Lessons in Welsh and Poetry from Ty Newydd

Croeso i Gymru – Welcome to Wales

After 20+ years spent in Great Britain, why oh why have I not visited Wales before? The combination of mountains and sea is exactly what my soul has been craving ever since I came to this island and a worthy substitute for my Genevois home which I miss with all my heart. This was enhanced, of course, by glorious weather and the serene setting of David Lloyd George’s house at Ty Newydd.

Trochi – Immersion

Reading, writing, listening, talking, eating, breathing, touching poetry as if it were the most important thing in the world. A protective glass bell for even the most fragile bloom to grow and blossom.

Diolch – Thank you

Under the gently challenging guidance of George Szirtes and Deryn Rees-Jones, who created a real feeling of community of like-minded people, who discuss your work rather than your personality or what they would have written instead. Profound admiration and respect to Polly, Jenny, Sophia, Jane, John, Antony, Dafydd, Christine, Simon, Vanessa, Margaret, Mary and Arji, who stretched my mind, made me laugh, made me cry and made me want to persevere. People who are serious about poetry, regardless of age and background, not ‘retired hobbyists’ (as implied in that controversial report). Not that there is anything wrong with opening up the world of poetry to hobbyists either…

Dechreuadau newydd – New Beginnings

To be honest, I was the most amateurish one there, the least experienced and the least ‘serious’ about poetry, too easily distracted by my other writing and blogging and reviews. It really brought home to me that you need to dedicate yourself seriously to poetry, to reading and writing it every day for years if you want to improve rather than just have a few happy accidents of phrasing.

Digon – Enough

The first few days I was panicking about not being productive enough: I had been hoping to repeat the feat of October in Provence of 35 new poems in 5 days. Particularly since at this particular point in time I could not really afford the fees (reasonable though they are, compared to other courses). It was almost as if I were measuring out spoonfuls of ground coffee and expecting a spectacular yield of nectar by the end. Then I learnt to relax: there are times of accumulation which are just as valuable as those productive times.

Syniadau Newydd – New Ideas

Ideas can come from anywhere, from following the course of a river through the woods, from blackberrying your way down the path to the sea, from watching a dog gambol on the beach to finding a rare volume of ecclesiastical history in the profound peace of Gladstone’s Library.


Anadlu – Breathe

How to keep the momentum going after this week out of time and space? I need to spend part of every day with poetry, not just turn to it when I am procrastinating on my novel or when I have an odd moment of inspiration. I need to practise and improve my craft, which means finding a writing group dedicated exclusively to poetry, although the more generic local one is a good source of inspiration in other respects. If I cannot find one geographically, perhaps I need to organise an online critiquing group.

Llyfrau – Books

One can never have too many books. They are the most beautiful decoration to a room and they bring endless delight and inspiration to yourself and to others.




Gwartheg – Cows

Do not attempt to outrun a field of Welsh cows, who are nothing like as blasé about intruders as their Swiss cousins.

24 thoughts on “Lessons in Welsh and Poetry from Ty Newydd”

  1. Good to hear you had such an inspiring experience. I did an Arvon course many years ago and one of the best things was being among like-minded people.

    1. It was like being in a bubble, and occasionally that’s exactly what we need to remind ourselves why we are writing. When the world outside gets too noisy and annoying.

  2. Oh, it all sounds wonderful, Marina Sofia! So glad that you had this opportunity, and that it rejuvenated you. I can see how just the scenery would lift your spirits. It’s gorgeous!

  3. Wales is just beautiful (I’ve been there many, many times over the years) and I’m glad you were in such a wonderful setting – and also that the course was so good. As for people sneering at ‘hobbyists’ – would they rather that we all sat mindlessly in front of soaps all day???

    1. I think the complaint had something to do with whether those who attend such courses do go on to publish books, or whether it is just a money-making scheme. Which is a false dichotomy, because I would rather these historical places support themselves by offering ways into literature and art than through weddings.

  4. So glad that you enjoyed your visit to the land of my birth. I’m impressed by how much of the language you picked up in such a short time. It’s a fiendishly hard language to learn – I have tried many times and given up in despair

    1. You do come from a beautiful part of the world and I’m ashamed I did not explore it earlier. But I did use Google Translate for most of the above, although I do now know Bore da, Nos da, Diolch and Afar (Slow, which was the one I picked up while driving).

  5. I am so happy you took this course. A beautiful setting indeed. And encouragement to write poetry, not just produce poetry. Several years ago I stopped all writing except poetry. I do not regret it one iota. I learned that while it is good to be published, it is more important to write poetry, not the end all and be all of being a poet. I have been offered several times to be published but I said no. It pleases me yes, to think I wrote something that would be in a book with other poets but then, I realized I was being herded into publishing, to “growing my brand”, to up my readership. Bah! I don’t feel comfortable with it yet. Maybe when I am 80 or so. I miss you at dVerse. You don’t have to be on staff, just more than rarely contribute. We have some great poets on board who come up with some mind stretching and soul soring prompts. For exampke for MTB we did an acrostic form and learned about all the different types. I actually wrote one I was pleased with! This week we have a haibun prompt to write about the seasons between the seasons. I am using a pic I took to illustrate komorebi…light filtered through leaves rather than light filtered by trees, rice paper, etc. There is a poetics prompt to write about magic! And of course, every haibun Monday there is also OLN on alternating Thursdays. I’m not pushing you, just encouraging you to find a focus for your light. I truly do miss you. Hugs.

    1. Great minds think alike. I’ve been considering getting more involved again with dVerse, because I always learn so much from the prompts and from reading other poetry. I just let my silly old life get in the way. I hope to get some of this life stuff out of the way within the next couple of weeks and then I can dedicate myself more fully to writing poetry. Also, I wish people would be more critical of my efforts. Maybe I should ask those who comment to be ruthless, what do you think?

  6. What a glorious setting for your retreat! No wonder you sound so refreshed and reinvigorated after the experience. I’m so glad to hear that it worked out for you.

    1. I did feel a bit out of place the first day or so, when I realised how far behind everyone else I was, but then I thought: I’m not here to compare myself to anybody else. I’m here to learn and be inspired. And I was!

  7. I recognise your enthusiasm at just completing a writing course, with all those magical attributes that you mention. I am especially pleased that you liked Wales as I grew up there (but in the south). Lovely post. Thank you.

    1. Lucky you growing up in Wales! I was driving through it and wondering why there was such a difference in income between it and Switzerland or Austria, for example. But I suppose the mining heritage had a part to play…

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