swedish?
– Between 2010 and 2013 I was running an arts project, Coracle, between Wales and Ireland which included coordinating exchanges between visual artists, writers exhibitions and performance, festival development, disability art promotion, literary residencies and mentorships and delivering a masters programme in professional arts management.
While making a presentation in Wexford Arts Centre during the Wexford opera festival I met Colm O Ciarnain who was visiting from Sweden.
In 2012 I made a visit to Sweden with Elena Schmidt from Literature Wales. We had just delivered Wales’ first national Music and literature Festival at Dinefwr Park and during the visit Colm; who was soon to become the founder of Kultivera in Tranås introduced me to Magnus Grehn, publisher of quality Swedish
poetry and poetry in translation.
Since 2014 I have been the curator of an annual international literary residency in Tranås, hosted by Kultivera. Over the years Magnus Grehn Förlag has been the publisher of debut collections form several of the residents including Anthony Jones and Mel Perry from Wales and Derek Coyle from Ireland. Each of this collections has been published as bilingual English/Swedish texts.
My English language collection and why we were all going was published in Wales in 2017 and I think it was in about 2019 that Magnus finally decided he would like to publish some of my work in Swedish. Most of the Swedish translations for MGF are provided by Peter Nyberg and he translated much of my work too.
However, in the intervening period other poets Klara Hsin, Jonas Ellerström and Frank Bergsten had translated individual poems. The collection of poems in En galen man på tåget is larger than the English language volume.
How long time have you written poetry and how many books have you published before this one?
– I guess I have written poetry since I was a child, but as a teenager I was directed by teachers away from humanities towards the sciences and it wasn’t until after my first serous episode of poor mental health in my early 30s that I returned to university and studied Welsh literature in translation and Welsh writing in English along with history, drama and arts in a multidisciplinary degree ‘Welsh Studies’.
While studying for my MA I worked as a bookseller, Then I worked for a group of literary publishers and the Welsh Books Council, then as marketing director for Parthian Books and then leading the Coracle project. I guess I continued my writing between 1997 and 2013 while all the time my professional career was bringing me closer to the craft of writing and it was probably not until 2014 that I ever described myself as a poet.
You are also publish books at Iconau Books. Tell me about your company and what kind of poetry you publish?
– Excuse me if I quickly cheat and copy and paste something from the Iconau website: I was the marketing director of Parthian Books and in 2007 established Iconau, under the inspirational guidance of my mentor, publisher Richard Davies. Ironically, Iconau was not originally intended to be a publishing house but
a marketing company to promote the output of the iconic craftspeople I had met and worked with on international trade missions.
My professional networks dictated that the craft with which I was most familiar and most often approached about was creative writing. I have been presented with concepts that were either too important or too much fun not to try to bring to a readership.
The first project managed by Iconau was a Parthian publication World Leaders’ Favourite Poems and one of the earliest publications from Iconau was History on our Side published in 2009 on the 25th anniversary of the miners’ strike. The rights have now been transferred free of charge to the radical publisher Lawrence and Wishart to bring this important history of the miners’ strike in Wales to a wider audience.
Since 2010 I have worked more closely with the development of writers and other creative practitioners in the areas of performance and collaboration. The Iconau list is a small one that is becoming increasingly more focussed about poetry. The production of each title is a dedicated artistic partnership.
Three Throated Press is a new poetry imprint from Iconau. The home of the press is geographically perched on the marshes of the mouth of the river Tywi where she and two other rivers, the Taf and the Gwendraeth, share their voices in the chorus that is Carmarthen Bay. The press represents the choices that
poets make in the spaces in between metaphorical concepts such as land and sea. The logo that represents the imprint is a three-headed heron.
The heron is indigenous to the kaleidoscopic shorescape that exists between water and earth and this particular heron representing the triality of poetic language. The heron is a significant motif for the estuary between perceived realities and an otherworld; both a guardian and a sage that may help make
choices such as marrying the farmer’s daughter or the mermaid.
This imprint and the series of case bound pamphlets that it will produce is named for the words of Dylan Thomas in the opening lines of his poem “In The White Giant’s Thigh”.
Through throats where many rivers meet, the curlews cry,
Under the conceiving moon, on the high chalk hill,
And there this night I walk in the white giant’s thigh
Where barren as boulders women lie longing still
The villages of Llanybri and Llansaint, Glan-y-fferi and Llansteffan provided holiday homes for Thomas as a child and watering holes as an adult – their estuarial identities seeping into his work and his character.
The relationship between geography and human experience, the sensuous and the sensual are particular themes addressed by the three-throated series editor.
However, the content of the creative work that is represented in this series of volumes is in no sense constrained by either place or time. An estuarial identity is open and welcomes access to the contemporary, the classical or the conundrum, the immediate, the eternal or the lost moment, time, space or the fractal geometry of nature.
You are from Wales. That is a place I have never been to, but wanted to go to for a long time. Are there many poets from there?
– Wales is a small nation with a population of only 3 million it has been colonised by England by 1536 and the language Welsh or Cymraeg, which was already over 3000 years old was systematically destroyed. Wales is now officially bilingual with an estimated 29% of the population able to speak Welsh.
The culture of Wales had a strong oral tradition before any manuscripts existed and the “language issue’ has been central to any Welsh social or political history for the last 500 years. The particular manifestation of culture then, that is associated with language: literature is very normalised within Welsh society.
There is a lot of poetry and a lot of poets in Wales and it figures large in Welsh history since Aneurin and Taliesin in the sixth century.
What is poetry for you?
– Poetry for me is my natural method of communication I am a particular fan of the spoken-word, which for me is a very inclusive term. I enjoy performing my poetry. I have been hosting a regular spoken-word open-mic night in Wales for over 12 years , it was originally called Poems and Pints and ran monthly it
has now been re-branded Cerddi yn Cwrw and runs every two weeks. We transferred the model/concept to Tranås in 2014 where it was named Pilsnerpoesi by Colm.
Tell me more about your relationship with Sweden and especially Tranås, where you have performing many times.
– This year I will have visited Sweden six times. I am the literary coordinator for Kultivera and for nine years have organised the literary programme of the Tranås at the Fringe international arts festival. In 2019 I met contemporary dancer Stina Nilsson, together we formed the improvised poetry and movement performance act Your Strangest Friend.
This year we performed during Tranås at the Fringe; on the 10 September we will perform at the Gothenburg Fringe Festival and on the 14 and 15 September at the Stockholm Fringe Festival. On 10 September I will also be reading as part of the 18th Gothenburrg International Poetry Festival.