All entries for March 2007

March 29, 2007

From 'Three Moments in Paris' by Mina Loy

I post this poem here for Katy Murr who took an interest in Mina Loy on my teaching blog:

Mina Loy

One O’Clock at Night
Though you have never possessed me
I have belonged to you since the beginning of time
And sleepily I sit on your chair beside you
Leaning against your shoulder
And your careless arm across my back gesticulated
As your indisputable male voice roared
Through my brain and my body
Arguing dynamic decomposition
Of which I understand nothing
And the only less male voice of your brother pugilist of the intellect
Booms as it seemed to me so sleepy
Across an interval of a thousand miles
An interim of a thousand years
But you who make more noise than any man in the world when you clear your throat
Deafening woke me
And I caught the thread of the argument
Immediately assuming my personal mental attitude
And cease to be a woman

Beautiful halfhour of being a mere woman
The animal woman
Understanding nothing of man
But mastery and the security of imparted physical heat
Indifferent to cerebral gymnastics
Or regarding them as the self-indulgent play of children
Or the thunder of alien gods
But you wake me up
Anyhow who am I that I should criticize your theories of plastic velocity

“Let us go home she is tired and wants to go to bed.”

From The Lost Lunar Baedeker.

March 28, 2007

'Suicide of a Moderate Dictator' by Elizabeth Bishop

For Carlos Lacerda

This is a day when truths will out, perhaps;
leak from the dangling telephone ear-phones
sapping the festooned switchboard’s strength;
fall from the windows, blow from off the sills,
—the vague, slight unremarkable contents
of emptying ash-trays; rub off on our fingers
like ink from un-proof-read newspapers,
crocking the way the unfocused photographs
of crooked faces do that soil our coats,
our tropical-weight coats, like slapped-at moths.

Today’s a day when those who work
are idling. Those who played must work
and hurry, too, to get it done,
with little dignity or none.
The newspapers are sold; the kiosk shutters
crash down. But anyway, in the night
the headlines wrote themselves, see, on the streets
and sidewalks everywhere; a sediment’s splashed
even to the first floor of apartment houses.

This is a day that’s beautiful as well,
and warm and clear. At seven o’ clock I saw
the dogs being walked along the famous beach
as usual, in a shiny gray-green dawn,
leaving their paw prints draining in the wet.
The line of breakers was steady and the pinkish,
segmented rainbow steadily hung above it.
At eight two little boys were flying kites.

March 20, 2007

Literature of Cymraeg – ‘The Present Situation’ by R.M. Jones.


‘Welsh literature today seems to be tackling the contemporary situation at a tangent’ (271). So begins R.M. Jones’ essay on the place of Welsh literature in contemporary society. Jones admits that Welsh literature has been littered with, ‘corpses of undeveloped capacity’, and he notes that still-born acclamations about developing writers need to be approached with caution (271). The efforts of Welsh literature of late have been focussed on ‘a struggle to maintain adulthood’ and there have been some ‘failures’ (271). Jones does not mention any examples here and it leaves one wondering what his criteria are for success and failure.

However, Jones is adamant that there has been some success discovered through a ‘radicalism’ that diverges from ‘the mainstream in more politically powerful European literatures’ (271). This kind of literature apparently uses ‘a consternating Welshness’ (271). For Jones, this is a specific kind of radicalism quote unlike the conventional sort that is ‘usually pretty imitative, the direct contradiction of what radicalism has to be’ (272). This definition is a little vague, but is explained in further depth later on. Jones is also not keen on the avant-garde stating that it, ‘palls pretty well everywhere within and without Wales, and tends to become mannerized’ (272). Jones is not very open to the possibilities of avant-garde experimentation, but rather he desires a literature that experiments not, ‘in the well-worn avant-garde manner [making something of an assumption here], but in a way that gets to grips with the contemporary situation in a definite environment, not simply to submit to it, but to wrestle with it, and utilize in its perception an acquaintance with the best of international literature, particularly the relevant European tradition which may induce maturation in a fully civilized sense both intellectually and emotionally’ (272).

Jones is worried about journalistic claims of Wales’ literary brilliance and he believes that such assertions often manifest ‘the populist oppression within a minority culture, lacking in seriousness, and not really interested in literature at all’ (272). Some Welsh writers do display ‘stubborn artistic talents’ though.

