It's been an amazing couple of weeks for the Red Poets. I don't want to go over the top, but it feels like a revival.   While the magazine was never in need of one ; the performance aspect certainly was.
   Sadly, some of the old hands like Jazz and John 'Maesycwmmer' Davies haven't been around to join in, but the latest magazine (issue 18) - with a striking portrait by Alan Perry of the late socialist poet RedRej on the cover - is surpassing all others in terms of positive feedback and , so far, sales as well.
   It began with the launch in late September at The Imp's monthly Open Mic. night in Merthyr and followed on at The Castle, Tredegar, this month.
   At both events there was a fascinating combination of music and verse, which brought back the halcyon days of Riff Williams , whose songs were always so powerfully delivered.
   ( Incidentally, Riff and his band Little Miracle seem to have disappeared from the internet completely. One day some musical archaeologist will dig up his work and its treasures will be on display for all to see in the future).
   At The Imperial the music was provided by Huw Pudner and Chris Hastings, who desperately need a name, a record deal and a crafty, I'm not offering my services!
   They gave us contemporary folk which is so rare nowadays : one which engages with the struggles of working people, without ever sounding preacherly. Chris's gentler voice is well complemented by Huw's harder tones, no doubt influenced by his heroes like Dick Gaughan.
   The room was fit to bursting and a Canadian who arrived late ( I thought he said he'd come from Ireland!) thought it was too cramped...the first time anyone's commented that! Old stagers like myself and Tim Richards read alongside Julie Pritchard and Jonathan Edwards (making their debuts in this issue).
   Wonderful to see Chris O'Neill read again and he has a very good poem in number 19, which I'm already in the process of planning. Also, Emily Hinshelwood, just one of the many Red Poets who have gone on to win the John Tripp Prize for Spoken Poetry.
   The Tredegar gig was organised by local Andrew Benjamin and we knew it would be a tougher task , as they just weren't used to listening to poetry there.
   It was doubly tricky because we had to read in the public bar with punters present , who were there for the beer not the verse.
   Luckily, we had a real mic. and a landlord and -lady who were full of encouragement, in contrast to our last performance in Newport when the landlady actually refused to knock off the juke box at first, even though poetry-goers were the only ones in the pub!
   Music was provided by Merthyr's own Jamie Bevan with one of his band Gwedillion and Blackwood's Barry Taylor. Both are committed socialist republicans and Cymdeithas campaigners.
   Unusually for our events, there was a group of 6th form pupils from the local Welsh language Comp. I stupidly asked them were they there for the poetry or music, to which they replied in unison -   'Jamie Bevan!'
   The music that night was forceful and direct : Barry's two Welsh language songs about the Jubilee full of mockery and his version of 'Dance on Your Grave Mrs Thatcher' by John McCullagh ( a song I wasn't familiar with) was a real roof-raiser!
   A pub-load of people singing along to the karaoke any day.
   Jamie is a different kettle of piranhas altogether. He performed all the songs from his fine EP 'Torri Cerffiw' and his lyrics are  literally oozing Merthyr : from 'Jonathan a Jonathan' about an infamous character 'Sioni Pen Tips' to the wild and witty 'Strydoedd Merthyr', he is rarely political, yet a genuine 'canwr bro'.
   Jamie Bevan has a prison poem in the next issue and I'm very excited about the contents so far, with new poets like Paul Harrington and Mair Pitt contributing.
   I took to The Castle as soon as I heard Captain Beefheart on the juke -box and was told they had piles of Tom Waits.
  As I was reading 'A Big Party' from last year's magazine, someone yelled 'Fuck off!' from the back and a couple of minutes later the poem echoed this phrase.
   ( I was told later that he was actually shouting at his mobile, but it didn't sound like that to me!).
   Patrick Jones, Tim Richards and John Williams 'shone like crazy diamonds' and we took Tredegar. They even want us back on a regular basis ( hopefully not just to boost sales of booze!).
   Now I'm looking forward to our next gig at the Oxfam Bookshop in Swansea on November 7th, starting 7 pm.
   It will be a third launch and a fitting one to commemorate RedRej, whose poems will be read by the well-known actress Helen Griffin.
   John Tripp was a writer who, I 'm sure, would have been an avid supporter of Red Poets.
    He was consistently leftwing and highly conscious of Welsh working-class history, even though he became extremely disillusioned after the 1979 referendum on devolution.
   I'm very grateful to John because he gave me my first opportunity in print, by publishing a couple of early political poems in 'Planet' in a very odd patois.
   He could be very abrasive in later years, but was one of the best performers around. He would have relished the challenge of a Valleys pub and an audience unused to poetry.

                               MEETING TRIPP'S  GHOST

I'd arranged to meet Tripp's ghost
in his home town of Bargoed.

He'd be on the Cardiff train,
myself on the Merthyr bus ;

non-driving poets, both experts
at cadging unlikely lifts.

He was looking rather haggard,
as befits one 26 years gone.

Didn't seem healthy enough for a few pints,
so I suggested the new caff, the Bookworm.

'Yew're goin soft, boy!' he growled,
taking me from tavern to tavern :

the Old Mill, Blast Furnace  and the Nelson.
Told him he'd given me the worst advice from anyone,

'Don't be funny about the Valleys!' he'd said.
He laughed, asking if they'd erected a plaque yet.

He couldn't believe the state of the town -
'It's like a bloody building-site, mun!'

He railed against supermarket plans -
'I knew it...Tescoville,Morrisonburg, MandSton!'

Pissed up against the visual projection
of roads, people, buildings in one direction.

From Mozart Cottages in Pontlottyn
and Tennyson and Milton Terraces

shoppers passed him by tut-tutting.
'Hanbury Chapel's a library now,' I told him,

'but the Emporium's empty as a disused mine.'
'I was always a visitor, you know,' he explained.

'You mean in Cardiff? couldn't belong?'
' the end, the page was my home.'

01/28/2013 07:06

Any chance of a Cymru Goch Revival?

06/03/2013 02:29

Nice poem! Most impressive thing about ‘Tripp’s Ghost’ I sits flow of course! Only talented people can find lyrics from each and every subject and this particular piece is a perfect example for the ability to create many things from something!

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