National Poet Raises a Glass to Beer-Mat Poems for Pub Punters

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), July 11, 2006 | Go to article overview

National Poet Raises a Glass to Beer-Mat Poems for Pub Punters


Byline: By KAREN PRICE Western Mail

Wales's new National Poet has spoken of his plans to wallpaper the nation with poetry. Punters could soon be enjoying poems with their pints if Professor Gwyn Thomas has his way. He is determined to introduce poetry to the masses and he believes one way to target them would be in their local pubs.

And he would like to see verses pinned up on buses and trains and in the waiting rooms of doctors' and dentists' surgeries.

He also believes that poetry is not as widely taught in schools as it used to be and is encouraging more poets to take their work to schoolchildren.

'Sales of books of poetry, both in Welsh and English throughout Britain, are quite low,' said Professor Thomas, who has just taken over the role from Gwyneth Lewis.

'I'm going to try and do something about that.

'Although people often don't seem interested in poetry, rhythm is actually a basic part of our language and if we want to express ourselves we talk in metaphors.

'At one time, poems written by ordinary people were placed on buses in North Wales and shortly afterwards they started doing the same thing on the London Underground.

'I hope that we can do something like that again for the whole of Wales.

'It would also be good to print short poems on beer mats and pin them up in places where people tend to get bored, such as the waiting rooms of doctors and dentists. Hopefully it would get them interested in poetry.'

But Professor Thomas, who has published 16 collections of poetry and has a new book out soon, realises money could prove an issue.

'There definitely needs to be more public funding for poetry,' said the 69-year-old, who was born in Tanygrisiau, Gwynedd, and raised in Blaenau Ffestiniog.

Professor Thomas says that while most schools are keen to teach poetry to pupils, he believes that more steps could be taken to educate them.

'I don't know whether kids in schools these days learn poems as they used to,' said Professor Thomas, who once translated The Mabinogion into English. 'If you learn poetry as a child it stays with you.

'Some poets go into schools, which is an excellent thing and I would like to see more of that happening.'

Professor Thomas is a huge fan of the spoken word and he believes that more poets should do public readings of their work.

'I would also like to see tapes of poets reading their poems distributed to libraries and schools.'

Along with Kevin Crossley- Holland, he has just started translating the work of Aneirin, the earliest Welsh poet who dates back to the sixth century.

As well as bringing out a book of his work, Professor Thomas would also like to record the poems for future generations to enjoy.

'It's very important to preserve the work of Aneirin as he's part of our Welsh heritage - but the people in the rest of Britain don't realise he's part of their heritage too.' Professor Thomas was invited to become National Poet of Wales by Academi, the national literature promotion agency. …

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