Learner – Welsh
To speak, says a voice from the laptop,
Siarad. The cat curled up to his western
hip, content in her dormancy. Siarad.
It is his father’s tongue and he fears
another long, futile fight though itches
for something to start. To start. Dechrau.
The thing father and son never made fresh.
Then he hears it. That th. Not dechrau
but Dw i newydd ddechrau.
Bull-headed bastards is why there was never
that start. One refused to speak to the other.
Siarad. To speak. Refused to learn
from the other. To learn. Dysgu. Dysgu.
Here in mid-forties, and the father six years
dead, does he tackle the language,
lay down shame and anger at its absence.
To learn. Dysgu. He repeats out loud. Words
alien, yet familiar. They too were familiar, alien.
Then there it is again. Th. Dw i’n mynd i ddysgu.
The voice says not to worry, that such mutations
he’ll take to naturally. The cat stirs, stretches her
claws. Interesting, he thinks – diddorol,
dw i’n meddwl bod hi’n ddiddorol.*
*I think that it’s interesting – Welsh
“Firstly, thank you for inviting me to contribute something to this feature. Second, I am rubbish at talking about my own poetry, so what follows could just be the ramblings of a frustrated editor. I don’t think this poet always the best judge of their own work, to say which is their ‘finest’. However, I chose this piece of mine simply because it deals with several themes that I am currently addressing in various poems. Namely, a turbulent father and son relationship that played a part in the son not fully embracing Welsh identity, and then Welsh identity itself – in particular that late embracing of it. There’s a fascination, for me, in that those who come to a culture or political belief later in life than those who were born swaddled in it can become more fierce in their passion, an almost comical self-radicalisation – but is there a very real danger of that passion slipping into xenophobia and having to be constantly checked?
“I can’t quite recall how long I’d been learning Welsh (something that has lapsed for several reasons and I’m desperate to get back to) when I wrote this poem, 8 to 12 weeks is my guess. I do remember I was on a train when I scribbled its first draft – from Wales to Worcester via Birmingham New Street. Over the next couple of days there were trains to London, back to Worcester, eventually back to Wales and I think this poem got tweaked on every leg of the full round trip.”
This poem was first published by Abegail Morley on her Poetry Shed.
Brett Evans lives, writes, and drinks in his native North Wales. He is co-founder and co-editor of the poetry and prose journal Prole. Brett’s two poetry pamphlets, The Devil’s Tattoo (2015) and Sloth and the Art of Self-deprecation (2018), are both published by Indigo Dreams. Brett is currently working on what he hopes will be his first full collection.