They happened to mention needing a poem for their wedding and on the slow cross-country train back home I duly obliged, writing one based only on a fleeting meeting with them ( the real ale pub may have swung it!).
They liked it so much they said they'd use it at their wedding and I was 'wrth fy modd'. I had written before for the marriages of my neice and nephew, but never for comparative strangers, so this was pleasing.
Following this, I responded to poet and lecturer Carrie Etter's challenge for US Poetry Month, to write a poem a day for April ( well, a haiku in my case). If there are such things as one-line poems, then I think I'll try them next year!
A more direct commission was the one below, written for Merthyr Fairtrade Week. It was supposed to appear in the local Council-produced magazine 'Contact', but never did. However, I'm assured that 100s of copies were given out at Merthyr's Fairtrade stall down town. Just hope they weren't re-cycled into paper aeroplanes!
I was later asked to write a piece to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Snowdonia National Park on October 18th, the title being '60 Wonders,60 Writers, 60 Words'. I loved the challenge of a 60 word poem and chose a photograph of a woman swimming in Lake Mymbyr near Yr Wyddfa; only her head was exposed in the water.
I think I could write about most things to order. This contrasts considerably with my notion of the organic development of a writer.
While I like to respond directly to such challenges, I always feel my writing must not consist of a deliberate or conscious effort to forge new styles or approaches. I arrived at writing in Merthyr dialect through a convergence of times and influences : the language of my pupils on the Gurnos estate and the 'Swonzee' poetry of Dave Hughes, lyrics of Bob Marley and my close interest in the works of James Berry and Derek Walcott. I never thought to myself - ' Yer! I mus write about the way they do talk round yer!'
Sometimes recently, I have even commissioned myself to write things. Despite being cynical about the Valleys' cliche of Male Voice Choirs, I still wrote about Dowlais Choir singing on the escalator in the precinct. I gave it to the accompanist of that choir. I tried to write a haiku in Welsh about the newly opened Theatr Soar and handed it to the organiser there.
My most satisfying poem was written last week and handed in yesterday to the librarian at Rhymney. Every week I take a Creative Writing class there and, as you enter the library, there is a cabinet of exhibits about the town's greatest son, poet Idris Davies.
Right opposite the library is a plaque on the terraced house where he died in April 1953 and I did try to seek out his grave in the local cemetery, but the gates were padlocked. My poem's a tribute to one of the finest poets from the Valleys. Ironically, I've lived close to Rhymney for years ,yet never sought him out except in books.
I have a confession to make. Not an easy one for a socialist : I watch 'Dragons' Den'!
I happen to admire all those characters with their oddball, imaginative inventions, some very useful and others which seem designed purely to accomodate the whims of the inventor.
I particularly liked the suit of chainmail armour for roasting chicken which appeared recently. I am a veggie, but still have to cook for the carnivores, so this seemed eminently practical. Needless to say, the woman received encouragement but not a ha'penny from the Dragons, due to her dodgy business plan.
I envisage myself appearing in the Den with the idea of a website in which I respond to requests for poetry. One of the Dragons, probably Theo, will dismiss me with - ' What you're asking is for me to invest £100,000 in you and not a business as such. Also, I've read your blog and I wouldn't give you 2P for your 'Everyday Verse' website. I'm OUT!'
Duncan has been writing down lots of sums - ' What's your net margin projections for the next two years?'
' Probably........ 20 sonnets, 43 haiku and , unfortunately, a couple of villanelles.'
Duncan will declare himself 'OOT!'
Despite my hopeless case for a slot on 'Dragons' Den', I do harbour some hopes. It would be nice to have my words on the front of a very large building, like Gwyneth Lewis's , in Welsh and English , on the Millennium Centre in Cardiff.
In actual fact, when that was being commissioned my older daughter and I did try to come up with appropriate phrases for the competition. However, instead of twenty letters I thought it was twenty words required! My entry would have filled the entire roof and probably stretched to the Senedd building nearby!
STORY OF THE LEAVES
If you do not believe me,
look closely at the leaves,
they tell a story.
They tell of trade
with no chwarae teg,
of children diseased and dying,
in a country of cities and industries
growing like plantations of buildings :
stalks of aerials, fronds of wiring.
Yet read the leaves of another cup :
a few pence more for the shine on skin
of toilers in the tea-gardens.
The shape that they make
is a full face fed and nurtured :
a story with plot and purpose.