Sharon's a sad bag. Spiky, screwed up,
folded in on herself
in a tough brown shell
like the bark
autumn's last conker.
Some say she has a pretty smile
though it's rare — tell the truth, it's prettier
for being scarce like rain in a desert
but nobody' s seen
her petals unfold
for quite a while.
But give her a drop to drink
when the weather’s right, in the monsoon season —
tears, or gin, or tempest water —
a cupful of dew and roses,
turns her plump, smooth face to the rain
and drinks, fearless, from the eye of the storm.
A purple crocus
its stamen creme-egg yellow;
a shiver glaze
on the white enamel mug.
You're my Dutch painting:
the place the light gets in,
making everything strange
Darling, I want to send you a llatai –
a thing, like an arrow, aimed straight at the heart
an illiterate envoy of feeling,
its very self silently eloquent.
But there are so many things in the world –
which would be best to choose:
the one right thing, full of all longing,
the very thing?
On the other hand, maybe a flower?
A hawthorn, a rose, a cactus perhaps
— something a little spiky
which knows, all the same, the talent to flower.
No, I will send you a handbag,
a scary sackful,
a rag-bag of bits.
I will wrap my letter in skin.
A serviette, with words from a poem;
an extra strong mint (in case of a kiss);
a plaster (in case of a fall).
Phone numbers of forgotten people,
one stocking, its sooty silk
strong and slip to the fingers
A pocket knife, with a tool for all things
except the key to secrets.
In the pocket, a fiver and pesetas from Spain.
In the inside pocket, who knows?
At the very bottom, only hair and dust.
Darling, I will send you this:
a sackful of odds and ends,
a jumble to prattle about me
and the point of their babble will be:
Make one woman out of these things.
Translated by Elin ap Hywel
A life lived intensely, running the gamut of human emotions, emerges from forty years’ work by one of the most remarkable poetic talents of modern Wales. Since first bursting on to the literary scene in 1980, aged 18, Elin ap Hywel has continued to hone her rare poetic gift and pursue her clear-eyed analysis of the human, and above all the female, condition. Whether responding to Welsh legends or to other cultures, to the past or to contemporary events, to relationships or solitude, she never ceases to challenge, to dissect weaknesses, to question the status quo. There is sensuality in these poems, and passion too, but also sharp grief yielding to gentle melancholy and acceptance. Dal i Fod is only her second collection, for she has never rushed to publish. It brings together work from her astonishingly mature first publication, Pethau Brau (1982), up to her all too few more recent poems. There will be no more, for dementia has cruelly robbed her of her extraordinary gift for words. Knowledge of her condition adds an uncomfortably prophetic dimension to the poems in this valedictory volume which commemorates and above all celebrates a unique, unforgettable talent.
Dal i Fod is shortlisted for Wales Book of the Year Awards 2021.
'This collection has a permanence that cannot be erased. The oeuvre of a poet who is fully aware of the power of words and the place of the poet in the world.'
Iestyn Tyne, O’r Pedwar Gwynt
'There is hope in Elin ap Hywel’s poems; hope for a Wales that is less frightened, for a Welshness that is less fragile, and for things that, although they are broken, can be fixed and made better.'
Grug Muse, Gwales.com