Rediscovering lost time

The other day I came across an old notebook in which I had written a few poems on a couple of occasions several years ago.  It was fascinating to reread these poems not so much for the quality of the poetry (which isn’t great) as for the memories that they evoked, as they were all poems specifically related to and inspired by what was happening to and around me at the time of writing – no great world shattering events but just a few slices of everyday life.

It strikes me that this ability to record and communicate, and perhaps dig a bit deeper into and draw meaning from, relatively mundane events is a common characteristic of haiku, a poetic form that (as I’ve blogged before) I find myself particularly drawn to (both for reading and writing).  Of course, this is not unique to haiku and indeed only a few of the poems in my notebook were haiku.

One of the occasions on which these particular poems was written was my journey back from a visit to friends in Hungary in July 2008.  I will probably share some (or possibly all) of those poems before too long, but for now I’m going to concentrate on the other occasion, which was a wait for a train over in Llandudno Junction on 19th June, 2007.  I had been over there for a work-based event and I accidentally misread the train timetable, so I turned up at the platform just in time to watch my train pull out and I then had about an hour to wait for the next train, which I put to (I hope) good use by writing some poems.

The first is really no more than a fragment and represents one of my rare attempts to write poetry in Welsh:

Colli’r trên i Fangor wnes i.
Amser trên camddarllenes i.

(“I missed the train to Bangor.  I misread the train time”, to go for a prose translation.)  As I recall, I was planning to develop that into a longer poem but soon gave up and switched to English.  My next attempt was a painful bit of doggerel that I will spare you the agony of reading.  I was then inspired by the arrival and subsequent departure of a train to write a haiku, which is almost certainly the pinnacle of that day’s poetic endeavours and possibly one of my best haiku to date (or at least one of the ones I find most evocative):

All is at peace.
Rushing, roaring tumult.
Silence descends.

I then incorporated the same idea and my resultant ponderings on sound and silence into a longer poem (or quite possibly I had already begun this when I was interrupted by the train’s arrival).  This is one of my rare forays into non-metrical (or at least regularly metrical) and non-rhyming verse and I’m not convinced that it works especially well, although I quite like bits of it, especially the last few lines.  I entitled this poem “Llandudno Junction, 15:44” (I assume that was the time I started writing it, rather than when I finished):

All alone,
I sit and listen to the sounds encroach the silence.
The gentle breeze whispers in the trees
And the chatter of birds counterpoints the soft traffic drone.

A train pulls in the other side,
Its growling engine waits to be released once more.
A walking stick taps softly on the platform,
A bicycle is wheeled gently past.

All at once, a train arrives
And all is bustle and noise for a while,
Then silence descends once more.

I missed my train;
Instead I found a space,
A change of pace,
A chance to listen to the silence that is not silent,
Hear the rhythm of life.

Let me not lament the loss of time,
Because I turned up late and have an hour to wait.
Instead, let me rejoice at the opportunity
To hear the voice
I usually move too fast to hear.


Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Hapus Eto!

Today is St David’s Day.  In honour of the patron saint of Wales, I’m going to write the bulk of this post in Welsh.  For the benefit of those of you who are not blessed with understanding of the language of heaven, I’ll provide a short summary in English at the end.

Dwi wedi byw yng Ngogledd Cymru ers bron i 14 mlynedd bellach a does gen i ddim awydd symud i ffwrdd byth.   Des i yma yn wreiddiol i wneud doethuriaeth mewn mathemateg ym Mhrifysgol Cymru Bangor (fel roedd hi ar y pryd – mae hi wedi newid i Brifysgol Bangor ers hynny) ac wnes i ddewis Bangor o achos diddordebau ymchwil yr adran mathemateg (un o’r lleoedd gorau yn y DU i astudio topoleg, er wnes i symud i mewn i algebra pur erbyn i mi orffen y PhD), yn hytrach nag unrhywbeth ynglŷn â mynyddoedd, cerddoriaeth, iaith ayyb.  Wrth gwrs, fel rhywun efo diddordeb mawr mewn ieithoedd ers talwm, ro’n i wrth fy modd i symud i rywle efo iaith newydd i mi ei ddysgu a cholles i ddim amser i ymuno â dosbarth.  Wnes i’r cwrs Wlpan (ac wedyn y cwrsiau eraill) wedi’i rhedeg gan y brifysgol, ac wnes i ffeindio hi’n gwrs ardderchog.  Hefyd, wnes i ddefnyddio’r Gymraeg cymaint â phosibl tu allan y dosbarth o’r dechrau, sy’n beth pwysig iawn i ddysgu iaith yn llwyddianus.  Daeth fy addysg ffurfiol yn Gymraeg i ben tua 10 mlynedd yn ôl ond dwi wedi parhau i’w ddefnyddio yn eitha rheolaidd.

Yn fy marn i, mae Cymraeg yn iaith hyfryd.  Mae’n medru bod yn anodd weithiau, efo llawer iawn o fanylion bach i greu trafferth.   Er bod pobl fel arfer yn sylwi ar y treigladau fel ffynnon trafferthion i ddysgwyr, dwi’n meddwl bod ffurfio’r lluosog yn galetach, gan bod ‘na cymaint o ffyrdd i’w wneud.  Un o’r bethau eraill mae pobl yn canfod fel problem ydy’r gwahanol tafodieithodd, yn arbennig y gwahaniaeth rhwng iaith y Gogledd a iaith y De.  Dwi’n meddwl bod gwahaniaeth rhwng yr iaith ffurfiol, ysgrifennedig ac unrhyw dafodiaeth llafar yn llawer fwy arwyddocaol ond dydy hyd yn oed hynny ddim yn broblem rhy fawr.  Dydy fy Nghymraeg i ddim cystal â hoffwn i, ond dwi am ddal ati.  Ar hyn o bryd, dwi’n trio defnyddio’r Gymraeg bob dydd, gan obeithio bydda i’n mynd yn well amdani yn hytrach nag yn waeth.

Cymraeg am byth!

And here’s the summary (somewhat condensed – you’ll just have to learn Welsh if you want the whole thing 🙂 ):

I moved to Wales nearly 14 years ago, attracted by the research interests in the (now defunct) maths department of the University of Wales, Bangor (latterly Bangor University) and was delighted to be moving to an area with another new language for me to learn.  I quickly signed up to a Welsh course – the Cwrs Wlpan run by the university, which (along with its follow up courses) was excellent.  I also tried to use Welsh as much as possible outside the classroom right from the start and have continued to use it since I finished formal Welsh lessons 10 years ago.  I think Welsh is a beautiful language and well worth the effort of learning (especially if you live in Wales), although the formation of plurals still gives me some trouble. I try to use Welsh every day, in the hope that my command of the language will get better rather than worse.