BLOG Hayley Dolby

NWR Issue 112

New Poetry and Fiction at Chapter

Held in Association with New Welsh Review

Chapter’s ‘First Thursday of the Month’ event appropriately takes place on the first Thursday of the month, 7:30pm, at Chapter Arts Centre. It is host to a variety of authors and poets, and features an open mic. The audience are encouraged to read their own work. Entry is £2.50 per person.

Walking into Chapter Arts Centre, I was immediately hit with a wall of noise. A quick survey of the area revealed the mass appeal of the centre; families, friends, and couples alike were scattered across the café. I had just caught sight of a group of students gathered around the bar, when a young girl in dance gear ran past, grabbing herself a glass of water before rushing back to whichever hidden room she had emerged from.

I made my way towards the staircase and the purpose of my visit, the First Thursday of the Month event, hosted in association with Seren Books and Literature Wales. After a short trip in the wrong direction, having completely ignored the relevant signage, I managed to arrive early.

Apart from a table displaying several books available for purchase, the room was empty. On the stall, in addition to the from which extracts were to be read, were provided other works by the writers, a memoir, and copies of New Welsh Reader. Being the savvy shopper that I am, I checked the prices against those online and found them almost identical. The bonus of receiving entry free with purchases, and the chance to have the texts signed by the author, made an immediate purchase significantly more appealing.

As I waited I thumbed through Cynan Jones’ newest publication, Cove. It seemed to read almost like a prose poem rather than a conventional short novel. The room started to fill, and I had a quick flick through the work of the other featured writer, Tony Curtis. He was to be reading from his latest book, From the Fortunate Isles: New and Selected Poems, which features poems from ten of his published collections, alongside his new works.

The event kicked off with a short introduction by programme co-ordinator, Amy Wack. The featured authors were to have twenty minutes each, followed by a short intermission (mostly for book signing purposes), after which the open mic session would begin. The necessity for those participating to stick to one page of prose or one poem was stressed by Amy, who was apparently looking at a serial offender known only as ‘you at the back there’.

Neither of the authors were particularly enthusiastic about using the microphone, but thankfully the intimate nature of the event rendered it obsolete. Jones began his segment by explaining the basic premise of Cove, the story of a man struck by lightning while out on his kayak, who somehow survives his injuries and returns to shore.

As the reading began the informal atmosphere of earlier changed drastically, the room falling into a reverent silence. Jones’ desire to produce a direct and very concentrated piece of writing was definitely realised. As he read his chosen extracts one couldn’t deny the tight simplicity of his prose, or the frankness of his descriptions.

Curtis was a radical change of pace, his flamboyant nature standing in stark contrast to the Cynan Jones' apparently quiet personality. He introduced each of his nine poems with an amusing anecdote about its origin, or his life growing up in a council house in Pembrokeshire. The expressive way in which he read his poetry captivated the audience immediately. His years of experience had clearly imbued him with a profound confidence in his own writing, a confidence which anyone present would agree was much deserved.

Perhaps his mostly widely enjoyed extract that evening, however, was a letter that he had found in his grandmother’s house, which he had wished to ‘make a poem out of’ before realising that it deserved to be read in its entirety. The combination of humour and reflection in his work held my attention as he slipped past his prescribed twenty minutes. One line stuck with me after I returned home:

‘To stop beside that Cwm Rhymney view and then, yes, because the moment also chooses him, looks back and up at you.’

Hayley Dolby is currently blogging for New Welsh Review as part of her placement via Cardiff University.


previous blog: The Cardiff Book Festival
next blog: John Macfarlane’s exhibition


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