New Poem

In a few weeks, Portsmouth Poetry will be hosting the fabulous Carys Eleri's one-woman show about the Welsh poet Gwerful Mechain whose poetry praised female sexuality and exposed the oppressiveness of men. Her work is wonderfully yet depressingly relevant more than five hundred years later. In view of the revelations about the appalling misogynistic behaviour in Parliament little more than a year after the kidnapping and murder of Sarah Everard, we are proud to add another poem by Rowen Brittany, an angry, saddening outlining of what it is to be one half of the world's population! [New Poem at the foot of the section]

Poems by

Rowen Brittany

For those who don't know the country, Wales is easily caught in cliché's - Snowdonia (though we call it Eryri and the mountain Yr Wyddfa), coalpit valleys, cold chapels, male voice choirs and ladies in tall black hats. Or maybe Tom Jones, Shirley Bassey and men in red on the 6 Nations pitch.


They are all part of a pride grown like a carapace over centuries of ridicule and prejudice from a nation who stole the land and tried to eradicate its culture. But these simplicities do not fit the country today. 


The decline of the chapel, the disappearance of old industries and, of course, the violent destruction of 'King Coal' tore the heart out of many Welsh communities leaving crime, violence, despair, cross-generational  unemployment and poverty. It's a Wales somewhat distanced from Dylan Thomas or druid-clad eisteddfodau. But poetry is alive and well in Wales, it has endured centuries of despair. Rowen Brittany is a Welsh poet based in Bristol. Her poems tap that darker reality but the traces of rhyme and cynghanedd are there. I bumped into Rowen at the Laugharne Weekend, the annual three day festival of literature, comedy and music in the town made famous by Mr Thomas, and was determined to get her onto the Portsmouth Poetry website. She is a talented and passionate writer, as the raw honesty and pain of these examples of her work show. 'Shakespeare sux' is a perfect expression of the frustration many pupils endure being force fed the classics in school (the subject of our 'Power of the Beat' project). I love the internal rhyme in "the soft woe is me type of imagery in the form of buttercup honey dew simile". National frustration is vented in 'EngErLaNd' for centuries of misuse at English hands in, for example, the lines "why cant you speak it well /  tongues and hands were tied / Knotted and forgotten with each conquest"  and I'm pretty sure Rowen is cleverly playing with the word knot both to reference the subjugation of the Welsh and the two hundred year practice of the 'Welsh Not' in which children as young as five in schools were humiliated and beaten for speaking their native language. All the voiceless youthful misery and frustration in Post-Thatcher Wales is captured perfectly in the closing line of  'lifeinsouthwales' - "experienced south welsh happiness pit valley shit / feel like i dont have any words left / at least any words worth it "  Grief is one of the oldest human sufferings and so a frequent subject for poetry. Though no less painful or pertinent for its recurrence it is hard to imagine another poem could bring anything new to over-stated tragedy but Rowen does. Birdsong is a poignant counterpoint to the rough urban setting of  part 2 and, yes, how many poets have noticed the guilt at the heart of grief?  'Soliloquies', a hard look at the rough realities of Dylan Thomas's 'ugly lovely' town today begins with a nod to Ginsberg's classic 'Howl' and lays out its harshness with the same gritty honesty and a clever reference to ancient Welsh history at its close. 'muse for a minute' is a necessary rant against men - and the line "now im just a girl in your gaze"  is a wonderful understated summary of how women are treated every day both as objects of lust and as something not significant! Social divisions today have taken on new forms and in the myth that class and inequality don't really exist anymore they have adopted new dimensions of arrogance and dismissal. 'Gentrification cru' is marked by its restrained vitriol nicely embodied in the dichotomy between a £6 sourdough (both financial distance and status consumption) and a homeless man. These are powerful testing poems that push the reader to acknowledge that life isn't always easy but with the reassurance that poetry truly is alive and there in everything except prose!

