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  • Writer's pictureMarcas Mac an Tuairneir

Siôn Aled Owen

Bàrd agus Eadar-theangair

Tha Siôn Aled Owen na bhàrd, na eadar-theangair is na oide na Cuimris. Tha e air obair a dhèanamh don Leabharlann Nàieanta mar neach-rannsachaidh acadamaigeach agus tha e na òraidiche ann an diadhaireachd. Thug e foghlam a-mach à Trinity College, Bristol mus d' rinn e ollamhachd aig Oilthigh Bhirmingham.

Rugadh Siôn Aled ann am Bangor ach bidh e a' fuireach a-nis ann am Wrecsam. Bha e na neach-poilitigs do Phlaid Cymru fad nam bliadhna mòra.

I feel that the arts are more important than ever as a ‘world language’, given the unprecedented disruption caused by, among other menaces, COVID-19, Trump, climate change and Brexit.

In my work with endangered languages I have become aware of an alternative network (to oppressive globalisation tendencies) between indigenous cultures all over the world. We must make use of all the opportunities available for electronic networking, but, once more international travel is possible, never lose sight of the importance of direct human contact – always balancing that (with difficulty!) with limiting our carbon footprints.

I feel very much part of a family of Welsh-language poets here in Wales, centred around the National Eisteddfod and the local eisteddfodau and live composition events such as Radio Cymru’s Talwrn y Beirdd (the Cockpit of the Bards). I find myself putting poetry up very often on Facebook, usually in response to political events, but also including sometimes quite deeply personal material. Because the vast majority of my Facebook friends worldwide don’t understand Welsh, I will frequently provide English translations or produce original work in English. For me, there is a frission from hearing how my words can touch people personally.

My main livelihood is translation. Usually that means mostly interpreting at meetings, but since meetings have become extinct for the time being, I now do a lot more written work, and the way English and Welsh words interact with each other often sparks the germ of a poem in me.

When the exit poll revealed at 2200 on 12 December that Johnson was on course for a majority of around 80, I felt the absolute horror of it all: he would get his beloved (cynically adopted) Brexit done and we would be ruled for the best part of five years by an elected dictatorship of Tories stripped of all who had exhibited symptoms of the slightest decency. The next day, I had what I can only describe as a waking nightmare, with a physical sense of suffocation. That was before anyone knew about the looming threat of Covid-19.

So, at this time, poetry (and other art forms – I have been collaborating with an artist friend of mine in combining words and images) is like oxygen sustaining us through both a physical and a metaphorical plague. I am also constantly reminded of a quote my father would attribute to Leonid Brezhnev (although I have never been able to verify that): “I am afraid of nothing, except a poet.” Whoever said it, or whether it just came from my dad’s imagination or misremembering, it tells me of the power of poetry, a power potentially for good we need now more than ever.

On a practical note, I have been busier than ever with written translation work since the lockdown started, and so I haven’t experienced a quiet period when I could concentrate on creative work, although things do seem to be easing off now, six weeks in.

My feeling is that 2021 will be a vitally important year, in Wales, the UK and worldwide. We will probably still be living under some COVID-19 related restrictions, but the focus will have moved to the realities of Brexit and either a post-Trump era in America or the horror of a second Trump term, when he will not even be restrained by aspirations of re-election, and the challenge of climate change will have to be faced. Whatever happens, it will be a different world to 2019, for better or worse – and poets and other artists will have a crucial role in influencing which one.

An Aghaidh na Stainge

I would also say that I’ve learned to value ‘still time’. I, and most people I know, have kept to the lockdown rules – out just to shop for ‘essentials’ (although I have interpreted that term creatively!) and once a day (which is actually written in law in Wales, in contrast to England) for exercise. Through that I’ve come to realise how unnecessarily busy I had become before and how much more I can achieve just by being still. As I’ve mentioned above, a lot of that ‘still’ time thus far has been taken up by paid work, but I hope that I will be able to concentrate on more creative activity in the weeks of lockdown and semi-lockdown that no doubt remain ahead of us.

2020 has so far been a trying time, sometimes a terrifying time, sometimes a mentally threatening time, but it has also been a time to reflect and to re-value the incandescent power of art, sometimes smouldering, other times exploding, in the world.

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