Elinor Wyn Reynolds, Myrddin ap Dafydd and Iwan Llwyd
Weaving Magic: Forest Poetry Workshops in Wales

 

Place, and an awareness of place has always inspired poets, especially in the Welsh language tradition. The landscape and geography of Wales has a place in the earliest surviving poetry, but more especially the relationship between that landscape and its people and communities. The way that the landscape shaped the people and their culture, and the way that the people in their turn shaped the landscape - from the copper hills of Anglesey to the mining valleys of Gwent.

Trying to recreate that sense of place in the classroom is often a frustrating experience, and the three poets involved in this Forestry Enterprise initiative - Elinor Wyn Reynolds, Myrddin ap Dafydd and Iwan Llwyd - welcomed the opportunity to experience the forest landscape in the company of groups of school children, to learn about four different forests across Wales - Garwnant, Gwydir, Nant yr Arian and Cwm Cam, and then work with the children to create poems that tried to capture the unique character, wildlife and history of these very different places.

With the expert guidance of the Forestry Enterprise's wardens, the poets and children spent the morning walking through the forest, collecting specimens, learning about the forest's development, experiencing the sights, sounds and smells of the forest at first hand. And then the afternoons were spent creating word-pictures of the forest. In total ten poems were created, touching on such different subjects as: the impact of industrialisation on the S Wales valleys the magic of Welsh names such as Garwuant, Llwyn-onn and Nant yr Arian the myths and legends surrounding the sites ( the birds and animals of the forest - the red kite, the cuckoo, the deer ( the ebb and flow of the seasons ( Welsh poetic forms and traditions wordplay and rhyming.

According to one group of children in the Gwydir forest, there is an angel in the trees, 'weaving magic in the topmost branches'. The poems created during these lively and stimulating sessions captured some of that magic.

Iwan Liwyd - June 1999


 

The Secret of the Wood

 

A whistling summons us

From the valley of People to the Valley of the Woods

 

'Come here' ......whispered the fingers of the twigs

stretching our to us

from the secret shadows.

 

'Get out,' hissed the nasty faces:

a witch's nose like a wooden skyscraper

with a hairy hedgehog in each nostril;

thorns and brambles on the giant's jaw

taking root in the rock of his skull:

the crown of each tree like a magician's hat.

 

'But welcome,' sang the warm voice from the wood.

'sit down and you will see

the tales of the wild animals.'

 

 

Winter and Spring

 

 

Spring comes to Cwm Carn like a cautious cat,

Or a tortoise arising from its bed.

 

Since the sun's sovereign melts the frost from the surface of the pool,

since rainbow follows a storm,

since there's a congress of flowers where there was rust on the bracken,

since there are leaves galore like butter on the trigs

breaking up the lines of the black trees,

since the doors of the shop are open again,

since a birthday party is filling the bare house

since the cuckoo is singing through the mist of silence,

since planting follows each axing,

peace follows war

May comes to Nant yr Arian.

 

Since there must be a winter for the Red Kite

before his spring, that's why May comes.

 

 

The Forest Bells

 

 

Blue blue eyes stare at us,

a squadron of soldiers standing straight in the wood

not making a sound.

they are waiting for war but are far too pretty to touch weapons.

 

The purple bells call everyone to church

and the petals like the sea in a foreign country

where the water is warm.

 

From the mossy island, without animals,

the colourful waterfall tumbles down the hill

like the flash of the kingfisher's wings.

 

The leaves feel like a boy with bad hair,

feel like the wrinkly skin of an old man

and like the touch of a baby's lips at the same time.

 

Blue ribbons wrap themselves around

parcels of land, proffering seeds of all kinds as presents,

smelling like a fruit salad with a lot of bananas.

 

The flowers peep out like worms from the ground

to see the world,

stretching their fingers to touch the forest.

 

 

Llwyn Mawr Kite

 

 

'Llwyn Mawr Kite

where are you going now?'

To search for peace

after a long journey hunting

up to the highest tree,

to be a king.

 

'Llwyn Mawr Kite

what do you see now?'

I see the challenge of a meal -

small tasty animals.

When should I attack,

is it worth the effort?

When can I get food without fuss?

Where can I fight to keep my place?

 

I see everything from the top of the tree,

people, cars, sheep,

as small as toys,

like eyes watching,

the roads from afar look like a snake

like a ribbon, like a river,

like an eel, twisting greyly.

 

'Llwyn Mawr Kite

what do you feel now?'

I feel fear of the steel

monster roaring through

the seas of the air,

casting a shadow like a cloud over me.

I was here first

before the cold giant without feeling.

My cry has been lost in the wind.

I am envious because I am so insignificant,

I have lost the crown of my ambition

up in the treetops.

I feel my feathers softening

like crumbs of bread, like a pillow, like sand

alongside the hardness

of the iron rock that cannot be destroyed.

 

I choose another way,

a lonely island,

in quietness, I shall be

King again,

Master of the air.

 

from the Forest Poetry Workshops in Wales

 

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Young Poets Network