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Poetry Connections: India-Wales 2017

August 16, 2017

I sometimes wonder what it is about Wales that draws me like a magnet, ever since I first encountered its language and its people way back in 2009. I can’t speak Welsh, but, as I found myself saying at a reading in Machynlleth earlier this month, I feel Welsh. What does that mean, I wonder, now that I’m back home, in Maharashtra, where the last of the monsoon greeted me like a long-lost friend, and the heat and humidity hit me like a forgotten nightmare. To feel like a people, like a language, I must speak not Welsh but Cymraeg, I must learn to get my tongue around those unpronounceable lls. Mustn’t I? I don’t, I can’t. And yet the connections are real, long-lasting, based on more than language; formed despite initial incomprehensions about why I, a Bengali, could choose to write in English;  sustained through conversations over time, across seemingly impassable distances. Perhaps “feeling Welsh” is simply my shorthand for saying I love the country, love its gentle people, its spectacular landscapes, its intimate scale and most of all – its poets. Thank you, good people of Literature Across Frontiers for imagining and enabling this project, for the inspired pairings, for the sheer gumption of seeing us through difficult times, sometimes on little more than a poem and a prayer! Thanks also to the British Council and Wales Arts International for their continued support, and to Aberystwyth University for giving me the pleasure of being one of their Creative Associates.

During my time in Wales, my long-time friend and collaborator Eurig Salisbury and I recorded four podcasts – you can hear them here on Eurig’s website, or by clicking on the links below:

Podcast #1: In which we rewind, ramble, and remind ourselves of some of the wheres, whats and whys of the project…

Podcast #2: In which we report on readings done and poems filmed…

Podcast #3: In which we discuss poetic debates, essentials for the Eisteddfod and our shared fascination for urban spaces…

Podcast #4: In which we are on the field, the Maes, catching up on a week of heroic tasks, wondering about circles of stones, celebrating reunions, and saying our goodbyes…

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PS: A friend gave me a packet of Welsh Brew before I left. Reading the label back home I noticed it said that this original blend is “a fusion of the finest African & Indian teas”. As an Indian born in Africa (and brought up in Darjeeling, home of the finest Indian teas), the connection was as immediate as it was irrational – this was it then, the symbol of that inexplicable feeling: feeling Welsh. Here it was, my cup of tea.

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One comment

  1. Shampoo I love reading your writing!



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