One cause for anxiety according to Jones is that Wales’ preoccupations are much the same as the rest of Europe: ‘In criticism, Derridian disciples together with feminists hold sway; lively novelists attempt new territory in magical realism, the unreliable narrator, aporia and intertextuality; while ‘new’ poets and dramatists often resemble the old ones to a worrying extent’ (272). I am surprised that Jones find the development of Derridian and feminist theory such a threat. Do Derrida and feminist theory really dominate criticism? I also do not agree that such movements (labelled “fashions” by Jones) ‘were curiously inappropriate anyhow in the context of a Welsh nation perpetually in “terminal crisis” ’ (273). I feel particularly strongly in the case of feminism. How can Jones reasonably state that feminism has no relevance to Wales?

Jones writes that it is only ‘susceptible writers’ who respond to such “fashions” as a means of copying ‘a big neighbour’ (273). This then is the so-called conventional radicalism mentioned earlier by Jones which is supposedly ‘more prone to the predictable’ (273). Superior to this, according to Jones, are writers who are ‘more soaked in Welshness, both Welshness of engagement and in native formalism’, a statement that needs questioning (272). What does Jones mean by ‘soaked in Welshness’ and ‘Welshness of engagement’? These seem to be essentialist concepts tied to the shoring up of nationality and this is also suggested by Jones’ feeling that the nation in crisis is threatened by feminism and the theorising of Derrida. On the one hand, I can understand Jones’ anxiety about theory, because feminists have had similar worries about postmodernism for example. Just as a whole feminist subject was being created, postmodernist theory appeared with recommendation for the disintegration of whole identity. I think that Jones feels similarly here, but his anxiety is misled. In fact, it is Welsh writers using both English (e.g. Robert Minhinnick) and Cymraeg (e.g. Gwyneth Lewis, Elin ap Hywel) who are leading the way to understanding the nation’s and individual subject’s internal difference, otherness or strangeness.

Jones suggests that a revival of Cymraeg is occurring in Wales, however tainted that may be by: ‘an annoying revitalization for all things Welsh; ‘the erstwhile inferiority complex’; ‘imperialist tendencies’; and some ‘animosity to the language’ (274). The literature of the revival rejects the narrow trajectory of burning modern issues and turns instead to ‘more profound problems’ (274). Jones suggests that the revival contains three groups:
1. a group in ‘a joyful struggle […] to rejuvenate Welsh vigour’ using Cymraeg to reflect issues relevant in the modern world;
2. a ‘traditional group’ of craft and simplicity which is ‘more defeatist’, involved in a ‘national struggle’, upholding conservative views about the Welsh forms, suffering an inferiority complex (?) and rejecting academic approaches to literature;
3. and imitators (‘a gullible group anxious to be in the swim’of London and the US), a group that is ‘dedicated to irony nihilism and deconstruction’, is ‘neurotic about being trendy’ and is ‘not greatly concerned with working out any individual thought within the thrust of Welsh life’ (272-273).
Jones definitions do not use any examples and he seems to be particularly scathing about the ‘imitators’, a category of writers that seems to emerge from his own anxiety rather than analysis, observation and understanding of literary trends.

Jones now begins to talk about the Welsh tradition of praise poetry which in present moment works as a means of criticising an ironic manner of being in the world (associated by Jones with English dominance) and Jones states that, ‘a servant of praise was also more than a way of being non-English: it was a statement about life’ (275). Praise is then, ‘a realization of the compulsory presence of affirmation in all creativity’ and ‘a celebration of survival’ (275-276).

The contemporary Welsh experience is nothing if it is not international, though not in the big-power sense. We have, up to the present, witnessed the worldwide imperialistic attempt to destroy peoples expeditiously and delete differences. Although the gentler, calmer annihilation of cultural diversity is not as sinister as the sudden physical extermination of a nation, the fact that it is more civilized and more hidden does not make results any the less effective. ‘Extirpate’ is the diverting term used in the Act of Union of England and Wales, and my dictionary explains this unambiguously as liquidate, however restrained and moderate may be its modern execution. The touchstone is the language. And the effective apposition to annihilation still remains praise. (276)

According to Jones, these issues of survival are heightened for a speaker of Cymraeg: ‘To write the language is to bleed’ (276).