Josh Brown    

          Shakespeare sux


          im proper bored

          of all my written work

          like it was some old mans writing

          comparing thee to a rose shit

          keats yeats and wilde are on none of our sides

          mate

          they jus pass down archaic expectations from white man to white man

          boring english classes to death

          with ruler str8 lined biros and double spaced essays and worrying cos wuthering heights withered our eds

          and

          la belle dame sans merci isn't that great like i give credit where it's due but that rhyme scheme n rhythm is fuckin basic dude

          the soft woe is me type of imagery in the form of buttercup honey dew simile

          saying my pain is like anything, assumes too much if you ask me.

          "Ohhhh the wretchedness of my demise !

           Soft rosey cheeks catch gentle cries !"

           the world keeps turning consciously contrite an I can’t always be bothered to write

           id sooner sip beers soakin up sun rays talkin shit with my girls

           buh they wan us to

           find synonyms for sad for days on end til you

           hit a target that'll have english lit teachers questioning the use of the colour red

           or what a drawn out vowel could meeeeaaaaaan    

           but

           i like it raw n mainly off the dome

           and i find poetry in everythin but prose

             EngErLaNd


            “why are u in england then if you hate it

            so much”

            well devolution's not in full swing until it is i'm reaping the benefits my great grandparents couldn't

            so i ..

            Found my national identity in England

            surrounded by saes

            Repeated my home town once, twice -

            Llan. Genn. Ech.

            Yes. Lots of spitting sounds

            No I don't know Ellie Jones just cos she's Welsh…

            actually wait I do yeah, she went to Olchfa loves wind street she does….

            deffo copped off with a couple of the under 21s scrum half on beaujolais day….

            anyway

            i find over ere tho

            our welsh ness is constantly tested like

            why cant you speak it well

            tongues and hands were tied

            Knotted and forgotten with each conquest

            On their horses and in their pillages

            wore down , drowned our villages

            for power pride and resources

            moved my great great grandmother to the towns from the fields mind

            My bilingual love story cut at the seems by westminster's torys

            so

            This is to our culture crammed in one hour lessons a week,

            rugby clubs, cawl and shagging sheep

            Wales is The land of my fathers,

            Ar hyd a nos

            It’s the beauty of the North

            to the grit of Gendros

            It’s the matriarchal Moores towering over Thatcher torn towns

            Poetry’s in my veins

            in words I will drown

            In the rushing river streams to the steelworks strewn apart

            'Who pay no praise or wages

            Nor heed my craft or art’


Editors Note - 'Saes' is the Welsh for an English man or woman; 'Cawl' is a traditional lamb stew, 'Ar hyd a nos' is the hymn known in English as 'All through the Night'


lifeinsouthwales


waitin for the school bus

chloe got benson and edges from her mam shirley

and im in a hurry to toke this n make myself dizzy

an show grace i dont care wha my mam might say

dinner money goes on coke an snickers duo, hannah can eat my sandwiches

im starving myself for a feelin see

joints in the woods at the bottom of the field welsh countryside

we hidden in plain sight

adamant on attractin older eyes got me grown

got a big boy readin age

not quite gifted n half talented mind you;

half arsed my school work learnt to roll a biff good n

coasted til college where i met my dream boys

gower college swansea, jake’d already fucked up the shelter in a val rage bender

so when we smoked joints we’d get wet, four of us got a fiver so an 1/8th it is

cradle this for me en,

whos got baccy for a spliff they aint gettin twos from?

ow and whos got roach? Or a lighter an a skin

spent my last 89p chippin in for this blem..

fuck sake…..the boys get older n the girls stay the same age

we nor even workin for minimum wage just dole pays

we was warriors tho

I said it before n ill say it again when the tides in, down swansea bay

an we’re diggin up our bones in the sand

burying heads and roaches

an our hearts got 3 more beats than it should

untouchable n rude

scowerin mirrors for more delectable substances to misuse

drug analogues stopped the clock for a week or two

and indefinitely for some of yous

now The offy sees me more than my friends do

bossman takes note of my mood tho

he says “Owe me the remainder next week kid,

remember when you’d be in here 5 friends for a bottle and some king skins?”

