A Very Welsh Anthology of Young Welsh Writers

Cheval 10 anthologyA Guest Post written by Thomas Tyrrell

There is a short story called ‘Daffodil Nipples’, two different authors chose the title ‘Welsh Cakes’, and Blodeuwedd (one of the central figures of the Mabinogion) has a poem to herself. The Cheval 10 anthology definitely has a Welsh feel to it, and that’s appropriate for a collection created from pieces submitted for the Terry Hetherington Young Writers Award, (for writers under 30 who live or work in Wales). But there are surprises too: a short story with the familiar title ‘Hiraeth’ turned out to be about an asylum seeker living in Wales, Martina Biavati came all the way from Italy to read her New York-set story ‘Caffe Giallo’, and Katya Johnson’s story about the French painter Cézanne won the second prize for prose.   

Thomas Tyrrell at the awards ceremony

Thomas Tyrrell at the awards ceremony

Declaration of interest: I am one of those writers included and I won second prize for poetry, so of course I’m going to recommend you buy the anthology. Perhaps more meaningfully, I’m going to recommend you submit something to the next one. I can say without a blush that this is one of the handsomest places I’ve ever been printed. Cheval 10 is a proper paperback with full-colour cover art, a nice typeface, no typos and they’ve even spelled my name properly (which I never take for granted). It makes you feel like you have a place in something substantial, which can only add to the prestige of the award.

If you’re lucky enough to get in, you’ll also get an invite to the Dylan Thomas Centre in Swansea, where they have a book launch / prize giving event. It was a great introduction to the contents of the volume, and the voices of the readers still echo in my head as I flip through the pages of the anthology. Jack Orchard’s spectacularly creepy poem ‘Independence’, for example, is something like Ramsey Snow from Game of Thrones as voiced by Robert Browning, and Julia Bradley’s reading of it made my hair stand on end “like quills upon the fretful porpentine”.

Rhian Elizabeth writes poetry about illness. In person, as much as on the page, her lines are spare, witty and delivered without a gram of self-pity, and her love poem ‘Madame Tussauds’ was made even more funny by her deadpan admission that she’d broken up with that girlfriend shortly afterwards. Ryan Clarke read his witty second-person romp with flair: his full title (the longest in the collection) is ‘You Are A Known Subversive Individual And I Hate You And Your Workmates Hate You And Your Parents Hate You. The Sort Of Behaviour Contained Within Is Why You Have No Friends. You Also Smell.’

Some of the Terry Hetherington award winners

Some of the Terry Hetherington award winners

The overall award winner, Chris, was clearly less comfortable reciting his work, but I found his performance an unexpected boon when I returned to his moving, tightly constructed stories of lonely outsiders and their surprising passions. I look forward to reading more of him in the future.

To make my evening even brighter, the event organisers offered me a lift home to Cardiff, allowing me to miss the last train and drink several more glasses of wine. If you write, you’re living in Wales, and you’ll be between 18 and 30 by January next year, you should definitely submit to Cheval 11.

Thomas Tyrell is currently completing a PhD at Cardiff University. He is also working on a novella called Catsitting for the Witch, set around Wenvoe and Dyffryn in the Vale of Glamorgan. His winning poem, featured in Cheval 10, is entitled ‘Pen and Pencil’.

You can buy a copy of Cheval 10 here or take a look at this film of the awards ceremony, where you can hear Thomas reading his winning poem at 17:12.

The photographs  in this post were supplied by Parthian.

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