Jones shifts now thinking about the content of Welsh literature. He believes that ‘self-conscious sex’ is not a popular topic, yet I wonder about Menna Elfyn, Elin ap Hywel etc. Jones worries that writers are too concerned with the ‘latest’ and that they fail to ‘discriminate’, a result of ‘the oppression of deconstruction’ (277). Again, I don’t agree and I wonder whether these are issues that concern academics rather than writers. Jones is positive about the resurgence of cynghanedd which to him represents ‘wisdom of the past’ (277). He talks a little about the development of Welsh strict forms during the twentieth century and commends Alan Llwyd for his synthesis of Welsh form and diverse reading of other traditions in poetry. Llwyd is also praised for resisting ‘Welsh tendencies to play down to the populace’ and for ‘maintain[ing] Welshness’ (279).

Taking another approach to the content of Welsh literature, Jones notes that Welsh poetry is, more political and socially involved’ when compared with English poetry, which is something of a generalisation (281). However, Jones does qualify his statement with the note that the society which Welsh literature emerges from, ‘has always been in ganger of utter and seemingly irreversible extinction’ (281). Religion has also been a central theme. There is also the tradition of free-verse writing e.g. Gerwyn William’s ‘Hel mwyar duon’.

In a general survey of Welsh literature Jones mentions a number of writers grouping them as follows:
• poets like Menna Elfyn, Dewi Stephen Jones and Einir Jones who have a special mention;
• women poets such as Gwyneth Lewis, Elin Ap Hywel, Nesta Wyn Jones, Einir Jones and Menna Elfyn;
• fiction writers like Marion Eames, Marged Pritchard, Jane Edwards, Eigra Lewis Roberts and Angharad Tomos;
• male fiction writers such as Aled Islwyn, Alun Jones, Bryan Martin Davies, John Emyr, Dafydd Ifans, JohnRowalnds, R. Gerallt Jones and Harri Pritchard Jones;
• a significant quartet of writers made of Robin Llywellyn, William Owen Roberts, Mihangel Morgan and Angharad Tomos.
• and three established novelists made up by John Rowlnds, Eigra Lewis Roberts and Jane Edwards.

In thinking about Welsh criticism, Jones notes that one important strand is feminism, although he makes some rather rude comments about feminists stating, ‘though they [feminists] may be criticized as ridiculous in many of their claims, lacking in humour, immature in their lack of balance, stridently narrow in perspective, and so on, they are just simply right’ (287). This is obviously a disgraceful act of stereotyping. Jones ploughs on though expressing approval that Welsh feminism, ‘has its own character’, as it considers the subjugation of women in ‘the context of Welsh national submission’ (288). Noting that the Cymraeg word for gender is a homonym with the Cymraeg word for nation (cenedl), Jones directs us to Jane Aaron, Ceridwen Llwyd-Morgan, Delyth George, Menna Elfyn, Branwen Jarvis, Marged Haycock, Eli nap Hywel and Menna Baines.

Ultimately though in thinking about criticism in Wales, Jones is concerned that there is less direction in evaluating texts. Yet Wales has its own traditions such as praise poetry, ‘green’ nationalism and Christian affirmation. From an English point of view these traditions might be seen as parochial. On the other hand, from England, Welsh writing has taken a Georgian and neo-Georgian influence that creates a Welsh Romanticism; this is seen as a threat by Jones. However, Jones finds sanctuary in the Cymraeg journals and it is here that Welsh traditions are apparently being maintained. Jones anxieties represent a strong feeling in Welsh scholarship, but I hope to show in my research that a writer in a minor culture like Wales can embrace a fragmented selfhood in a fruitful and generative creative process.

Johnston, Dafydd ed. A Guide to Welsh Literature c. 1900 -1996. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1998. 271-294.

March 17, 2007

As Kingfishers Catch Fire by Gerard Manley Hopkins

This is a lovely example of what happens when a poet uses cynghanedd in English.

‘As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame’

As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame;
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell’s
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves—goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
Crying What I do is me: for that I came.

I say more: the just man justices;
Keeps grace: that keeps all his goings graces;
Acts in God’s eye what in God’s eye he is—
Christ—for Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men’s faces.

March 15, 2007

Writing Glamorgan


M. Wynn Thomas suggests that the origins of Glamorgan literature were influenced by writers such as Caradog Evans. Of Evans, Wynn Thomas writes: ‘Filled with admiration for the libertarian, egalitarian world being dreamed about, if not actually lived, in industrial south Wales, Evans through his parodic Old Testament style put the mark of Cain on a rural society which by contrast, appeared backward and savagely feudal to him’ (25). In the social change that was occurring, Glamorgan represented ‘the time and place of sundering’, while literary portraits of West Wales for example, became ‘the indispensable mirror images fashioned by industrial south Wales inversely to reflect, and to enable it to reflect upon, its own fiercely cherished separate identity’ (25).

