This week’s bookends brings you a novel from the borders of Wales, a taste of new books due for publication in May and some advice for on how to enjoy poetry.
Honno, an independent press based in Aberystwth, Wales, has been championing Welsh Women’s writing since the company was formed in 1986. Their latest title is a novel published in 1936 by Margiad Evans, a poet, novelist and illustrator who, though of English origin herself, closely identified with the Welsh border country. Creed was her fourth and final novel, all of which are set in the countryside of the Welsh Marches.
Honno describes Creed as a novel set in the fictional industrial Border town of Chepsford. It’s a place characterised by drunkenness and brawls. The theme of the novel is about suffering whith Evans showing domestic life unsettled by strong opinions on love and sin.
I’ve never read anything by Evans but I see that Honno has also published The Wooden Doctor which is about a troubled adolescent girl and her obsession with a doctor. I think I might give myself a treat and buy both…
I find it almost impossible to keep up to date with the output of publishers in the UK. Fortunatly I can rely on Susan at A Life in Books who does a monthly selection of new titles combined with her knowledge of the author’s previous work. I warn you however that reading these posts could do serious damage to your bank balance.
I know I am not alone in my struggles with poetry. I can appreciate the skill involved in compressing imagery into a few words but seldom, if ever, consider it an enjoyable eperience. I’m gratified to learn from an interview in The Guardian newspaper, that Thomas Foster, professor of literature at University of Michigan-Flint, had a similar struggle when he was in his younger days. He’s just written a guide called How to Read Poetry Like a Professor to help people like me overcome their difficulties.
In the interview he shares his tips for understanding and enjoying poetry including the advice not to start with the difficult poets… I wish those who set the school curricula would pay heed…..
Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Hapus i chi!
March 1 is St David’s Day in Wales —St David being our patron saint — so usually a day for celebration of all things Welsh. The celebrations will be very muted this year however with schools closed and concerts cancelled because of Storm Emma, so I thought I would mark the occasion by highlighting some new books from authors and publishers based in Wales.
One Woman Walks Wales. Ursula Martin is a remarkable account of a courageous woman. After a cancer diagnosis and then Ursula Martin was too weak to walk more than a few steps. But she is a determined woman so she set a goal to walk the four miles to her nearest post box every day. Her progress was so slow drivers would stop to offer her a lift. She persevered.
Her next goal was even more ambitious: to walk the 200 miles to her follow up appointment with the medical team. Coming out of the meeting, she headed back home on foot. And then just kept walking…..
In 17 months, she walked the length and breadth of Wales, across its beaches, up and down the coastal paths, through mountains, farms and urban sprawl.
One Woman Walks Wales is publsihed by Honno. If you order direct from their site they will make a donation of £1 to the Target Ovarian Cancer charity.
Also coming soon from Honno is Albi by Hilary Shepherd which is set in Spain in 1930s. The Civil War turns everything upside down for nine-year-old Albi and his family. They are under siege from outside and held captive by secrets within the home. Albi must sometimes close his ears and his eyes if he is to survive.
Seren Books have a strong poetry collection, the newest addition to which is The Glass Aisle by Paul Henry. It features twenty eight poems including an elergy to displaced workhouse residents, set on a stretch of canal in the Brecon Beacons National Park. A performance version of The Glass Aisle, featuring songs co-written with fellow musician and songwriter Brian Briggs, (‘Stornoway’), is currently touring festivals. More details can be found on the Seren website.
I mentioned another of their recent publications May by Naomi Krüger in my recent Bookends post. It’s a novel written from the perspective of a woman with dementia who is trying to piece together the fragments of her memory. Definitely one I am going to be buying.
Welsh publisher, Parthian, is offering Hummingbird by Tristan Hughes, a lecturer in creative writing at the University of Wales. Born in Ontario, he spent his childhood on th Welsh island of Ynys Mon. Hummingbird, his fourth novel takes him back to Canada, to a remote location where fifteen-year-old Zachary Tayler lives a lonely and isolated life with his father. One summer the enigmatic Eva Spiller arrives in search of the remains of her parents and together they embark on a strange and disconcerting journey of discovery. This novel won the Edward Stanford Travel Writing Award for 2018. More details are on the Parthian website.