Blaen Pennant

… ‘Hen Flaen’ he said, pointing.
And three generations dropped away.

And now that I was finally here,
I stood at the doorway.
And all that was left was the doorway:
Made of stronger wood than the door, perhaps.
 
Sheep wandered in and out
And foxgloves rose in place of flames.
The bed where Hen Flaen* collapsed, drunk,
Had fallen with the wormy joists,
Heaped and tangled with the roof’s blue slates.
 
And now I was finally here, my features fitted:
While holding wide the gate at the lower farm,
An old man looked past my dreads, my t-shirt and my modern shoes –
‘Hen Flaen’ he said, pointing.
And three generations dropped away.
 
© Susan Walton 2017
 
This poem was written on a course at Tŷ Newydd that covered a range of ways in which existing works of art can give rise to new poems. This is the most original piece I wrote on the course, the starting point being the line ‘I stood at the doorway’, provided by another attendee. The poem describes an actual event. Someone I know went looking for the ruin of the farm where his mother was born, and was recognised as a descendant of ‘Hen Flaen’ on physical appearance alone.
 
 
*‘Flaen’ is the mutated form of ‘Blaen’; ‘hen’ = ‘old’.
Country people in Wales are often nicknamed after their farms.

After Prufrock and after T. S.

… But will the risk be worth the gain,
Among the cups of porcelain?

And would it have been worth it, after all,
After the cups, the marmalade, the tea,
Among the porcelain, among some talk of you and me,
I’ll blend in, my morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,
My necktie rich and modest; I hope I will blend in.
 
I’ll listen, I’ll record, I’ll keep an eye. I’ll spy.
Although my breasts are slightly breasting,
The collar mounting to the chin, the necktie, should disguise.
This is where the men collect, this is where the deals are done.
Although the marmalade and tea are grand,
The bottom line is what’s at hand.
Lord So-and-so’s son can tip the wink,
And so it goes, and so they think.
 
But will the risk be worth the gain,
Among the cups of porcelain?
 
© Susan Walton 2017
 
This poem was written on a course at Tŷ Newydd that covered a range of ways in which existing works of art can give rise to new poems. This poem incorporates snippets of ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’. The course attendees were given different snippets at random by the tutors. You can hear ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’ being read in its entirety by its author, T. S. Eliot (1888–1965), here. It was intriguing find the Eliot rhythms and patterns persisted through something I’d made up on the spot.

Tonight

Puedo escribir los versos más tristes esta noche …
Tonight I can write of my sadness, but how? …

Tonight I can write of my sadness, but how?
 
In commonplace cliché, like
‘My heart is aching/breaking/longing’.
 
The night wind howls around the heavens.
 
Tonight I can write of my sadness, but how?
Remembering the moments when she loved me.
 
On nights like these we lay together.
Under infinite heavens we’d kiss.
 
At times I loved her too, how could I not?
Those night-dark, constant eyes.
 
Tonight I can write of my sadness, but how?
Realising she is lost to me. Realising she is gone.
 
The night presses in on me.
My verse distils a few drops onto my soul.
 
Why care now that my love fell short?
Our stars shine on, but she is gone.
 
That is all. Far off there is music. Far off.
My soul stirs – she should be here!
 
As if to call her, I turn my head.
I silently wish, but she is gone.
 
The moonlight, the night, the trees, the stars.
They’re all the same, but we are not.
 
I no longer love her, I realise, but, God, how I did.
My voice sought out the wind to touch her ear.
 
She loves once more, as she did before.
With her voice, her air, her limbs, her infinite eyes.
 
I say I no longer love her, but perhaps I do.
The explosion is brief, the half-life too long.
 
Remembering nights like these when we lay together,
my poor soul thirsts, it is still scabbed.
 
But this will be the last time I will pick at my scab,
and the last time I’ll write of you.
 
© Susan Walton 2017
 
This poem was written on a course at Tŷ Newydd that covered a range of ways in which existing works of art can give rise to new poems. This adaptation was based on an existing, literal translation into English of the original Spanish poem by the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda (1904–73), supplied by the course tutors. The original is from a collection called Veinte poemas de amor y una canción desesperadacan published in 1924, and can be read in the original Spanish here.

To live in Welshpool

after R. S.

To live in Welshpool in the 80s
when the Smithfield was central
(where Tescos now is)
was to be woken on Mondays a touch before dawn
by heaving lorries and braying beasts.
 
That was the only day
to hear Welsh on the streets.
Not much food there, then, for the learner – me.
 
I heard of a family of native Welsh speakers,
and cornered their tastiest son.
While stripping his sunburn in my single room
I learned more, and more, and mwy.
 
© Susan Walton 2017
 
This poem was written on a course at Tŷ Newydd that covered a range of ways in which existing works of art can give rise to new poems. This poem took R. S. Thomas’ ‘Welsh Landscape’ as its starting point; you can hear R. S. himself reading ‘Welsh Landscape’ here.

Mortality

after W. S. Merwin

With every year that passes
I know my time is shorter.
I know the final breath will slip,
And one day the fight will slide.
 
The awkward will be ordered.
The world’s horror will subside.
My wife’s unending goodness understood.
 
I ponder these things, and give thanks.
Although not really comprehending,
Or knowing what’s to come.
All I know is days of rain have ceased
And birds are singing, bright and clear.
 
© Susan Walton 2017
 
This poem was written on a course at Tŷ Newydd that covered a range of ways in which existing works of art can give rise to new poems. This poem was created from the anonymised information content of an existing, published poem: ‘For the Anniversary of My Death’ by W. S. Merwin, which can be read here. Another attendee had already stripped away the original poem’s vocabulary and form, presenting it to me as prose.