Wynn Thomas compares Glamorgan literature’s feeling of ambivalence to a state described by Octavio Paz in his Nobel Prize speech. Paz suggests that South American writing is seen as separate recalling that, according to Wynn Thomas, ‘the psychological (and creative) consequences of socio-cultural separation are […] subtle and extend across a spectrum far wider than that covered by his suggestive duality’ (26). Wynn Thomas suggests that separation in Glamorganshire writing manifests itself in a number of ways:
• ‘personal isolation’ (Alun Lewis, Rhys Davies);
• ‘the conviction of solidarity with a unique society’ (Gwyn Thomas, Jack Jones, Lewis Jones);
• ‘the search […] for social and cultural connections’ (Glyn Jones);
• idiosyncratic style and content (Dylan Thomas);
• and a preoccupation with friendship as a thene (Vernon Watkins) (26).

These differences may be emphasized and respected. But underlying them, and interconnecting them in labyrinthine fashion, it seems to me, is the writers’ common experience – simultaneously constructive and destructive, liberating and inhibiting – of belonging to a place apart; a historical region which was certainly not assimilable to England, but which could not be integrated into traditional Wales either, It was therefore doubly separate – set apart on two counts and on two fronts – and its writers were perhaps doubly blessed and cursed. (26)

Wynn Thomas, M. Internal Difference: Twentieth-century writing in Wales. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1992.

General Characteristics of Welsh Poetry

In 1848, the Blue Books Comissioner, Jelinger C. Symons claimed 'there is no Welsh literature worthy of the name'.

H.I. Bell notes how, just as Wales itself has assimilated foreign influences, so has its poetry. It is ‘dominated […] by tradition’ (in form and content) and it retains ‘a technical mastery and a concentrated force’ (2). Bell also notices Welsh poetry’s ‘lyrical quality’ and also its production of ‘compositions of an epical, romantic, dramatic, philosophical or didactic character’ (4). The preference though on the whole is for the lyric.

Bell makes a criticism of Welsh poetry suggesting that ‘image is added to image, fancy piled on fancy, in a rich jewellery of verbal felicity, but in which we feel the want of any organic progression of thought or feeling’ (5). This generalisation is really too general!

However, Bell does hit the mark when he suggests that Welsh poetry displays, ‘a peculiar sensitiveness to the music of words’ (5). Bell writes: ‘The chime and clash of rhythm, alliteration and assonance, the interplay of vowel and consonant, have been pursued with unfailing zest. sometimes to the detriment of sense and structural quality’ (6). Bell suggests that cynghanedd may appear ‘to an Englishman extravagantly complicated and artificial’, but he argues that the form is inestricably allied to the Welsh language. It represents, ‘a love of accomplished and eloquent speech’ as in the case of the peculiar speaking manner (hwyl) of the Welsh preacher (6).

Welsh poets supposedly have a ‘love of nature’ and can intuit its ‘various moods’ (6). However nature is more often, ‘the background’ and is not ‘the primary theme’ as is the case in some English poetry, yet Welsh poetry does manifest ‘a peculiar responsiveness’ to it (6). Nature is the poet’s companion and fellow-traveller. Bell wonders whether it is a Celtic influence that creates this ‘sensibility to natural influences (7). In any case, Welsh poets are often able to ‘bring human moods into relation with those of nature’ in ‘a relation […] of either contrast or sympathy’ (8). The kinds of nature that appear in Welsh poetry are often ‘softer landscapes and more intimate aspects of nature’ rather than wildernesses (11). Poets of the nineteenth century are he exception to this rule thouh, as they do celebrate ‘the storm and wilder aspects of nature’ (11).

Another aspect of Welsh poetry is ‘the gnomic style and the epigram’ encouraged by the cywydd metre which creates ‘terse and effective statement’ and by the englyn (11). Bell compares the cywydd with Pope’s heroic couplet.

In terms of temperament, Welsh writers do not necessarily manifest ‘a [stereotypical Celtic] gentle and wistful melancholy’ according to Bell. In medieval times, the Welsh people were apparently, ‘warlike, buoyant, gay and sensuous’ (another rather distasteful stereotype!) (12). Bell notes that in modern times, Methodist and Calvinist influences and an Iberian section of the population (!) may have contributed to a class of poet, ‘sprung from a poor peasantry, often winning such education as they had in the teeth of difficulties and during a life of ill-health and privation’ (another stereotype) (12).

