WISPA tour of Wales March 2014, part 5

       The final evening of poetry was in the Queen’s hall Narberth.

The organiser of this event was Sian Davies, a young woman dedicated to poetry who curates a lovely poetry group in this corner of Wales. Among the other poets there were Mel Perry and Laurence Jones. I knew I was in poetic paradise when, earlier in the tour I heard Laurence refer, in Carmarthen, to several literary icons of mine.

Catullus        How often do you hear someone speak of Catullus, Walden Pond, and Tom Paine all in one presentation!


Laurence was terrific company in Carmarthen and again in Narberth. We were able to have such wonderful discursive discussion and I am so glad that I met him on the WISPA exchange. I have no doubt that my path and his, as with so many others I met, will cross again.
Each poetry group that I have ever known has it’s own style and atmosphere and the Narberth poets reminded me so much of my own group in Duncannon, County Wexford, Hooked on Poetry.
We sat around in a circle and had a fine free flowing discussion around all the poems read, mine and others. It was an inspiring and insightful evening and one I’d love to return to and take part in again, I’m sure that in the fullness of time I will. It was this evening where I had a chance to properly, I felt, present a poem of mine I hadn’t had a chance to do justice to at previous readings.
“For Past Poets, a Pantoum,” is a poem I wrote trying to picture the rigours of the training poets underwent in ancient Ireland. In Gaelic Ireland the position of poet was highly regarded and attracted defined rates of renumeration, so many cows etc, depending on the worth and quality of the poem. Modestly I feel some of my own may be worth a few goats, perhaps some laying hens!
As part of the final test of the apprentice poet they were sometimes confined to a cell (often a beehive shaped stone hut) overnight, in the dark, with a stone on the chest to hold them fast. There they had to work all night composing a piece in a set style, on a set theme. Emerging in the morning they were required to present the poem in a perfect manner to gathered senior Poets. for my tribute to such “Past Poets” I choose a relatively strict form of verse as being appropriate.
The pantoum is a form of poetry similar to a villanelle in that there are repeating lines throughout the poem. It is composed of a series of quatrains; the second and fourth lines of each stanza are repeated as the first and third lines of the next. This pattern continues for any number of stanzas, except for the final stanza, which differs in the repeating pattern. The first and third lines of the last stanza are the second and fourth of the penultimate; the first line of the poem is the last line of the final stanza, and the third line of the first stanza is the second of the final.A four-stanza pantoum is common,(although more may be used) and in the final stanza, you could simply repeat lines one and three from the first stanza, or write new lines. The pantoum “recipe” is as follows:
Stanza 1 A B C D (or A C B D)
Stanza 2 B E D F (or C E D F)
Stanza 3 E G F H
Stanza 4 G I (or A or C) H J (or A or C)

sian mel and me

Sian, Mel and Kevin
Mel Perry was also there and when she read her great poem “The Carlow Bowl”, an idea/inspiration came to me. Her poem was written arising from Mel’s WISPA exchange tour of Ireland. In Carlow, while visiting the Museum she was admiring an old Victorian era bowl when the words engraved on the rim hit her forcefully, “Carlow Lunatic Asylum.”

       Derek Coyle curates the Carlow group of poetry and I knew he had also been impressed by the poem, “The Carlow Bowl.” My idea was that both he and I should in turn ponder the same item and write our own poetic response to The Carlow Bowl. I put this idea to Mel and she liked it. Since returning to Ireland I’ve been in touch with Derek and he too agrees. We will between us have composed a trinity/trio of poems on The Carlow Bowl.


In many ways that is a fitting note to end this account of my poetic perambulations in the company of poets in Wales. Every encounter, every reading presented and heard, had the potential to give rise to further inspirations and writings. Who could ask for more? Thank you one and all.


%d bloggers like this: