Dinefwr Festival

Dinefwr Festival Preview

After a fallow year the Dinefwr Festival of Literature returns in 2014, boasting a vibrant line-up that includes our own Fictional Map of Wales project, featuring Rachel Trezise, Rhian Edwards and Tyler Keevil. Below we talk to Tyler, as well as to some of the other prestigious names from the world of literature that grace this year’s festival: Jon Gower, Menna Elfyn, Rhian Elizabeth, Carly Holmes and Mark Blayney (see last week’s issue for an exclusive interview with Rachel Trezise.)

Tyler Keevil
You’re going to be reading ‘Fabrications’ for us at Dinefwr 2014. Do you think that you could tell us a little bit about what to expect from the story?

It was intended to be a whimsical and comical piece, about a young couple who get lured into a shop, and are taken on a storytelling tour – of rugs, randomly – by an eccentric raconteur. In revisiting it now, though, it strikes me as much sadder than when I wrote it. In part I think that’s because we’ve left the town where the story is based, so the themes – of finding a home, and a place to settle – have particular resonance. I suppose most people can relate to that, though: we’ve all left somewhere, or somewhen, behind. Can we ever go back, with or without the help of a pseudo-magical rug? That’s hard to say.

You’ve been busy lately with the publication of both your second novel, The Drive (which has been nominated for the Welsh Book of the Year Award), as well as with your new short story collection, Burrard Inlet. What’s next in the pipeline? Is there another book on the way?

Yes, it’s been a great run of events, from London to Swansea, the Hay Festival, and now Dinefwr, with the Penfro Book Festival coming up in September. As for what’s next, I moonlight as a genre fiction author and I’m currently doing some revisions on a collection of slipstream and speculative fiction. I’m also researching the next novel – a slow process – and developing a screenplay with my brother, the musician and filmmaker Jonathan Keevil. So there’s lots in the pipeline, lots to keep me busy.

Dinefwr’s got a great line up this year. Are you going to get a chance to catch any of the other acts yourself? And if so, is there anyone that you’re particularly looking forward to seeing?

It’s always fun catching up with some of the other authors. I’m doing the Fictional Map reading with Rachel Trezise, and another joint event with Carly Holmes and Dan Tyte and several others. But one of the great things about Dinefwr is that it’s a very ecletic and diverse festival. I’m hoping to catch some of the comedy and music – Cate Le Bon for sure – and we also have a toddler now, so we’ll be checking out the children’s events, which will be a different sort of festival experience. Apparently there’s a pirate show, pirate Ben Dant, which sounds like a winner. You can’t go wrong with pirates.

Jon Gower
Hi Jon. You will be at Dinefwr to discuss the short story with Geraint Lewis in a Welsh language event, which will take into account both of your respective new collections, Breision (Gomer, 2013) and Brodyr a Chwiorydd (Y Lolfa, 2013). Could you tell us a little bit about what to expect, both from the conversation and from your new book?

Whenever the subject of the Welsh language short story is mentioned you normally hear Kate Roberts mentioned in the same breath, as if she’s the sum of all achievement in the form. Even though she was a superb writer there are now a few of us who enjoy writing short stories and want to move the story on. Geraint’s dark realism and my overt surrealism offer evidence, I think that there’s now quite a distance between us and Kate. Soon, I predict, there’ll be sufficient of us, and enough stories to start talking about a resurgence.

I understand that you will also be in discussion with Cynan Jones. He just seems to go from strength to strength really, doesn’t he? His latest novel, in particular, The Dig, is a stunning achievement, don’t you think?

Boy, is he simply world class. I read The Dig at the beginning of the year with such a shuddering case of writer’s envy. His pared-down, scalpel sharp sentences and absolutely precise prose suggest a writer at the top of his game, even though he’s only three books into his career. It’s like finding out that Cormac McCarthy lives next door.

What next after Breison? Is there another book on the way?

I’m slogging my way through a very substantial Welsh language novel about a Central American migrant and his journey north. It’ll be the biggest thing I’ve written though I’ve got no idea whether it all works as yet. I may not even know when I’ve finished. There’s also an English book about the Welsh overseas adventure in Patagonia cooking, too, in readiness for next year’s 150th anniversary of the settlement.

Dinefwr’s got a great line up this year with Gruff Rhys, Cate le Bon, Rachel Trezise and Rhian Edwards among those who are appearing. Are you going to get a chance to catch any of the other acts yourself? And if so, is there anyone that you’re particularly looking forward to seeing?

