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Former national poet of Wales headlines new Swansea poetry event

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Gillian Clarke, former national poet of Wales is set to headline a new kind of poetry event at the Dylan Thomas Theatre in January.

Featuring widely published and established Welsh poets, the evening on 28 January 2023 includes Rhian Edwards and Jonathan Edwards with a showcase of Swansea’s finest poetic talent in the form of readings from Natalie Ann Holborow, Rae Howells and Rebecca Lowe.

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Part funded by Literature Wales, organisers say the evening will celebrate a wide variety of distinct and memorable voices and will demonstrate, yet again, the strength of contemporary Welsh verse.

Organisers say the event would not have ben possible without the support of Dreena Elizabeth Morgan-Harvey, Director at Dylan Thomas Theatre, who identified a fresh opportunity for the theatre to support this event. 

Dreena said: “The theatre has always nurtured Welsh writers including Emlyn Williams, Jack Jones, Mansel Thomas and, of course, Dylan Thomas and Lord Rowan Williams were old members. More widely, the theatre has hosted Benjamin Zephaniah and Aeronwy Thomas Ellis. All forms of literature are at the heart of our business and we are delighted to be involved.”

Swansea’s Dylan Thomas Theatre (Image: Dylan Thomas Theatre)

For many poetry-lovers, headliner Gillian Clarke will require no introduction. A former national poet of Wales, her work has been on the GCSE and A Level exam syllabus for over thirty years inspiring generations of young poets across Wales and opening-up the possibilities of the poetic imagination from Newport to Anglesey.

As if this was not enough in itself, she was awarded the Queen’s Gold medal for Poetry in 2010 and the Wilfred Owen Award in 2012. Gillian was born in Cardiff and subsequently moved to Barry. Her father worked for the BBC as engineer-in-chief on outside broadcasts and was a proud Welsh speaker, as is Gillian herself.

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Her poetry is known for its lyrical dexterity, its originality and its deep and reflective sourcing of previously untapped knowledge and wisdom. Having now published over ten collections of poetry, she started writing poetry competitively at school and therefore knows, at first hand, the ability of poetry to captivate minds from an early age. 

One of the main readers, Rhian Edwards, whose first collection of poems Clueless Dogs won Wales Book of the Year 2013 and whose second full collection The Estate Agent’s Daughter was a National Poetry Day Recommended Read for 2020, is equally happy to be reading in Swansea alongside Gillian.

Rhian said: “Gillian Clarke is one of the most influential and inspirational literary voices in Wales, not only as a poet, but also in her ambassadorial role as the former National Poet of Wales, as well as being instrumental in the setting up Ty Newydd, the only writers centre in Wales.  

“Gillian also played a key role in my own literary journey, when I attended the poetry masterclass with her and Carol Ann Duffy at Ty Newydd, while I was an unpublished poet. She later championed and endorsed my work when I secured my first collection with Seren.

“Gillian has forged the way, especially for women writers in Wales, and is someone to whom I, and many others, owe a great debt”.

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Rhian will be reading in the first half of the performance with multi-award winning poet, Jonathan Edwards, whose debut poetry collection My Family and Other Superheroes won the Costa Book Award for Poetry and who, most recently, won first prize in the Troubadour Poetry Competition.

The second half of the performance will show what Swansea has to offer in terms of high quality poetic output. 

Local Swansea poet and writer of the book The Language of Bees, Rae Howells, feels poetry and particularly Gillian’s work will bring something special to Swansea, a city Gillian has read in before but not for a fairly long time.

Rae reflects: “For almost as long as I’ve been a poet I’ve had Gillian Clarke’s ‘Letter From a Far Country’ on my desk. I have always admired the way Gillian so deftly moves between worlds, from domestic to historical, from natural to political or mythical.

It will be a real thrill for me to be sharing the stage with her this time but I’m also really looking forward to reading alongside the sparkling talent on the whole bill – Jonathan, Rhian, Natalie and Rebecca are all utterly brilliant poets and I would definitely be in the audience if I wasn’t lucky enough to be reading alongside them”.

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To book your place for this event contact the Dylan Thomas Theatre Box Office on 01792 473238 or online via www.dylanthomas.or.uk. Tickets are available for £10 (£8 concessions).

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