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Coleridge in Wales...

Into ice the sky
Melts, projecting raindrop clouds,
Drawing words from song
Inbetween the crevices
Where water runs like cold ink. 

Part One

On a mast of pine,

her flag still proud...

On the 20th May I was delighted to be involved in The Coleridge Festival's Ancient Mariner event in Swansea SA1; with Poets on the Hill, jazz on the quay, archaeology and pirates, a ton cube of ice and a ghastly crew aboard the (mock-medieval) Matthew of Bristol.

R.M.Parry's tour of Wales, following in Samuel Taylor Coleridge's footprints, had only just begun. As I taught children about climate change and dendrochronology little did I know how important Coleridge's influence was about to become in other aspects of my work, including giving birth to 'The Nib Speaks' - a series of spontaneous short poems tied in with performance art and photography.

Tide after tide the moon-star dog
Does sail, too quick for groan or sigh,
Her face white as the distant foam,
With land set in her eye.

And then there came the ice, a ton,
It melted on the quay,
Waist high, more brilliant than the sky,
It wintered, as glassy as the sea

Within the shadow of the ship
We spoke of changing bone;
The glossy hue of polished time,
The crumbling teeth and sandy core,
Told their own most ancient rime.

Dark was the day and dark the night,
Yet never a breeze up-blew.

Part Two

A month later and the Coleridge tour joined Stories, Songs, Science and the Sea in rehearsal at the new Aberystwyth Bandstand. The following involved an interview with Radio Bronglais and a talk by the Canadian academic, Professor Tom Dilworth on David Jones' woodcut illustrations of Coleridge's Rime of the Ancient Mariner. This was at the National Library of Wales and coincided with an exhibition there of Jones' in combination with Aled Rhys Hughes. 

The guests are met, performance set: 

May'st hear our merry din.

Merrily did we stop 

Above the kirk, upon the hill, 

On the hottest day of the year. 

In exhibition 
at the National Library
- trees, war, photographs;
memory, images told,
still alive with an old grief.

Part Three

Cool from the hot and copper sky, 

The talk to start post-noon, 

Down below the mast did stand, 

Young Parry, in the waiting room. 

The Sun came high, to the mermaid drawn, 

Out of the song came he! 

And he shone bright, and on the right 

Fell dancing into the sea. 

All heads were turned
by Davy Jones

engraving words

into ancient rime. 

When Lammas (August 1st) came around, I found myself beside another ton cube of ice (provided by the wonderful Ice Academy). This time at Gorsedd y Beirdd, in the National Eisteddfod, Abergavenny. 

My role was to continue with 'The Nib Speaks', only in additional response to 'Bugeliaid Newydd' ('New Shepherds'), with Ivor Davies, Chris Glynn and Richard Parry. 

New shepherds gathered

in their flock of dreams, drawing

life out of the cold.

Small brushes recorded

the destruction of a harp

by an abandoned wind

whose trumpeting tangled

in the roaring of repetition

as the nib spoke

to a leaving tide.

The nib spoke

with many hands

from a grove of ice

Huddled beneath an umbrella, dipping the brushes into meltwater and ink, Ivor began to paint onto the roll Chris had begun. I improvised a poem about climate change, which they illustrated together as the rain fell, rhythmic with a cold which did not belong to an August afternoon. 

The sky and the ice

wore a shared colour, making

solid the one world.

Afterwards I sat in a small tent, accompanied by the incessant rain and Ivor Davies' film, 'Pyrogenesis'. To begin with we projected this film onto the tent wall, which was invisible to daylight eyes - so the music played quietly into the Eisteddfod hum almost unnoticed by passers by. Only I heard it all, again and again as darkness claimed the ambiguities and images began to take shape on the purple canvas of my shelter.

a single heart is wrapped

in the small flood

a comma to the climate's parenthesis. 

A travelling sonograph

showed us the way home

by reversing time

Then, as darkness dried out the day

we turned the projector onto the ice.

In the midnight ice

Bugiliaid Newydd rang

with a rainbow song.

My deepest thanks to everybody concerned, including Huw and the Eisteddfod tech team, Arcipelago, Honeycomb Print Services, Vision Computer Centre and UWTSD Faculty of Humanities & Performing Arts.

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