now

your walk to the booze shops your solitude

your tough skins peeled away for a new one

eyes dodging eyes

paranoid

as if i can even talk about it

experienced south welsh happiness pit valley shit

feel like i dont have any words left

at least any words worth it 

Grief


grief part 1

It started with an unknown number

it had been years since we spoke through no fault but growing

your unsteady voice tried to tow vowels and consonants but not much sense

“He’s gone Rowen”

we took it in turns to cry and took it in turns to breathe

im sorry for us all

The first of many apologies, poems about grief and the guilt of just surviving


part 2

bird song means something else to me than it does to you

affected

possibly

by doped up philosophy

birds sing the comedown song waiting for the offy at dawn and sinking cans

to help forget we don't have much

serotonin left for the takin

but when we wake we take

steal crates and middle man to afford fun

we're lucky mind.

mornings on the beach

you'll never feel better than the salts in the sea

downers settin in

warm welsh sun all over your skin

reborn from sin

of the night before

of past remorse

all told before

You left a hole when you passed

You always knew how to make an entrance

with a cheeky smile

and a

fuck aye,

who's got twos for me en?

i got us semi sober spent in my village

then back to parties in the roundhouse

drunk off frosty jack freedom and knee deep in research finding them chemicals but losing our heads

i wish it stayed fun forever

we knew we weren't invincible

you affirmed the unbelievable

we was half hearted angels in the city of distilled pride

we never thought it would would be you

never thought

not for a second or a minute or an hour

and you're gone

our places remain

special spot. brymill. cwmdonkin.

st. helens. gowerton. three cliffs bay. langland. llangennech. sunday dinners at your mams and smoking out my window.

now im walking past our old haunts to the station

never further up than there

i still can't look tha street in the eyes

swivel away like it never happened

ignorance is crisp and brittle and im down to my last couple of crumbs

til white blizzards entrap negative

thought patterns taut skin grabbing

take a look in your discerning reflection from tha man made translucent environment youre stuck in

and you're gone

but i'll remember you by 6am birdsong 

part 3

reduced to numbers, grouped up

desensitised but overcome with emotion

friend groups are meant to grow apart

not go to wake after wake

before anyone can see 30

is this normal for towns to be so devastating .

a landfill of shredded hearts

where concrete meets the sea

and friendships are embedded in jpegs

four tinnies and a trammy

i remember why i used to rely on it

and i'm grateful i can do two and put the packet down

and i'm guilty for tha privilege

for feeling any type of way cos

there's guilt in surviving

and the selfishness that thought brings


part 4

i dun belong with the recoverers

the together only now pieced ourselves together folks

cos i'm scared i'll bring it right back for em

like my negative neurons will seep into their new pathways they've created painstakingly over years and years

and

i can't hang out with the fiends

cos i'm scared that'll be me again

fighting for ends on a spliff

askin 2 clean up the mirror with a card when the bags run out and the clock 

strikes 6

i got my friends but where am I between mortgages, houses n engagement celebrations?

between babies, dogs or sniffing

off a

tiny spoon in

the park

all afternoon

balance out prescriptions

with prescriptions not prescribed

i

dominate the emotions that mindfulness can't override

i

keep it as stable as established

we know where i am

we know where it was always gunna land

cos cautious predictions are premeditated instances

i'm baby faced but you can age me like a tree

by the rings round my mouth from toking n grinding down my teeth in my sleep

cos its always a

nother phone call nother wake nother phone call updated case

so i'm down the hospital again cos the bottle drowned me

same old week long

bender ended in

minor disaster

do you want the

crisis team nah

i'll pass thank ya


          soliloquies


          i seen the best minds of my generation picking up fag ends to chuck in their bong

          wearin head bandages like halos parading the high street screamin-

          “fuck aye the boys!!!!! there’s a war to win and i’ll tell ew how its done

          its selling 0.6 tens and valiums you mates brawd stole from auntie pam

          Its scrapin coins for frosty jacks before the smack got lots of us attached

          before party drugs turned necessary

          Wasted youths my dad would call us

         raves down the gower, underweighed bags to the youngers

         we know the secrets of the universe man i knows cos i just smoked dmt through a plastic bottle in my mates livin room

         as if spirituality comes by watchin acab graffiti on the wall come to life

         dave hughes wrote ambition is critical, before u thought dylan thomas did but wha he didn't do was write about

         But not how DEEP

         they dug our graveyard round here...

