Soft Mutation / Treiglad Meddal

Soft Mutation / Treiglad Meddal | A.i.R

As Wales Arts Review’s September artist in residence, Nicky Arscott introduces us to her latest poem comic, Soft Mutation / Treiglad Meddal. Throughout 2017 these artists, including Nicky Arscott will take a leading creative role in what Wales Arts Review publishes, centring their skills on a challenging project over the course of a month. We were inundated with applications, receiving hundreds of emails about the positions, and it was no easy task whittling down all that talent to this final eleven. Our team of six editors debated long into the night, and in the end, we decided on a collection of people who we most want to work with, and whose work excites us. We think you will be excited by them too. 

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
like eiderdown

(to count each death personally;
to have always done so)

inflexible men
in overalls
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
becomes euphemism:

the young men hunting
in a pickup truck,
the old man crawling in a hedge;

my [object] and
your [object] and
so on.

Why I wrote this poem…

Soft Mutation / Treiglad Meddal
Soft Mutation / Treiglad Meddal

‘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.

Soft Mutation / Treiglad Meddal
Soft Mutation / Treiglad Meddal

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).

Soft Mutation / Treiglad Meddal
Soft Mutation / Treiglad Meddal

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.

Soft Mutation / Treiglad Meddal

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 

Soft Mutation / Treiglad Meddal

This comic poem by Nicky Arscott is part of the Artists in Residence series.