I saw Gruff Rhys’s ‘American Interior’ show in Hay and it rather underlined my sense of him as the most creative man in Wales. A tad shambolic, yes, but a real one-off and with this album/film/app/book he’s hit creative pay dirt. My daughters love him too. If I get to see his show again I’ll be a happy man. And Rachel Trezise will be in Dinefwr talking about a bloody marvellous collection of short stories while Rhian Edwards is an electrifying reader of her (very accessible) poetry. Cups will be running over…

Rhian Elizabeth
Hi Rhian. You will be at Dinefwr for the Speed Dating Writers event. Could you tell us a little bit about the event and what you’ll be reading at it? 

I’m told that the event will be ‘somewhere between the red pepper/green tomato of daytime cooking programmes and Snog Marry Avoid? but with less jingles’. So, Speed Dating Writers. Basically, I’ll be one of six brand new shiny writers on stage, each of us reading for ten minutes with the intention of wooing the audience members. Apparently there will be someone ringing a bell at the end of each reading, and the audience members will be asked to lift up a card to say whether they are ‘interested’ or not… yes/no/it’s complicated. And if said members are ‘interested’, hopefully they will buy the book at the end and therefore ‘get to know us better’. I haven’t decided exactly what I’m reading yet- something from my book, Six Pounds Eight Ounces. Something with a bit of sex in it, because of the theme of the event. I’m sure it’ll be calamitous but good fun.

Your first book, Six Pounds Eight Ounces, is one of the debut novels of the year. Could you tell us a little bit about it?

Six Pounds Eight Ounces is a novel set in the Rhondda Valleys and narrated by Hannah King, a kid with a love of telling and writings stories. She has a complicated grasp of ‘The Truth’ and you are compelled to follow her as she grows up with her best friend Jess, who is equally clever and mischievous. It’s a story all about growing up, friendship, lies, family, lesbians, candyfloss, Mama Cass and Joan Baez, sex, teachers, drugs and sherbet lemons. So I like to think there’s something in there for everyone.

Dinefwr’s got a great line up this year with Gruff Rhys, Cate le Bon, Rachel Trezise, Rhian Edwards and Tyler Keevil among those who are appearing. Are you going to get a chance to catch any of the other acts yourself? And if so, is there anyone that you’re particularly looking forward to seeing?

I hope to get to see as much as I can. It’ll be good to catch up with Rhian Edwards, fellow Seren author with a name far too similar to mine. There’s often lots of confusion, people mixing us up, and I’ve been nagging her to change her name for years but she’s insistent that she had hers long before I had mine so no chance. But, since she’s got married and has another name at her disposal now, I think it’s only fair she gives in. So I’ll be chasing this up. Looking forward to Climbing Trees, a band who like myself and Rachel Trezise and horror writer David Owain Hughes, also at the festival, are from the Rhondda Valleys.

Menna Elfyn
Hi Menna. You will be at Dinefwr for Murmur – Translating the Poems of Menna Elfyn, a unique event in which you will share a stage with the translators of some of your Welsh language poems, among them Gillian Clarke, Damian Walford Davies and Elin ap Hywel. Could you tell us a little bit about what to expect from the event?

It is a unique event and that in itself is surprising when you think about it with two languages living and breathing down our necks. I hope my translators will expose the difficulties and the intricacies of turning poems in Welsh into poems into English. The discussion is usually done behind closed doors or on the internet between poet and translator so it’s good to open this up to the public. Everyone seems to have a view on translation – usually negative ones borrowed from an Anglo-centric point of view. I love the debates I get in other countries where poets will articulate their preferences for this word or that. They really dig down –until they hear the bone of the poem being unearthed.

I’m proud of my translators in that they have allowed me to continue to write poetry solely in Welsh although I have discovered a love of translating into English. Perhaps it was bound to happen what with all the peering over two texts as I do all the time.

Neruda said in explaining his poem ‘Ritual of my legs’ that everything that is not the author’s self moving his pen over the blank pages begins with the act of translation: the self of the translator of the Other that has no choice but to begin with the ‘ticklish extremes of the poet’s footsoles’ and plant itself there between ‘the life of the poet and the earth that he treads’. No footsoles will be on show at Dinefwr but the fact that Murmur is already being translated into Catalan and Arabic must surely show that the book has legs!

Your latest collection, Murmur, justly met with a great deal of acclaim. Are you working on any new projects currently? Is there a new collection on the way?

Murmur– received the Poetry Book Recommended Translation and is the first ever book of Welsh poetry with translations to receive such an award. I was pleased, especially for my translators. My next book will be in 2016 by Bloodaxe but I also have many projects, mainly ones involved with the theatre to finish in the coming months.

Carly Holmes
Hi Carly. You will be at Dinefwr to take part in both the New Writers from Trinity and Speed Dating Writers events. Could you tell us a little bit about what to expect?

