Posted by: literaryfolk | August 1, 2013

August 1, 2013

Dear Literary Folk,

IMG_0206Bore da! Good day from Wales! I’m writing this post from the Brown’s Hotel in Laugharne, a coastal village west of Swansea best known as the home of Dylan Thomas. The Brown’s Hotel was one of his favorite pubs. It also happens to have Internet access, which hasn’t been easy to find here. I don’t have much news of Sonoma County to share, so I’ll rely on Jo-Anne and Bill Vartnaw to keep you up to date on the August readings, workshops, and literary events. But I can give you a glimpse of the writer’s life in Wales where I’m leading a small group of poets and writers on a literary tour and writing retreat.

Today the 7 writers traveling with me went to Thomas’s house on Cymdonkin Drive in Swansea, as well as the Dylan Thomas Centre. Then we drove to the old farm of Fern Hill where we took turns reading the verses of that wonderful poem.

IMG_0434Back in Laugharne, we went to the Boathouse where Thomas lived with his wife and children, and spent some time writing there, having the place largely to ourselves. The sun came out after a day of on-again, off-again rain, lighting up the estuary below the Boathouse all the way round the curve of the by to the castle the stands under Sir John’s Hill. Tomorrow we will walk the path up Sir John’s  Hill which Dylan Thomas described in “Poem in October,” and we’ll conclude our stay here with a visit to the grave and a farewell reading of “And Death Shall Have No Dominion,” “Do Not Go Gentle,” and “Poem on His Birthday.”

IMG_0374Besides our stay in Laugharne, we’ve been to Hay-on-Wye, an entire village of bookstores. One was set in a passageway between two buildings, and it calls itself Book Passage. It reminded us of home. We’ve visited Castles in Conwy  and Caernarfon, ridden the small-gauge railways in North Wales, including one that  runs beside our 300-year-old farmhouse on the shores of Bala Lake, and the two-car steam engine that  chugs impossibly up the slopes of Mount Snowdon. Then we climbed down, with spectacular views opening up as we came through the clouds  or the wind lifted them aside. After we descended, we went to Pen-Y-Gwyrd, a pub where Sir Edmund Hillary and his team gathered during their time training to climb Mount Everest. There we read Wordsworth’s description of climbing Mount Snowdon by moonlight.

Next week, we’ll be visiting Gerard Manley Hopkins’s territory in the Elwy and Clwyd valleys, including a visit to San Bueno’s, the Jesuit monastery where he studied and began writing his ecstatic poetry.

The Welsh love their poets. We feel very welcome here. We’ll conclude our stay with a visit to the Welsh Arts Festival called the Eisteddfod, with competitions in music, dance, and poetry. We’ll be there for the  gathering of the Gorsedd of the Bards as they chose the writer of the best free-verse poem.

Terry Ehret

For a pdf version of most of the pages on the Sonoma County Literary Update site (for August 2013), click here.


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