Thursday evening at The Imp in Pontmorlais, Merthyr should be a momentous one for Red Poets.
Yes, we are 20 years old!
Issue 20 is one I'm especially proud of and includes a number of writers making their first appearances like Ponty's Steve Hitchins and fellow Cardi Paul Steffan Jones.
There's a posthumous poem from Alun Hughes, who was one of our most avid supporters and contributors down the years.
We are featuring three Welsh language poems : from myself, Chris O'Neill and Meic Stephens ; the latter a letter-poem about the Merthyr Rising of 1831.
Dave Lewis's cover photo is so arresting : a stark reminder of wreckage amongst the beauty of the Valleys.
There are vital contributions from regulars like Tim Richards, Patrick Jones and Alun Rees.
Enough of the plugging....I want to praise certain people who haven't had enough recognition during these 20 years.
As well as my invaluable co-editor Marc Jones from Wrecsam (who's responsible for all this in the first place with the original Red Poets' Society), a great deal of vital work in our early years was carried out by Alun Roberts and his wife Sian. Sadly they disappeared from the scene for a while, but have now returned and Sian has a poem in the forthcoming issue.
I'm hoping Al Jones will make a comeback also.
Hirwaun's Zen Buddhist tree-climbing Belgian beer officionado was a vital part of our team.
He was the main chauffeur and referee when the discussions got heated on the way home (invariably about religion). I'll never forget his Zen theories in a rough pub in Port Talbot, claiming that we were all dead / alive at the same time!
Al's black and white photos graced many covers and he soon came to write poems to accompany them.
Now's the time for an Al Revival!
My good butty Andrew Bartz has been our trusted audience ( well, we needed someone!) and official heckler. He designed several covers and contributed many witty cartoons.
Now, like others, he has taken to writing and ,hopefully, will have something in next year's one. His surrealist poetry and stories reflects his fascination with that art movement.
He has been through very tough times of late : unemployed at present and with his benefit stopped twice.
A truly talented and intelligent person who desperately wants to work, it's a real ConDemnation of our society that he has been treated so appallingly.
Both Julie Pritchard ( making her third appearance in the next issue) and Debbie Price have been regular supporters and performers at events over the last few years and, like Merthyr-born John Williams, their energy and enthusiasm has been a joy to experience.
In terms of music, Hastings and Pudner, Jamie Bevan and Barry Taylor have all added so much to our live performances (as opposed to previous dead ones!) giving us the chance for a singalong and much needed songs yn Cymraeg.
It's been wonderful to realise that Red Poets can galvanise such writersand singers, even as we sadly lose the boundless creativity of the likes of Alun Hughes.
This poem is based on Andrew's atrocious treatment . Although it's a fiction, it's close to what he's told me.
STOPPED MY BENEFIT
They stopped my benefit
an what ave I got
left to eat?
Two boggin tea-bags
an a tin o sardines
Say I never
signed on, but
I know theyer
system's t blame ;
it's appened before
'Fuck off!' a-computer sayz.
I always woz a worker
ever since sixteen :
I ad skills
an now I'm a nothin,
too ol f'r ev'ry job.
Lucky my landlor'
is a tidee bloke,
lucky I get adopted
in pubs by frens
buy me booze
take me with em.
Oo wan's somebuddy
cun draw cartoons,
cun tell yew anythin
bout blues, rock an folk?
They stopped my benefit
but carn stop my life :
gimme a pencil an a pint,
juke-box playin Neil Young,
jest gimme a book
an my ead'll be buzzin!