Reflections on Edward Thomas 100 & National Poetry Writing Month

Glyn Edwards poet

Glyn Edwards

National Poetry Writing Month is over at last, and it seems like only yesterday that I was cosied up on the sofa listening to the autumn storms, thinking April seemed a long way off. It was back in October that I began to plan a series of events for #EdwardThomas100, to mark the centenary of the World War One poet, and to make Cardiff University’s incredible archive collections more visible to the public. It’s been an exciting few months, and it’s hard to believe it’s all over, so here are some reflections on the experience…   

Unexpected Connections

Lucy Newlyn poet

Lucy Newlyn

Firstly, you never know what to expect when you begin to research the life and work of a poet from the past. I had heard of Edward Thomas, and was familiar with some of his more well-known poems, but I had forgotten what research is like – the more you delve into someone’s past life, the more you get to know them, and the more you feel a kind of affinity with them, as if you wouldn’t necessarily be too surprised to bump into them one rainy day (rain will always make me think of Edward Thomas now), as they go about their business.

And then there are all the people (living people, I mean) that I’ve got to know, or got to know much better as a result of this project. Poetry brings people together in a way that defies expectations. On Friday 21st April a whole room-full of diverse friends and strangers congregated to share poems, to listen to each other, and to acknowledge the 100 year legacy of Edward Thomas. It was a magical, unique experience, which won’t happen again for another 100 years, and (of course) we won’t be around to see it if it does!

Edward Thomas 100 poetry reading

Jonathan Edwards reading at the event on 21st April (photo by Dave Daggers)

We were in the Little Man Coffee Company – a fabulous retro cafe in the centre of Cardiff (the kind of place I think Edward Thomas would have liked, if he were around now). Oxford academic Lucy Newlyn (fresh from attending the University’s Edward Thomas conference) read us some of her own poems, which echo the voice and feel of Thomas’s work. We were then treated to a set from Jonathan Edwards, whose poems about people and place also nod towards the poetry of ET.

Amanda Rackstraw

Amanda Rackstraw took part in the Open Mic

During the break there was a chance to see the pop-up Edward Thomas exhibition, downstairs in the old bank vault. This was just a taster of the exhibition proper, which includes original manuscripts, letters and objects belonging to the poet, now on display in the Arts and Social Studies Library. We then heard from Glyn Edwards, who’d come all the way from North Wales to read his work, including poems written in the voices of Edward Thomas and Robert Frost, as if they were responding to each other’s poetry.

Eleven people took part in the open mic part of the evening, and we had a huge variety of style and content, but all the work read out was in some way related to or inspired by Edward Thomas. It was an incredible event, and I was chuffed to see so many people wanting to take part.

Edward Thomas 100 creative writing workshop

The Edward Thomas 100 creative writing workshop was also a fantastic event, led by local writer Bryan Marshall

National Poetry Writing Month really works!

I set out on 1st April with good intentions, determined to not only share daily poetry prompts for others to be inspired, but also to try writing ‘a poem a day’ myself. I was sceptical of my own ability to do this (as I’m not generally a prolific writer and always struggle to write to prompts) but I can honestly say that it has worked its poetic magic. I haven’t written a poem every single day, I admit, but I have written far more poems this month than I had in the previous twelve months put together. I’ve also edited more, and submitted a few. The point of #NaPoWriMo is to kick-start the writing habit, and it’s certainly done that.

Events are fun but hard work…

It had been a while since I’d organised a series of events like this, on a grand scale, and I had forgotten how exciting it is to see your hard work come to fruition in the form of satisfied people attending the events in question… but I’d also forgotten how much work is involved. I can breathe a sigh of relief now – it’s over at last!

But not for long… Watch this space for more lit events coming soon! I am, and always will be, a literary event addict.

Click here to see the online Edward Thomas 100 exhibition, or visit the physical exhibition yourself in the Arts and Social Studies Library (it’s on until October, open Mon-Fri 9am-5pm).

And here’s a link to a piece I wrote for Click on Wales, about the legacy of Edward Thomas in Welsh writing today.

BIG THANKS to Literature Wales for supporting our events!