Woodrat TV: The Book of Ystwyth poetry reading


The Book of Ystwyth: six poets on the art of Clive Hicks-Jenkins (part 1).


The Book of Ystwyth: six poets on the art of Clive Hicks-Jenkins (part 2).


The Book of Ystwyth: six poets on the art of Clive Hicks-Jenkins (part 3).


The Book of Ystwyth: six poets on the art of Clive Hicks-Jenkins (part 4).

In lieu of a podcast this week, here in video form is the full, hour-long poetry reading I flew to Wales to take part in last month. This was a group reading in support of The Book of Ystwyth: six poets on the art of Clive Hicks-Jenkins, whose launch coincided with a 60th birthday retrospective exhibition of, and monograph on, the contemporary Welsh artist Clive Hicks-Jenkins (who I interviewed in the two most recent episodes of the Woodrat podcast). All six of us — three Yanks and three Brits — had written poems in response to his paintings, and The Book of Ystwyth includes a generous selection, illustrated with full-color details of the paintings in question.

In the reading, ably MC’d by Damian Walford Davies, as you’ll see, each poet appears twice, once on either side of a break (which occurs in part 3), so that the first poet is also the last, the second is the penultimate, etc. Here’s a key to who appears in which video:

Catriona Urquhart (read by Clive Hicks-Jenkins and Ian Hamilton): parts 1 and 4
Andrea Selch: 1 and 4
Callum James: 2 and 4
Marly Youmans: 2 and 3
Damian Walford Davies (as reader): 2 and 3
Me: 3

Anita Mills was the camerawoman. I take the blame for the sound and all the editing. The bookstore’s set-up had the podium in shadow, which meant that the camera often focused on better-lit bookshelves behind our heads. In the process of lightening and increasing contrast on the videos, the color turned spotty, whence my decision to make it black and white. I assure viewers who have never been to Wales that it is a fully modern country now, and almost everything is in color all the time.

The Book of YstwythAs for the book: quite apart from its contents, which are of course scintillating, it’s a beautifully designed object with high-quality paper and image reproduction, retailing at a very affordable $15.95/£9.99. It was published in the U.K. by Grey Mare Press in association with Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru/The National Library of Wales, and in the U.S. by Carolina Wren Press. Click on either link to order.

15 Comments


  1. It really is a beautiful book. Lovely to be able to listen to everyone reading again, thanks for posting these.

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    1. Well, thanks for watching! And it was great to meet you and Fiona there. (I think she appears in one of Anita’s pans, near the end.)

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  2. How marvellous to be able to be almost present at this entire event! The past hour I’ve spent as a spectator has really been a joy. My only slight quibble is that I wish there had been subtitles throughout but that’s only because my hearing isn’t great now (not helped by current sinusitis!) and I missed some of the sound. But anyway it’s wonderful to see all of you in person and of course I’m buying the book. Thank you so much to all for making and posting these videos. And by the way, Dave, you’re a natural in front of an audience! I can see you doing a highly successful tour – why not?

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    1. Natalie! Thanks for watching. I wasn’t sure how many people would, but I think that if they do, they’ll find, as you have, that this was not one of those readings where half the poets drone and the other half are incomprehensible.

      I agree, subtitles would be a nice touch, but it would require significantly more work than i was willing to devote to it, not having the kind of video software that makes that easy.

      Thank you for the kind words about my public speaking/reading ability. I’ve mostly fast-forwarded through my portion of this, so I wasn’t sure how watchable it was. :) I think this is the first reading I’ve ever attended where I felt absolutely no nervousness whatsoever (though I’m usually pretty relaxed).

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  3. Thank you for this wonderful opportunity of listening to your readings in Wales. I derived immense delight in listening to poets who knew how to read their own work. I must find me a copy of the book, if it is already available here.

    Davies sounds like an Oxonian don; Marly Youman like a literature-loving nun; Dave Bonta reminds me of a poet-friend who had to grow a beard to look older (sounded like him, too. The fellow is back in Iowa teaching poetry cum salt-n-pepper beard); Andrea and Callum read poetry I would dearly like to lay my hands on. Clive looked and sounded every bit like the consummate artist/poet that I am sure he is. So delicate. (:–)

    Back in the old country, at the university where I taught, my poems were rendered into paintings, and I painted some of my readers’ poetry, quid pro quo. I felt every word they said about my paintings, as I am sure Clive did. At that reading, also in a library, I exhibited a self-portrait with my likeness up a tree and that of my wife on the ground with a menacingly angled frying pan. Some enterprising student scribbled a caption on its price tag: “Come down and I’ll make fries of you yet, you couch potato!” (It was the only painting sold among my 12 pieces. I bet you the caption did it!)

    Thank you for this, Dave, and thank you, too, for this rare recherche du temps perdu of a like and cherished episode. Bravo!

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    1. Albert, I’m glad you enjoyed the reading, and that it sparked a pleasant memory as well. Callum James and Andrea Selch are ace poets, no doubt about it. I hadn’t thought of Marly as especially nun-like before. I’m not sure how she’ll take that comment!

      You should be able to get your hands on a copy of the book through the Carolina Wren Press website. Thanks so much for the enthusiastic response.

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  4. What a wonderful hour I’ve just spent with you all, reveling in these words and in the emotions of the evening of the reading. Dave I know, Marly and Clive have become online friends, but it was very moving as well to hear Clive read the words of Catriona Urquhart and to see and hear Andrea, Damian and Callum. I have to laugh a bit at myself – I was tremendously taken with Callum’s poem about Hervé, and wondering, who is this fellow? – and then it turns out he’s an Anglican priest! Dave, thank you so much for making it possible for all of us to share this special event and honor Clive vicariously. I’m grateful once again to the internet and these friendships that mean so much.

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    1. Beth, see, I told you wouldn’t be able to watch just half the reading! Fun, wasn’t it? Do check out Callum’s blog and encourage him to write and post more poetry! He told me after the reading that he only writes a couple poems a year. It would be a tragedy if someone of his talent keeps his light hidden under the proverbial bushel-basket, aside from this anthology.

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      1. Yes, everyone who cares an inch about poetry should write to Callum to encourage him. Believe me when I say he is a man who has no idea how good he is. That Hervé poem… and his reading of it… would move a stone. A STONE!

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  5. Set out to watch one at a time, ended up consuming the lot in one go. Then spent another good hour or so surfing round the links. Wonderful. And although obviously all the poems stand on their own it was particularly excellent to hear the snippets about where they came from/how they were made etc. There also seemed to be an unusual lack of ego or attachment or whatever the best term would be, which was underlined by Damian Walford Davies’ tribute to Clive’s openness as an artist to share process and invite collaboration / interpretation etc.

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    1. I’m so pleased you enjoyed it. I began watching last night and it was the greatest pleasure to relive that most extraordinary evening. All those marvellous writers in one room. Who would have thought that would happen? It was the greatest privilege to be in their company and to hear them read their words. At the time I kept thinking… ‘Concentrate man, don’t miss a nanosecond of this!’ I felt that I needed more ears and eyes than the ones granted to me in order to catch it all. But Dave’s film captures much of the experience, and for that I am so grateful to him. Bravo Dave! Bravo Bravo! My video hero!

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    2. RR, good point about the relative lack of ego — a remarkable thing for a group of poets; you know how we get! I’d attribute that to the fact that the spotlight wasn’t on our own art, but somebody else’s.

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