On Friday evening I’ll be on stage with Ros (Hudis) and David (Hughes) as part of the New Writers from Trinity event. Ros is a poet, David’s a hard core horror novelist and I’m a short and long form prose writer with a tendency towards the gothic so there’ll be a lot of variety between our readings.

On the Saturday I’m doing an event organised by Parthian and Seren with a mix of writers from both publishing houses, which is a take on speed dating. We all get a few minutes to wow the audience and the rest of the panel with our words. I’m looking forward to both events very much. They sound like a lot of fun.

You’ve had a great year to date, with your debut novel being met with widespread acclaim. What does the rest of the year hold in store? I believe you’re working on a collection of ghost stories?

Thank you. I’m having a wonderful and quite surreal year. My Literature Wales writer’s bursary has just finished, which bought me ten weeks to focus on my collection of ghost stories. There’s still a lot of work to do for that but I aim to complete the collection by the end of the year. I’ve also been thinking a lot about nature writing and I’m going to attempt to start a project that is a blend of fiction and nature writing.

I edited the last issue (issue 9) of the wonderful The Lampeter Review, which came out last month, and that was my first full experience of editing a journal. I’m so proud of it. Being on the editorial board for tLR, hosting and managing The Cellar Bards, and acting as Secretary for the PENfro Book Festival will all keep me busy for the rest of this year and into the next one. And probably the one after that…

Dinefwr’s got a great line up this year with Gruff Rhys, Cate le Bon, Rachel Trezise and Rhian Edwards among those who are appearing. Are you going to get a chance to catch any of the other acts yourself? And if so, is there anyone that you’re particularly looking forward to seeing?

There’s so much to see at the Dinefwr festival, I just hope I can fit it all in. I’m going to be there for the whole weekend and I’m so excited to be part of it. Gruff Rhys is a must-see for me, as are novelists Cynan Jones, Helen Dunmore and Rachel Trezise. The performance poetry events will be worth a look. Clare Ferguson-Walker has guested with the Bards in the past and she’s tremendous.

And there are historical guided walks around the area that I want to go on too… So much to cram into the weekend! I’ve put crosses next to most of the festival programme; I just need to work out how to be in two, or three, places at the same time…

Mark Blayney
Hi Mark. You will be performing Be Your Own Life Coach – with ABBA, at Dinefwr. What can we expect from the show?

Using the Power of the 70s, my show will help you achieve your inner nirvana, probably. There’s the ABBA Code – the secret message that has been hidden in lyrics across the decade, revealed exclusively for the first time. And there’s the sad, perhaps even tragic, but certainly sad, story of Sven – fifth member of ABBA. Dropped from the band because they didn’t want to be called SABBA, Sven’s tale is a salutary one for our celebrity-fixated times. So, it’s a very serious and philosophically profound journey, but there are also some lighter moments, especially if you like spandex.

As well as being a comedian, you are also an accomplished writer of fiction, having previously won the prestigious Somerset Maugham prize (previous winners of which include Ian McEwan, Angela Carter and Kingsley Amis) for your debut novella. You have a brand new story in Wales Arts Review’s forthcoming Summer Fiction issue – can we look forward to more new fiction from you in the near future?

Yes – I’ve got a new collection of stories coming out next year. One of the stories The Murder of Dylan Thomas was a Seren short story of the month earlier this year, and the story Fiesta that I’ve written for Wales Arts Review will be accompanied by two more tales set in Seville.

Dinefwr’s got a great line up this year with Gruff Rhys, Cate le Bon, Jeremy Hardy, Rachel Trezise and Rhian Edwards among those who are appearing. Are you going to get a chance to catch any of the other acts yourself? And if so, is there anyone that you’re particularly looking forward to seeing?

It’s a brilliant line-up, and the intimate nature of the festival really helps the audience and performers connect. As well as the names you mention I’m keen to see Helen Dunmore, Deborah Kay Davies and fellow WAR writers Carly Holmes and Ros Hudis. Clare Ferguson-Walker and Hollie McNish is an electric spoken word combination. For comedy I’m really looking forward to Rob Auton. And I can’t think of a better way to end Saturday night than Adrian Edmondson performing punk songs on folk instruments. I’m staying for the whole weekend so yes, I shall see the lot!

Rachel Trezise and Tyler Keevil will be reading their Fictional Map of Wales stories in the Cinema Room at 430pm tomorrow (21/06/14). Rhian Edwards will read her brand new, as yet unpublished Map story in theCinema Room at 1230pm on the Sunday (22/06/14).

You can download the full Dinefwr programme here: http://dinefwrliteraturefestival.co.uk/download-a-copy-of-the-programme