I was standing on Tonypandy station the other day, when I had a revelation. It came from a piece of stenciled graffiti under the bridge.
I like to think I was possessed by the spirit of Rhondda writer Rachel Tresize (rhymes with 'Dylan Thomas Prize' ), except she's still very much alive.
Sometimes I see things that make my mind totally boggle and just wonder if anyone else has noticed them.
Often it's been in Merthyr precinct : two instances being the subject of the poem below and a man I would liken to 'Table Top Joe' in the Tom Waits song from his brilliant album 'Alice'. He was knee-high on the pavement near where Smith's used to be and seemed to have no body, like the character in the song. Everyone passed him by without a head-turn.
Recently I've been involved in writing workshops at Primary schools as part of Literature Wales' Developing Dylan project.
For the last two I used a power-point devised by myself and my clever but often plugged-into-her-i-pad daughter, based on 'The Hunchback In The Park'.
For the first one I kept strictly to the power-point provided by them and found it was inappropriate : far too difficult and ,moreover, contained no creative writing element!
Now I've realised there is flexibility I am delighted that poetry-writing plays an integral role in their response to one of Thomas's most accessible poems.
'Hunchback' has all his typical hyperboles and thrill with sounds, yet avoids the nostalgic sentimentality of 'Fern Hill' , or the image-tangled obscurity of poems like 'All All and All The Dry World's Lever'.
I am something of an exception when it comes to his work. 'Under Milk Wood' - for all its wonderful word-pictures and conjuring of atmosphere - seems full of stereotypes and caricatures. It's almost a comic book portrayal of Wales compared with his vivid , realistic stories like 'Peaches' and 'Extraordinary Little Cough'.
Like Sylvia Plath , I believe that Dylan has been famous, in the main, for the wrong work.
The Dylan Industry is up and running with Centenary Year and a full programme for the Festival in Swansea. Anyone who happened to meet him over a pint at Brown's is probably now embarking on a lecture tour.
His beloved shed ( well, a replica) is currently touring the country, minus empties and fag-ash and we're all Dylan's Disciples, leaving out the seedy bits.
I can't complain, as it gives me an opportunity to go to Primary schools and get them writing about interesting characters, hopefully avoiding Simon Cowell, David Beckham and Minnie Mouse in the process!
Some pupils have really taken to it, notably the young girl who, when I asked her class who was the most famous Welsh writer ever promptly replied 'You!' Full marks and an A*.
What I have realised is that less pupils are now writing poetry. After all, it can't be properly assessed, can it?
I pointed out that Dylan uses virtually no punctuation in 'Hunchback' and one horrified teacher said they could only write like that 'today' and at no other time.
While the Centenary is laudable, we mustn't marginalise the many other writers who deserve equal recognition, such as R.S. Thomas and Alun Lewis ; not to mention Welsh language poets like Gwenallt and Waldo Williams, who hardly get a look in.
Like many poets in Wales I was once greatly influenced by Dylan and then rebelled when I came to study American poetry (especially the Beats, Lowell, Stevens and Olson). Now I hope I can be more distanced and discerning.
His distinctive 'ham actor' intonation can carry me along on a huge wave, but also make me chuckle at its posh tone and bombast.
Both my late mother and sister were/are Dylanites (or should that be 'Dyldos'?). Maybe their hero-worship makes me overly critical?
Still, but for him I would never have been on that station platform.
AFRICAN WOMAN AT-A MARKIT
Seen er jest once,
thought I woz allucinatin
(too much medication)
the African woman
servin at-a stall
sellin cheese, bacon an pasties
all embalmed in plastic.
Not like she woz dressed
all bright an colourful
but, sat on er ead
as she served the people,
woz an ewge bag o stuff :
carrots, frewt an thin's,
without a pasty in sight.
All-a time she balanced
tha bag like a footie star
with a ball, so outa place
I wonder now if I dreamt it
on a drab, damp Merthyr day
an nobuddy s much as commented.