I grew up in a land of poetry, song and mythology. It wasn’t unusual for someone to start reciting poetry or singing a Welsh hymn or a Tom Jones song. *Cue ‘It’s not unusual to be loved by anyone, da na na na na na na na na.’*
One of my grandfather’s favourites was ‘The Green Eye of the Little Yellow God.’
‘There’s a one-eyed yellow idol to the North of Kathmandu, There’s a little marble cross below the town; There’s a broken-hearted woman tends the grave of Mad Carew, And the Yellow God forever gazes down…’ written by J.Milton Hayes There’s another ten verses — he knew them all.
My grandfather, Myrthyn Davies, was over six feet tall and quite a large man with it. Rather like one of the people in Mem Fox’s gorgeous picture book: ‘Wilfred Gordon Mc Donald Partridge,’ exquisitely illustrated by, Julie Vivas. He had a booming bass voice and loved to entertain. He and my grandmother ran a General Shop and Post Office, in a tiny village, Felin Wen, not far from Caerfyrddin (Carmarthen).
Caerfyrddin (Carmarthen) means ‘Merlin’s Fort’ or ‘Merlin’s town.’ When I was a child, there was an ancient oak tree, protected by an iron fence, in the middle of the town. ‘Merlin’s Oak.’ Locals believed Merlin’s spirit was still in the tree and if the tree ever fell, so too would Carmarthen. I could see King Arthur riding through Carmarthen (Caerfyrddin) on his battle horse with Gwenwhyfar riding by his side. The air was charged with myth and legend.
My Auntie, Ceinwen, was a Bard, and my great Uncle Rufus. Cousin Wilma, played the harp. We visited them in the seventies and they put on a small recital for us in their living room.
Everyone I knew memorised poems and songs and played instruments. It was who we were. Eisteddfods started in Wales. That’s why it’s spelt funny. Then there’s Gymanfa Ganu’s. Gatherings of singers. It was a big deal in our family to go to a Gymanfa Ganu or to perform at an Eisteddfod. Never mind winning a ribbon. My mother won first prize at an Eisteddfod when she was three, with poem, in Welsh, about a teddy. My grandfather could recite all one hundred and fifty Psalms. Our family did that kind of thing for fun. I still remember more poems than I have forgotten.
To say my writing has been influenced by my Welsh heritage is an understatement. Which is not necessarily a good thing. If you’ve ever read any of Dylan Thomas you will know the flowery words that run automatically through my head. He painted with words. I hear rhyme and rhythm in words. I can’t help it. When our children were little, they would go mad because they’d say something and I’d sing a line from a song, or start reciting a poem at the most embarrassing moments. I hear a line or read a writing prompt and suddenly I have poetry rattling around in my head clamouring for attention.
Like this one: She knew the wand was broken when she heard the sizzling crack The popping and the fizzing and the feeling down her back. She’d only used it once before to magic up some cakes, how could she know for certain just from the sound it makes? Did she get the spell right? Was it the way she said the words? No one knew for certain except the magic nerds. She’d take it to them straight away, they’d know what to do. They’d fix it or replace it after all they had the woo. The nerds knew all there was to know about a broken wand, she’d take it there immediately, she’d have to leave a bond. They knew exactly what was wrong, just like she knew they would The wand was made of Android instead of apple wood. And now her wand is working, for magic spells and wishes, she knew there was no more excuse, she’d have to do the dishes.
While I was writing it I could hear ‘The Man From Snowy River’ rattling in the background. The rhythm had me in a kind of loop. The rhyming does it to me too. Perhaps my writing is too influenced by my over-the-top family genetics. Too many rolled ‘R’s’ and dramatic pauses.
Thinking about this can paralyse me and I end up creating nothing. Not everyone likes rhyme and rhythm. Not everyone likes over-the-top prose! The mind is a wonderful thing, it has the ability to create something, like a poem, from thin air, but it is also a fragile thing, flitting and fluttering about hoping not to stuff things up.
I am in a writing funk at the moment. Here’s what my brain sounds like:
Maybe my writing is crap and everyone is too polite to tell me. Perhaps I’m a poet, not a writer. Should I be writing for kids or adults, drama or comedy, crime or suspense? Can I even be funny? I write this blog every month so technically I’m a writer, other than that I’m kidding myself. My WIP (Work In Progress) Well that’s a joke, it’s more like work NOT in progress – it’s a lot harder than I thought. Who’s idea was it to write a middle grade novel anyway? Short story writing might be easier. I need to do another course. Maybe I should quit.
I know, it’s not a pretty sight. June is when I plan to have a fresh dose of enthusiasm. I hope to be able to report my story is finished or nearly finished, or has moved forward… Heh heh. Well, that’s the hope, the dream, the plan anyway.
I have a photo of a brumby foal on my wall to inspire me to keep going. This is my horse, not the brumby, again with the copyright thing. I have to write to the little boy who took the photo for permission to use the image. I’ll do it tomorrow.
Yes, my writing may be poetic and have far too many dramatic pauses. The prose may be too flowery and over the top with loads of adverbs and weasel words. It might not be funny and the timeline might be all over the place, riddled with plot holes. It doesn’t matter! It’s a messy first draft. It’s all part of the process. Even the crippling doubt and indecision is part of the process.
My writing mentor and chief inspirationalist, Jen Storer, girlandduck.com says: ‘The most important thing is to stay in the room.’
May these words encourage you to know you are not alone in your self doubt, after all I wrote them for you.
5 thoughts on “Bards and other mysteries”
I loved reading about how your heritage and childhood influences have shaped the way you approach writing. What a gift!
The words are bound to flow again. I hope you’ll stay in the room despite the funk. Self-doubt is a party pooper. I feel for you, and I hope you find joy in the process again soon!
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Thanks Ali. Definitely staying in the room. I’m looking forward to the joy.
This such a great post
It’s always good to cherish ones heritage ❤️
Thank you for your kind words.
You are most welcome ❤️