         Ambition drops off on tick

         Ambition thinks you're a prick

         Ambitions cross eyed nodding off and desensitised

         Ambition is fucking critical so

         sign me on en!

         fiver at the door to stick to the floor

         chuck us a key in the toilets (had one too many ciders)

         livin for the weekend forgettin how

         many weekends have been

         an how many are to come when i'm

         Stil love tha shitty place

         Soliloquies of swansea city

         the silures still remain.


Editors Note --  'Silures' were warlike tribes of what is now South Wales who opposed the invading Romans


       muse for a minute


       inspiring was i?

       showed you there didn't ave to be pretentiousness in prose,

       that anger has an important role to play and shoutins usually always the way

       for pobl like us

       so wha changed?

       after locked mouths, drunk calls an loose lips

       now im just a girl in your gaze

       nor even a friend now jus a

       mistake

       you developed assumptions based on your pious bias

       can't see how low ur self esteem is

       cos it's

       bold of you to assume cariad

      my inspiration comes for free n youre oh so friendly til

      u find a better me

      aw did i help show u theres power n anger

      in prose?

      til u found ur tone

      til u “made it out of home “

      an hop on tha big city scene

      big boy things ye?

      forgot where u come from before you’ve even left

      big boy things ye?

      ill take ur “self hatred” in just. 


Editors Note -- 'pobl' = people and Cariad means darling or sweetheart

substances


i burnt my bottom lip sucking the last substance from the roach

says a lot tho

it said slow down you're killing yourself

cos you never did have the guts did you kid

toy with the idea like a cat with some yarn

so you dance with fermented barley water n think

this'll be the end

but for now it's just a dance

its just a dance for me

pigeons of easton


i see specific spots under pigeon tunnel

of their collective shit

i run across them or try walk on the road if it's late try avoid that

embarrassing fate

in ur hair or on ur back

they sit on top under the railway track

n onto the lentils tha people throw out

well fed fuckers n hard as fuck

not scared of no one

fly right in ur face

easton

pigeons

own this fuckin place


Editors Note - Easton is an inner city area of Bristol



dissociatepoemtxt


Sorry while i dip out of this place my eyes are glazed lips parted undecided and unstartled

I got a few million synapses circulating you know

It gets quite busy up here at times

An they all got their conflicts all lined up auditioning

To be the main character of the show

Though i talk to them out loud to regulate our process

Talk through patterns of chaos then contentment then crying for days

Shits madness

Im not completely subdued, so its okay

Just enough to keep the dissension at bay

Til our discourse changes

Im not completely subdued, im just okay

contempt takes it day by day

Still…..im

Bending backward breaking bones to understand self disorder

Out of control to understand

Like who was i before all of you

Cant come to terms

Cant coax our mood out of bed

Cant keep them heavy as led on the floor til you come i pick up our contempt

Stoic and hellbent stockholm to all my sins

The right of passage is a confusing with no definite end

Cross and stable

Accomplice to all of my crimes

Lights stay dimming while no ones home

No one but you

And whatever rope threads us together,

cross stitched life of misfits

consider this a pint of prose - its tedious

34 lines of improper sentences - a linguistics issue

I stay clambering through these stages im fucking homogenous with my own fine print

Add all the disobedience i was born with

Adaptation takes control til i'm enrolled in this new shit

Life, expectations and growing pain myths

Another way to feel low in the pits

Issa minor though

The less you try the harder it is

For people like us



Gentrification Crew


narrow my eyes in line with the gentrified cru

got a homeless man crouched near this place tha sells sourdough for 6 quid a loaf

no one in the queue got a penny for him just the

apple pay app from their iphones that

reflects lights from the screen to

form halos on their heads round their heads

they donate to charities sometimes every christmas sometimes some clothes to a food bank

and at least they voted labour they say

at least they voted to stay

“he’s probably gunna spend it on drugs anyway”

like their colleagues aint smashing wine and scripts

to get through their version of mundane and interpersonal shit

its different for you tho cos you can afford it

you’re lining up to smell freshly baked dough

chattering overbears a rumbling stomach.