Bell is more at home in talking about Hiraeth, which is often a theme of Welsh poetry. Hiraeth refers to a ‘longing for home’, a desire that can never be truly fulfilled because it quests ‘for dead friends, vanished youth, the peace of Heaven, some satisfaction which life can never give’ (13). Bell links the loss of Hiraeth to the spirit of the Celts and again, he tends towards speculation:

When this note of wistfulness is united with the delicacy of conception and the power of bare, direct, seeming-effortless and yet infinitely significant expression which are characteristic gifts of Welsh poetry the resulting verses are at times quite heartrending in their perfect simplicity. […] The Celts are eternal children of a later age, and in some of the Welsh poems we have a feeling that the author is looking with unacquainted eyes at a new world, coming for the first time, and with wondering incomprehension, into the presence of sorrow and death. (15)

This is rather whimsical but it was written in 1936 when views about the Celts and the Welsh were certainly less progressive. It does seem rather like positive discrimination or stereotyping. There is also the very telling description of the Welsh as children. As the academic Susan Bassnett has shown, all too often English imperialism has figured the Scottish, Irish and Welsh as feral and helpless children in need of England’s adult guidance.

Bell, H.I. The Development of Welsh Poetry. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1936.

Devolving English Literature

UK Crown

Robert Crawford begins his introduction by considering the term ‘difference’ and its various manifestations: Derrida’s différance and its ‘enormous geographies of debate’; difference as a means of thinking about ‘how writing occludes, constructs, or distorts racial and sexual difference’; and “making in difference” in terms of ‘theoretically orientated investigations’ (1). However, Crawford asserts that, ‘there were also areas of difference which almost all the consciously theorized writing of that period, as well as the more traditionally orientated criticism, obscured or ignored in a gesture which, deliberate or not, curiously reproduced distortions perpetuated by traditional literary criticism or historiography’ (1). England is often thought of as an island and its inhabitants are usually all English. For example, in 1879, J.C. Shairp wrote a book on Robert Burns for the series, English Men of Letters. Thinking about the twentieth century, Crawford comments sarcastically on Hugh Kenner’s A Sinking Island, a book that ‘ignores Scottish and Welsh writing , so surely he should be free to simplify cultural geography by assuming that England’s boundaries extend to Aberystwyth and John O’Groats’ (2). For Crawford, there is, ‘a noticeable slipperiness in the use of the term ‘English’, the term which, among other things, labels, or fails to label, the academic discipline of English Literature’ (2).

Crawford believes that the coupling of the words ‘English’ and ‘Literature’ cannot be left unexamined. He notes how the terms dominate literary courses at universities and how outside specific regions, areas such as Australian Literature, Scottish Literature, Welsh Literature etc are sidelined. However American Literature is represented in faculties and Crawford wonders whether, ‘this is a question of literary merit, or of American economic and political power’ (2). In considering minor literatures, Crawford notes: ‘Questions of cultural authority constantly arise in discussions of ‘minor’ literatures, such as Caribbean or Irish writing, where there is a repeated and troubled interaction with Anglocentric values’ (2). For the discipline of English Literature, there is no dilemma over including certain figures from minor literatures such as Smollett, Carlyle, Eliot and Joyce.

Some literary theorists have written on cultural difference, for example Said’s Orientalism, Spivak’s In Other Worlds and Dabydeen’s The Black Presence in English Literature, but they do not focus so much on more subtle variations. Crawford asserts: ‘Far less attention has been paid to less immediately visible cultural differences within “English Literature”, or if that attention has been paid, all too often it has been confined to academic ghettos – Scottish Literature specialists, or those especially interested in Anglo-Welsh writing’ (3). Crawford finds this particularly annoying because the Scots contributed so much to the creation of ‘English Literature’.

There have been those wanting to represent minor cultures. Crawford points to Paul de Man’s wartime journalism which highlighted the exigencies of subjects speaking the minor language of Flemish. Crawford is interested in de Man, because in writing through the medium of French, de Man showed an interest in, ‘how a literature which could be seen as provincial might preserve an independence while being written in the language of another dominant culture’ (4). Unfortunately de Man’s concern for national identity led him mistakenly towards the Third Reich, but later after moving far away from Belgium to the US, de Man was still concerned with questions of cultural nationalism.

