Witticisms, Wine & Welsh Writing

Writer Jasmine Donahaye

Jasmine Donahaye

If I was more of a wine drinker, I would certainly appreciate the complimentary refreshments on offer at the Cardiff branch of Waterstones for their regular literary events. Last Thursday’s event was not as packed as I’d expected, considering the fact that, not just one, but six incredible Welsh writers were there to read their work. It was a celebration of the Wales Book of the Year Award (all the writers being current or previous winners) featuring Thomas Morris, Kate Hamer, Patrick McGuiness, Jasmine Donahaye, Jonathan Edwards, Philip Gross and Rhian Edwards.   

I found a seat at the back of the room (on one of the slightly more comfy benches) sipped my tea, and sat back to enjoy an evening of entertainment on a grand scale. Lleucu Siencyn (Chief Executive of Literature Wales) began the event by describing how pleased she was that bookshops like Waterstones were embracing a new vision for Welsh literature, presenting books from Wales as contemporary, commercial and creative, not just relegating them to the hobbies section. The writers sat in a row at the front, awaiting their moment in the spotlight (or behind the low hanging ceiling light) and we moved gradually from poetry, through creative non-fiction, into fiction.

Poet Rhian Edwards

Rhian Edwards performing her poetry

There was a great deal of banter, especially from Rhian Edwards, who performed her poems, rather than reading them from the page. This was the first time I’d come across her work, and I was impressed. Her writing is full of strong images, and emotionally powerful. She recited some poems from her new pamphlet, soon to be published by Seren.

We had similar witticisms from the enigmatic poet, Jonathan Edwards, who entertained us with tales of his teaching and read us a poem about Spring, which took him a while to write, including “trees like green candy floss” and ending with “Pick up your bloody pen now, boy, begin!”

The writers did their best to compete with the humming fridge, which Jasmine Donahaye used to her advantage as a bus station sound effect, whilst reading a passage about the unique experience of using an Israeli public toilet, “the only enclosed public space you can enter in Israel without being searched” from her travelogue / memoir, Losing Israel.

Thomas Morris

Thomas Morris

Other highlights of the evening included Kate Hamer (best-selling author of The Girl In The Red Coat) reading an extract from her new novel, The Doll Funeral, due to be published in February, and Thomas Morris’s hilarious short stories from We Don’t Know What We’re Doing, which won this year’s award.

The wine flowed, the fridge hummed, the BBC filmed, books were bought and signed, and we were all treated to a taste of contemporary Welsh literature at its best.