the coulette wearing etsy wool gloves n organic chai drinkers

with no money for him.

hes scrapin his pockets for baccy

I chuck him some

and coins if i got any

while most don't even say hello or

‘no sorry’

but go share statistics of

homelessness on their instagrams

when they get home


Self care


herds her thoughts to the slaughter rounded up by coiled sprigs mechanical pigs rule the roster...

sweeping bottles under the rug

so now she's just

thoughtless for all the wrong reasons

good for now but the futures smirking

little girl you know the drill by now

you know tha

when the last pills popped out the foil

an paradises' lost;

"The dismal situation waste and wild.

A dungeon horrible, on all sides round,"

her head screws penultimately

waiting to loosen

proving intrusions right and wasteful rights of passage to the privilege she was gifted

shes got it bad. spirits half alight

lines eyes with razor sharp ink to make a mans heart beat hard

no harm in momentary secondary validation cos we all know how it ends anyways

she's independent buh she can't possibly love

shes a shell of abundance of hate

she’ll try the headspace app

used to much data

so she deleted tha crap

her shadow work starts at 5 o'clock

a fear mindful influencers provoke

and far far away purgatory's the prerogative cos

you can't fear

what you don't know

self care is therapy shes told herself

but missed sessions got her kicked

support worker said sorry it's just policy

she'd tried her best

like you'd tried yours

can't measure scars on my skin if they were self inflicted

after all

can't measure how hard it's made it to

just exist

shes sick.

boys with saviour complexes tryna cover her in the shinin support

and bein shocked when their light dimmed to match hers

not that it was ever strong enough to shine thru all of it in the first place.


Cara


When you say ‘we’ it's the first time i ever believed it

Our weekly phone appointments means

I cant judge your face or trace your frown or follow laughter lines

and assume your lifes been fine

That you went uni at 18 and graduated normally

And that you dunno know pain like mine.

You want me to do well, i can hear it in your voice

And skim my lows on some tidal wave manic shit.

Not much purpose when they don’t scratch the surface

A balancing act i “could be capable of learnin”

..But “we’re happy i am self aware” - still

helpless at conflict's knee but i believe you get me .

And it is we

but ultimately

Its just me

I went home like you told me to, llangennech

river stillness, the absence of other sound makes me wanna

bend to your will but i aint that malleable to be mindful

I'm trying to journal jot while drinking peppermint tea affirmations like

“you got this mun”

It's still validation

tainted at the seams

to thread into my worth

a tapestry of vapid words n needless nerves

To confirm

im coal, im concrete,

i’m toxic waste disguised as a sweet

i'm unsure and half willing,

make plans live fast if them forces will it

“You ought to be proud im getting good marks”