According to Crawford, Anglo-American critics have on the whole dismissed minor literatures and their cultural identities. Even Derrida’s theorising is to Crawford, ‘an avoidance of the adoption of any stance on these matters as it is a subversion of the discourses of authority’ (5). Crawford worries that post-structuralism sometimes works to maintain the status-quo rather than undermine it. A new project needs to be created in its stead: ‘Often what small and vulnerable cultural groups need is not simply a deconstruction of rhetorics of authority, but a construction or reconstruction of a ‘usable past’, an awareness of a cultural tradition which will allow them to preserve or develop a sense of their own distinctive identity, their constituting difference’ (5).

Crawford explains that the push and pull between historicist reconstruction and poststructuralist mistrust of historicism is clear in feminist literary studies. He directs his point to Showalter’s A Literature of Their Own , a work of literary historicism that works against post-structuralists like Kristeva and Cixous, theorists whose writing is ‘far removed from the circumstances and possibilities of actual cultural or social change’ (5). I disagree with this point, particularly in the case of Kristeva, because many of her works, such as Strangers to Ourselves, directly address problems in modern society and seek to find a way of being in the world that will change certain cultures of discrimination and exclusion. Apparently, Crawford is drawing on Feminist Literary History by Janet Todd.

However, Crawford does suggest that minor literatures might have lessons to be learned from feminist literary studies. Crawford is inspired, ‘by Todd’s arguments in favour of the need for close empirical re-examinations of writing produced by a marginalized group and tied to the circumstances of particular cultural studies’ (6). Crawford directs the reader here to Deleuze and Guattari’s Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature which argues that through deterritorializing the English language and a commitment to the collective, political voice, a minor literature with a place on a world stage can be constructed. Crawford notes that in his analysis he is dedicated to ‘manifestations of a collective identity’ and to specific ‘cultural traditions’; ultimately his project is ‘devolved’ and it rejects ‘a totalitarian or centralist approach to English Literature’ (6).

Crawford also notes that he will differentiate between ‘Scottish Literature’, ‘British Literature’ and ‘English Literature’. Also, for Crawford, the title, Devolving English Literature, not only calls for power to be redistributed in the margins as well as the centre; it also recognises that the margins have been challenging and structuring ‘English Literature’ for centuries (7). Running counter to hegemonic ‘English Literature’ is ‘devolutionary momentum’ (7). The writers to be discussed all represent this, since they deny ‘the traditionally dominant London-Oxbridge English cultural centre’ (7).

However on the whole, Crawford discusses Scottish Literature, because:
• ‘it offers the longest continuing example of a substantial body of literature produced by a culture pressurized by the threat of English cultural domination’ (8);
• it offers, ‘ a model for writers in other countries concerned to escape from being England’s cultural provinces’, e.g. Americans, Canadians and Australians (8);
• ‘Scottish writing in English (like Welsh writing in English) is particularly vulnerable to being subsumed within English literary tradition’ (8);
• and, ‘Scotland […] was crucially instrumental in the development of the university teaching of English Literature’ (8).
Crawford asserts that the book is not a Scottish literary history. Rather it, ‘is intended to stimulate further debate by its emphasis on the way in which the ‘provincial’ energies so important to Scottish writing, and the anthropological viewpoint developed by Scottish writers, fed into American writing and into the essentially ‘provincial’ movement that we know as Modernism’ and writers beyond that movement in the late twentieth century (9).

Crawford, Robert. Devolving English Literature. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992.

March 14, 2007

The Measures of Welsh Poetry: Part 4: The Awdl

Whitesands ~ Traethmawr

D. Awdlau
This is a series of four parts that covers:
Cynghanedd ;
• the Englyn ;
• the Cywydd ;
• and the Awdl .
Once again these measures use cynghanedd in addition to the other formal restrictions. Often these measures are units for making up longer poems.

1. Rhupunt Hir (Long Rhupunt)
Lines: 1
Syllable Count per line: 12
Rhyme Pattern: 4 syllables then b internal rhyme, 4 syllables then b internal rhyme, 4 syllables then a main rhyme.
Note: If the b rhyme ends an unstressed syllable, then it must form a double rhyme (e.g. cysgu (to sleep) and dysgu (to learn)). If the b rhyme ends with a stressed syllable, then the first 4 syllables must make a cynghanedd, the second 4 syllables must make a cynghanedd and the third 4 syllables must make a “cynghanedd groes”: .

