Poet and Cardiff University staff member, Osian Rhys Jones, provides some context for the poem he wrote exclusively for Cardiff Connect magazine, in the year that the National Eisteddfod was hosted in Cardiff Bay. Osian was awarded the Chair at the National Eisteddfod in Anglesey in 2017.
Gwyn ein byd – Osian Rhys Jones
Wedi Eisteddfod Caerdydd, Awst 2018
Hen ddociau boneddicach
sydd erbyn hyn yma’n iach,
Yn enw’r Bae, gwyn yw’r byd
a hwyliau’n hafau hefyd.
Y Bae glân, Bae gwag o laid,
Bae diwyneb, dienaid.
Rhy Brydeingar ddiaros
’di’r byd sy’n dweud pwy-’di’r-bòs.
Cynghanedd senedd ein sŵn
yw’r weriniaeth a rannwn.
Croesawn pob câr a sinig;
chwalu’r mur, nid chwarae mig.
Nid Bae oer, ond Bae euraid
a Bae’r ŵyl yw’r Bae o raid.
Yfwn ein haf heno’n hir,
haf undod ein cyfandir…
Ond amodol ei olud
yw’r bae hwn, os gwyn yw’r byd.
This poem is written in the ancient Welsh poetic art of cynghanedd. In essence, the cynghanedd is a standardised pattern of rhymes, alliterations and metres which cling on the predominant accents in words. Traditionally poets would hone their skills for many years at Bardic Schools, learning in the company of masters in the craft. These poems would largely be for the noble class – poems of praise, eulogy and other social conventions in medieval Wales.
In the latter half of the 20th century this craft earned a remarkable revival in fortunes, becoming a mode for popular, challenging and modern poetry, without losing the complex beauty of the traditional forms. These days many poets use these forms in increasingly innovative ways, choosing to write about contemporary issues such as political earthquakes, the creeping of invasive social media and the psychological trauma of our hyper-connected modern society. Throughout this, the umbilical connection to the past is maintained through the cynghanedd, strengthening the modern interpretations of the art form.
In this poem, Osian Rhys Jones has used a form called a cywydd, where each line contains an individual cynghanedd, arranged into rhyming couplets.
“Cynghanedd poetry, especially the cywydd is a great way to juxtapose conflicting ideas. It is a way to polarise these ideas, where the poet, or the listener/reader, can bridge the intellectual gap presented in the discord of the poem. It is also interesting that a discord can be presented with such musical harmony as the cywydd offers, again grinding ideas and sounds against each other until they become one and the same.”
“To see Cardiff Bay embraced by the free, fenceless and inclusive National Eisteddfod was heart-warming to this Cardiff resident.”
“But one is all too aware that the Bay itself is a recent construction, so much so that there’s a sense that the past itself has been whitewashed from it. Here I wanted to question ‘whose Bay is Cardiff Bay’? The Bay of the residents of Butetown and Tiger Bay? The Bay of the Senedd and high art? Can these things coexist, or are the social and ethnic differences too large? Adding the Eisteddfod into this melting pot was an interesting act.”
“Many would regard Welsh speakers as a disadvantaged minority, its numbers of speakers declining and its voice ignored in the Anglophone world. At the same time, economic migration into Cardiff by young Welsh speakers is increasing (reflected by demographic shifts in the language’s ‘traditional’ rural areas) – thus ironically contributing to the pricing out of Cardiffians from certain areas such as Canton and Grangetown. Catrin Dafydd, the winner of this year’s Crown brilliantly raised this matter in her winning collection of poems.”
“The cywydd is also known as a tool of political directness, most notably exercised by the late Gerallt Lloyd Owen during the 20th century. And despite the success of the festival, it’s hard these days to avoid the shadows of destructive politics that wants to drag us back to an imagined past and building barriers between people. For one week, the Eisteddfod in all its glory allowed us to imagine an open, more united Wales in a better world.”
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