As Wales Arts Review’s September artist in residence, Nicky Arscott introduces us to her latest poem comic.
Soft Mutation / Treiglad Meddal
(noun: an alteration of the first letter of a word
in certain Celtic languages
under particular linguistic circumstances)
Snow comes in spring
—the icing on the cake—
drifting over slick hot lambs
(to count each death personally;
to have always done so)
the colour of pine.
The pine is not native.
The blackthorn grows around itself
sending suckers out
then dying inside
round here, they get down
on hands and knees
to sing heno heno
to my daughter.
Everything I say
the young men hunting
in a pickup truck,
the old man crawling in a hedge;
my [object] and
your [object] and
‘Soft Mutation’ began as a poem that I wrote about Llanbrynmair, a parish a few miles east of Machynlleth in which I have lived for the past eight years. During the eighteenth century, Llanbrynmair played a prominent role in the Nonconformist Revolution. It is also said to be the parish with the most emigrants to America (per capita) in all of Wales.
The poem is about different people’s relationships with the land and the Welsh language. Among other things, it deals with how we pass on knowledge to the next generation (or not) as well as the idea of being ‘native’ to an area (or not). The poem has been translated into Welsh by Hywel Griffiths (National Eisteddfod Chair Winner 2015).
I turned ‘Soft Mutation’ into what I think of as a ‘poem comic’, where each of the twelve paintings represents the panel of a comic as well as a piece of work in its own right. The images can be seen as further translations of the poem. All the people in the paintings live in the Llanbrynmair area.
The project is currently being exhibited at MOMA Machynlleth (until 2nd December), and has been printed as a litho comic by Mother Mary Press which is for sale here