2. Rhupunt Byr (Short Rhupunt)
Lines: 2
Syllable count per line: 8
Rhyme Pattern: 4 syllables then b internal rhyme, 4 syllables then a main rhyme b. 4 syllables then b internal rhyme, 4 syllables then main rhyme a.

3. Cyhydedd Fer (Short Cyhydedd)
Lines: 2
Syllable count per line: 8
Rhyme Pattern: a, a (Last syllable of the line can be stressed or unstressed)
Note: This form appears in the Gododdin and in the Book of Taliesin.

4. Cyhedded Naw Ban (Nine Branch/Arm Cyhydedd)
Lines: 4
Syllable count per line: 9
Rhyme Pattern: a, a, a, a

5. Cyhedded Hir (Long Cyhededd)
Lines: 2
Syllable count per line: 10, 9
Rhyme Pattern: 5 syllables then b internal rhyme, 5 syllables then a main rhyme b. 5 syllables then b internal rhyme, 4 syllables then main rhyme a.
Note: In line 1, both the first 5 and the second 5 syllables make a cynghanedd. In line 2, the two parts of the sentence make one cynghanedd.

6. Toddaid
Lines: 2
Syllable count per line: 10, 9
Rhyme Pattern: (a) b (the internal rhyme a can come on the seventh, eighth or ninth syllable), (b) a (the internal rhyme b comes in the middle of the line).
Note: The form can be modified by adding extra versions of the first couplet between the first couplet still keeping the second couplet for the end.

7. Hir a Thoddaid (Long Cyhededd plus a Toddaid)
Lines: 4
Syllable count per line: 10, 10, 10, 10
Rhyme Pattern: a, a, (a) b (the internal rhyme a can come on the seventh, eighth or ninth syllable), a.
Note: The form can be modified by adding extra versions of the first couplet between the first couplet still keeping the second couplet for the end.

8. Byr a Thoddaid (Short Cyhydedd plus a Toddaid)
Lines: 6
Syllable count per line: 10, 6, 8, 8, 10, 6
Rhyme Pattern: (a) + no end rhyme (the internal rhyme a can come on the seventh, eighth or ninth syllable), a, a, a, (a) + no end rhyme (the internal rhyme a can come on the seventh, eighth or ninth syllable), a.
Note: The non-rhyming final syllables of lines 1 and 5, must make cynghanedd with the first words of the following sentence.

9. Clogyrnach (Short Cyhydedd plus a Short Toddaid)
Lines: 4 (sometimes 5)
Syllable count per line: 8, 8, 10 (sometimes split into 5+5), 6
Rhyme Pattern: a, a, (b) + b (the internal rhyme b comes on the fifth syllable), (b) +a (the internal rhyme b comes in the middle of the line).

10. Cyrch a chwta (Direct and Internally Rhymed)
Lines: 4 (sometimes 5)
Syllable count per line: 8, 8, 10 (sometimes split into 5+5), 6
Rhyme Pattern: a, a, (b) + b (the internal rhyme b comes on the fifth syllable), (b) +a (the internal rhyme b comes in the middle of the line).

11. Gwawdodyn (name possibly from the name of the tribe that inspired the Gododdin?)
Lines: 4
Syllable count per line: 9, 9, 10 (sometimes split into 5+5), 6
Rhyme Pattern: a, a, (a) + b (the internal rhyme a can come on the seventh, eighth or ninth syllable), (b) +a (the internal rhyme b comes in the middle of the line).

12. Gwawdodyn Hir (the Long Gwawdodyn)
Lines: 6
Syllable count per line: 9, 9, 9, 9, 10 (sometimes split into 5+5), 9
Rhyme Pattern: a, a, a, a, (a) + b (the internal rhyme a can come on the seventh, eighth or ninth syllable), (b) +a (the internal rhyme b comes in the middle of the line).

The Measures of Welsh Poetry: Part 3: The Cywydd

Dry Stone Wall

C. The Cywydd Measures
This is a series of four parts that covers:
Cynghanedd ;
• the Englyn ;
• the Cywydd ;
• and the Awdl .
Like the englyn, these measures usually use cynghanedd as well as the other formal restraints.

1. Awdl-Gywydd (poem made up of a synthesis of the cywydd and awdl)
Lines: 4 (2 x sets of 2)
Syllable Count per line: 7, 7, 7, 7
Rhyme Pattern: b, (b) a (internal rhyme in the middle of line 2), b, (b) a (internal rhyme in middle of line 4).

