Wales Arts Review asked some of Wales’s top writers to pen some thoughts on the future. This new series brings together a wide variety of perspectives and ideas in a vibrant array of styles and forms, expressing hopes for a new way of doing things when the Covid-19 coronavirus is finally overcome. Political, personal, sociological, ecological, cultural – this is an evolving tableau of ideas. Here Samantha Wynne-Rhydderch offers a meditative piece on isolation during the pandemic and the potential for a greener future of better connectivity.
The water stretches for about half a mile to the other side of the bay until it reaches the wooded fields that climb to Penlan y Mor farm. That’s as far as I can see from my study window in New Quay. If I can’t see beyond a certain point, I don’t try and guess possible outcomes: I don’t know whether I will catch Covid-19, whether I’ve had it already or whether I’ll still be here in a year’s time. Instead, I am making the most of the present, sitting at a battered wooden table in the room where my mother was born, and her father before her in an era when all they would have been able to hear is what I hear now: the tide rushing in and an array of seabirds.
Like everyone else, my plans have changed. I was due to be spending part of the year on a writing residency in Paris, attending the Polisemie 2020 poetry conference at Sapienza University in Rome, and returning to Orkney to work with voice coach, Kristin Linklater. None of this can happen at the moment, nor can any writers come to stay at Y Stabl, the seaside retreat I run on the west coast of Wales. As a result my income has halved. On the upside, however, all sorts of opportunities have opened up for me: I’m able to get to more book launches and readings this Spring than ever, all courtesy of Zoom: last week I attended the Spring launch of The Poetry Review, this Wednesday I’ll be tuning in to a reading by Roger Robinson organised by the Arvon Foundation; next week there’s a session with Roger McGough thanks to the Society of Authors; then on 22nd May the Hay Festival Digital begins, followed by the Zoom launch on 11th June of Katrina Naomi’s latest collection from Seren. This may take us to the beginning of the end of lockdown.
My hope is that some, at least of these events in my new Zoom community will continue. Although it’s always wonderful to attend in person, it’s so much greener for me not to spend money, diesel and time getting to venues that are at least a hundred miles from the cliff edge where I live.
The lockdown suits me because I love isolation. I aim to keep as low a profile as possible ordinarily, so to be even more hidden away now is a godsend. After years teaching Creative Writing at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David and at Oxford, I was happy to take redundancy last year to focus on my own writing. After all, I have a deadline to meet: my editor at Picador, Don Paterson, has given me until October to hand in the manuscript of my fourth collection. I feel blessed to be able to write undisturbed by anything other than by the call of the cormorants and the occasional dolphin somersaulting at the end of the pier.
Check out the other articles in Wales Arts Review’s ‘When This is Over’ series.
Samantha Wynne-Rhydderch is a poet whose work has been shortlisted for the Michael Marks Award (2014), the Roland Mathias Prize (2013) and Wales Book of the Year (2009). Samantha has taught Creative Writing on the MSt. at Oxford University and on the MA programme at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David where she was awarded a PhD in Creative Writing.
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