Professor Christopher Meredith is a novelist, poet and translator who teaches creative writing at the University of South Wales. He has published four novels, including the post-industrial Shifts (1988) which now an automatic choice on any course on Welsh writing in English in both the UK and America, and five volumes of poetry, the most recent of which is Air Histories published in 2013 by Seren. A rich, complex and rewarding collection, Air Histories brings together poems which are both accessible and often formally and linguistically innovative. Meredith’s interests in history and place, earth and air, language and music bind the collection together, and several poems are given in both Welsh and English versions. One poem, ‘The Record Keepers’ has been selected for publication in this year’s Forward Book of Poetry 2014, published on October 1. This prestigious anthology, published annually by Faber, is often seen as a litmus test indicating the best contemporary poetry being published. In this interview Chris talks to Diana Wallace about Air Histories – the significance and meanings of the title and the relation of the poems to his own life ‘history’. Chris also talks about the poems that came out of his work on the Bog-Mawnog Project in the Black Mountains with the artist Pip Woolf, his decision to include some poems in both Welsh and English and why some poems are ‘shaped’ or concrete poems.
Diana’s teaching and research focuses mainly on women’s writing, with special interests in historical fiction and the Female Gothic. In this podcast, Diana speaks to Rebecca Moore about the Female Gothic and why it became so popular.
In the Powys mountain range the upland peat bogs are scarred with deep fire damage in a number of places. One of these is a bare, exposed ridge called Pen Trumau, which burned through in the 1970s. The ridge is a huge black wound, eroding as dust in dry windy weather or as rutted black sludge when it rains. About half a metre or more has washed or blown away. Professor Meredith explains: “In 2009, the artist Pip Woolf planned a project that would attempt to repair a little of this. She organised help and funding from various sources and is using felts made of low-grade sheep’s wool staked into the scar to try to make a medium to hold the land and help things grow. I’ve spent a little of my time over the last couple of years among the volunteers who’ve made the walk to the top and helped to tack and stitch these lines of wool onto the mountain.
“I’m one of six artists, including Pip whose scheme this is, supported by the Arts Council of Wales to respond in our work to the fire scar and to this extraordinary, fragile landscape. My contribution is a body of poems in English and in Welsh. I’ve lived close to the Black Mountains for most of my adult life and had already written material that draws in some way from them. I’ve included one of those earlier pieces – 'My son on Castell Dinas’ – from my book The Meaning of Flight, published by Seren.
Holly, an MPhil in Writing student, is writing an historical novel based on the legend of the 'Krampus’; a beast-like creature from the folklore of Alpine countries thought to punish children during the Yule season who had misbehaved. In this podcast, Holly reads from the prologue and first chapter of her novel.
Philip Gross reads a poem he wrote in response to 'Yellow Landscape’ a painting by the Rhondda-born artist Ernest Zobole. The painting is part of the University’s art collection, which includes a large body of work from Zobole as well as other significant Welsh artists. You can now follow Philip Gross on Twitter.