2. Cywydd Deuair Hirion (Long-lined couplet Cywydd)
Lines: 2
Syllable Count per line: 7, 7
Rhyme Pattern: a, a (Rhyme alternates between ending on a stressed and an unstressed syllable e.g. dress – brightness, bell – ystafell).
Note: This is one of the most popular measures. It can be a single couplet or a long narrative piece written using many couplets.

3. Cywydd Deuair Fyrion (Short-lined Couplet Cywydd)
Lines: 2
Syllable Count per line: 4, 4
Rhyme Pattern: a, a (Rhyme alternates between ending on a stressed and an unstressed syllable e.g. dress – brightness, bell (far) – ystafell (room)).
Note: This is rarely used.

4. Cywydd Llosgyrnog (Llosgyrnog from Llosgwrn meaning ‘tail’ – a Tailed Cywydd)
Lines: 3
Syllable Count per line: 8,8,7
Rhyme Pattern: a, a, (a) b (main rhyme in lines 1 and 2 has an internal rhyme in the middle of line 3)
Note: This is rare. The unit is used to write longer poems.

March 09, 2007

The Measures of Welsh Poetry: Part 2: The Englyn

Chainmail Gold

B. The Englyn

This is a series of four parts that covers:
Cynghanedd ;
• the Englyn ;
• the Cywydd ;
• and the Awdl .
Remember that each line in all 8 forms of englyn uses Cynghanedd or ‘Harmony’.

1. Englyn penfyr (Short Head/End Englyn)
Lines: 3
Syllable count per line: 10, 7, 7
Rhyme pattern: A (internal rhyme around syllable 7 of the first line), A, A
Note: This kind of englyn includes a gair cyrch, i.e. extra words in line one to make up the three syllables after the internal rhyme at syllable 7). There is a caesura or gwant between the internal rhyme in line one and the rest of the line. The gair cyrch should also be echoed via rhyme and alliteration in the first few syllables of the second line.

2. Englyn Milwr (The Soldier’s Englyn)
Lines: 3
Syllable count per line: 7,7,7
Rhyme pattern: A,A,A
Content: Sparse atmosphere.

3. Englyn Unodl Union (Straight One-rhyme Englyn)
Lines: 4
Syllable count per line: 10,6,7,7
Rhyme: A(internal rhyme around syllable 7 of the first line), A, A, A
Stress: The second line must end with an unstressed syllable and in the final couplet, one line has a stressed syllable at the end of the line and the other is unstressed.
Content: epigrammatic, lyrical, didactic, satirical, humorous.
Note: When writing a sequence of these englyns, if a ward in the last line of one stanza is repeated in the first line of the next, it is called a cadwyn or chain. If in the sequence the same rhyme is used, then the sequence is called a gosteg. The first two lines are known as the paladr or shaft and the last two lines are known as the esgyll or wings. As in the englyn penfyr, this includes a gair cyrch, i.e. extra words in line one to make up the three syllables after the internal rhyme at syllable 7). The gair cyrch should also be echoed via rhyme and alliteration in the first few syllables of the second line. Each line also has some kind of cynghanedd.

4. Englyn Unodl Crwca (Crooked One-rhyme Englyn)
Lines: 4
Syllable count per line: 7,7,10, 6
Rhyme: A, A, A(internal rhyme around syllable 7 of the first line), A
Note: The same as above, except that here the paladr and esgyll swap places.

5. Englyn Cyrch (Internal Rhyme Englyn)
Lines: 4
Syllable Count per line:
Rhyme: A, A, B, A (plus an internal rhyme B in the middle of the last line)

6. Englyn Proest Dalgron (Compact Half-rhymed Englyn)
Lines: 4
Syllable count per line: 7,7,7,7
Rhyme: All the line use proest made out of short-vowel sounds or long-vowel sounds. Proest is a kind of half-rhyme in which the end consonant is the same, but the vowel is different though of a similar length. E.g. cap makes proest with with twp (‘stupid’).

7. Englyn Lleddfbroest (Slanted Half-rhymed Englyn)
Lines: 4
Syllable count per line: 7,7,7,7
Rhyme: All the lines use proest using the dipthongs ae, oe, wy, ei and ai.

8. Englyn Proest Gadwynog (Chained Half-rhymed Englyn)
Lines: 4
Syllable count per line: 7,7,7,7
Rhyme: Each line half-rhymes (using proest) with the next and rhymes fully with the next but one.


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