Finding adequate lines is like a needle in the haystack

Relax your muscles, start with your toes,

and untense your jaw, if you have the patience

But i dont

Im face painted concerned,

a byproduct of my nerves

Standard practice really

Wake up prescribed med induced mania,

100mg of guilt free energy

Make a coffee, ride that wave get shit done then

Then wait while you quietly crash down

And iv been too long at sea,

Long enough to get over the sickness

Not long enough to come back home 

New Poem

i learnt to be afraid of men as soon as my dad

told me how to hold my keys on walks home

when i learnt no didn’t mean no

when i got rewards for the gazes cast upon me

when i

wore a marks n spencer skirt that my teacher

said was too short

when i

wore a top that my abuser said was too

woman like

when i

didn’t know how to say no

couldn’t say no

didn’t think it was an option

when i got called frigid to when i’ve been

called a whore cunt bitch slag

it ain’t safe to be as free as they think we are

and my bravado is louder than anyone’s

and my walk and demeanour doesn’t scream

vulnerability

but my existence as a woman is so loud

it attracts the sight of every eye for miles

every step forward helps to flee from their

indoctrinated contempt of us

every step backs cautionary but fair

we don’t know you won’t do to us

what other men before you did

New poems by

 Byron Beynon

Byron Beynon is a Welsh poet from Abertawe (Swansea). His poems, essays and reviews have featured in several publications including the Independent, Planet, Cyphers, Agenda, The London Magazine, The Seventh Quarry, Wasafiri, The Galway Review, the human rights anthology In Protest (University of London and Keats House Poets), Poetry Ireland and, of course, Poetry Wales. He has read his work in venues in Wales, the Edinburgh Fringe and Hay Festival, and is the author of several collections including Cuffs (Rack Press), The Echoing Coastline (Agenda Editions), and Where Shadows Stir (The Seventh Quarry Press). Portsmouth Poetry is proud to join this impressive list with some of his latest poems. These collections are available from the usual suppliers and we encourage you to support local booksellers.

WITTGENSTEIN IN SWANSEA


He is no longer in Berlin,

Cambridge or in the Austrian army,

but poses for a photograph

wearing an open-necked shirt,

breathing the Welsh ozone

he appears relaxed

waiting for the inevitable

moment of the camera's execution.

The opera of words and the eloquent

sounds of the bay within

hearing of his language philosophy.

The holiday talk,

the demolition of tradition,

those limits unknown

that never cease.

The equation of mathematics

witnessed by a full moon

through the endless

branches of a computed summer.

'The Echoing Coastline' Agenda Poetry 2013

Editor's Note - Ludwig Wittgenstein [1889-1951] was an Austrian/British philosopher born in Vienna  famous for his work on language. Regarded as the greatest C20th philosopher inspiring a generation of 'logical positivist' philosophers, his 'picture theory' of language argued that reality is a vast collection of facts and language enables us to see these facts as pictures.

SURFERS


A glint of wetsuits

scythes the Langland surf

on a roller day,

waxed boards

fizz the siren

of lathery spray,

a witness of blue sky

above the winter-music

on a morning balanced

for a marine rodeo;

the sea-dog

emperor of the bay

with thumb erect,

nature’s surveyor

moving like a maelstrom

towards the fluctuating shore,

a reflex of surfers,

the energetic insects

on the skin of Neptune’s

melted rink.



ROOTS


Hearing my mother speak Welsh

I am at one

with her voice,

that sense of place

where her tongue

 rests and feels at home.

I know the language

breathing inside

imagination's flame.

Vowels across time,

a craft to decipher

like a scent which bloomed.

I witness her happiness

that only the words can bring,

those natural roots which grow within.


BILLIE’S GARDENIA


A gardenia in your hair,

your voice

sliding and echoing

through the sultry air.

Never look back,

walk slowly on

with your fragrance,

as the music stays

to bless the listener

who nods his head

in a union of beauty and shade.

Those southern trees and the dust of despair,

the consistent light you brought

reaching towards the darkness of corners,

breathing in once more

all of tomorrows’ wounded rhythms.



A BAR AT THE FOLIES-BERGÈRE

after the painting by Edouard Manet


Her mind is elsewhere,

inhabiting a stillness within

as the drawn hours of servitude

gradually emerge on her face.

The empty noise of human life

fades as she gazes away

from the cabaret's forged promise.

The expensive alcohol

about to escape

from the music of bottles,

a geometry of untouched

fruit by her left hand

as a customer waits

for his evening to begin.

Art's flowers accompanied

by the atmosphere of a room's address,

those mirror'd images

caught forever by

the painting’s unbroken reflection.

Editor's Note -  'A Bar at the Folies-Bergere' is an 1882 painting by French artist Edouard Manet now in the Courtauld Gallery in London. It shows the bar attended by a young woman with a mirror behind her in which the busy nightclub can be seen reflected, a new and imaginative perspective for the time. On the bar are bottles of champagne, liqueurs, and at the far right a bottle of British Bass beer. 

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COMING SOON

Portsmouth Poetry hopes to bring you a review of Byron's poetry soon. Check back

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These poems are the intellectual property of the author and may not be reproduced without permission. In the event that you wish to use any part of these works, Portsmouth Poetry will be happy to contact the author on your behalf.