You may, recently, have seen me asking certain questions on social media: questions about ‘poets of Cardiff’ – what this phrase means to people, and which writers people think of when we use this phrase.
That’s because I was asked, a short while ago, to curate poets and commission poems from them for a new project – Poetry in the Arcades – in which these new verses would be put on display in the classic old arcades of the city.
In the end, after much thought, I decided to go with a definition of ‘Cardiff poet’ as someone who ‘voices the city’ – not necessarily someone living here, or born here, although they might have been – but someone who already in their work regularly writes of and about the place.
After speaking in passing to poet Mamta Sagar, who was staying with poet Siân Melangell Dafydd in Cardiff, I decided, also, to choose poets who represented different generations of the city. Not necessarily in terms of age, but in terms of their writing, although these generally seemed to coincide. Mamta mentioned that she’d run a public poetry project in Bangalore along these lines, and this made good sense to me.
So, the poets I finally chose were:
Peter Finch, Topher Mills, Hanan Issa, Joao Morais,
as well as myself, who was commissioned by the project organisers.
This month, therefore, I’m pleased to announce that these ‘Arcade Poets’ will have their (our!) poems on display very shortly – by this coming Saturday, 16th November, in fact, which is also City of Arcades Day.
A further additional poet (Siân Melangedd Dafydd, mentioned above) will join us as the sixth Arcade Poet in December (the original sixth poet I asked was unable to take part, sadly), and her poem will be bilingual. My commissioning of the poets encouraged them to write in Welsh (as both Joao and Hanan do – Hanan, in fact, also writes in Arabic, and I added this potential into her commission, also) but, poetry being what it is, and very much about inspiration, both of them wrote their pieces in English in the end.
So, Siân has the very important task of both stepping in a little later than the others, and of creating a bilingual piece so that the language of our city’s Welsh speakers and Welsh learners is also rightly included. Good luck, Siân!
Poetry in the Arcades is a project that’s been created and coordinated by Mighty Atom, which is run by the creative powerhouse that is Dan Green.
He’s been working with For Cardiff on the project; For Cardiff are the organiser of City of Arcades Day. Poet Emily Cotterill, who also heads things here, has arranged our event on the 16th and will also be our wonderful host.
I hope you’ll join us this Saturday from 7pm for the celebration of the Poetry in the Arcades project, and to hear some of the Arcade Poets (Topher, Joao, Hanan, and myself, possibly also Siân) read our commissioned works and also some other pieces. It takes place in Waterloo Tea in Wyndham Arcade. Waterloo Tea hosted my first book launch, in Pen-y-lan, back in 2014, and will always hold a special place in my heart as a result. They also do the best tea in the city! (And amazing cakes…)
It’s needless to say that this is a really brilliant project, bringing poetry straight into the heart of the city – into its veins, its ventricles – and hopefully into the hearts of the people who stop for a little minute to take in these words and carry them, then, away home with them. The poems give us, in turn (as you will see when you read them!) a puzzle and some parlance; a roar and a reverie; a rhythmic, rhyming ode; and then there’s still one poem to come! But, they are all meant to uplift and inspire, and to reflect in an upbeat way upon the city, which is a really refreshing thing at this time when there’s so much strife in politics and other arenas. We can still appreciate what we’ve got right here, and these poems take pride in the capital, the arcades, and the power of words to communicate and to connect people.
So, please do join us this Saturday, for tea, words, and a look about to see the Arcade Poets and their poems in actions.
Look forward to meeting you there!
P.S. Poetry in the Arcades includes a competition element. Would you like to join us as the seventh Arcade Poet???? Then, see here for details. It’s free to enter. We can’t wait to welcome the magical Seventh to our group!!!